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  • Jane McKinney

Self care during a selfless season

'Tis the season—for dinner tables full of food, for family from far and wide, and for giving to those in need. When we look outside of ourselves and toward another in the act of open acceptance and giving, we engage in altruistic behavior. These selfless social acts increase distress tolerance and speak to secure attachment: “the capacity,” Dr. Susan M. Johnson writes, “for sensitive attunement to others, empathic responsiveness, compassion, openness to people who are perceived as different from oneself, and a tendency to altruistic action.”

On the other hand, giving beyond one’s capacity can undermine a sense of wellbeing, contributing to feelings of being tapped out, overextended, and exhausted. When this happens, giving does not flow easily, let alone feel joyful. How many of us have grown up in households celebrating the giving season amidst annoyed or irritated adults? Unfortunately, these adults had yet to learn the importance of “affect regulation” or emotional self-management. In the void of learned self-regulation skills, children were often taught to “stop it” or “cool it,” resulting in emotional imbalance—either suppressing or acting out emotions in withdrawn or tantrum-like behaviors. 

Dr. Johnson defines affect regulation as “a process of moving with and through an emotion, rather than reactive, intensifying or suppressing it, and then being able to use this emotion to give direction to one’s life.” Indeed, emotions are intended to be our guide to action.

In this season when stress can mount, we encourage you to borrow from Dr. Marsha M. Linehan's dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) skills. The PLEASE acronym, explained below, is the first step for reducing emotional vulnerability.

PL - Treat physical illness: Take a sick day. Don’t ignore symptoms or delay getting help.

E - Balanced eating: Try to maintain your meal routine and healthy eating behaviors throughout the holiday season.

A - Avoid mood-altering drugs (this includes nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol). Also, limit use of electronic devices, including your phone, computer/iPad, and television. Listen to music instead or pick up a hobby.

S - Balanced sleep: Maintain good sleep hygiene. See the National Sleep Foundation for more information:

E - Get exercise: Try to engage in physical activity on a daily basis. There are numerous health benefits of regular exercise. See The Mayo Clinic for more information:

In child therapy at A Balanced Life LLC, one of our first priorities is to help children develop their social-emotional skills so they can harness their emotions as an important source of information for problem-solving. The result, in our experience, is improved confidence, assertiveness, and emotional self-regulation. And this is not only seen in children: Adults also benefit from learning emotional regulation and distress tolerance skills to help guide decisions and integrate experiences.

We hope you enjoy your holiday get-togethers this week! But we also hope, during this season of giving, that you don’t forget one very important person: you.

Take good care, Jane



The 2020 group schedule will be published in the December newsletter, including dates for Love and Logic Curricula and Perinatal Breakfast Club. Look for new groups in 2020, including a book club for couples and a return of the Creative Clinician Group for therapists.  

The last Perinatal Breakfast Club for 2019 will meet on Saturday, December 7, from 10-11:30 a.m.



Gretchen's greatest strength lies in celebrating the inherent worth and dignity of each person. Specializing in working with children and teens, her goal is to help them find self-confidence and experience themselves as competent. Depending on the desired outcomes for your child’s therapy, Gretchen incorporates the following therapy modalities: acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), expressive arts therapy, narrative therapy, and play therapy. Conditions that she is experienced in treating include ADHD, anxiety disorders, behavioral problems, eating disorders, mood disorders, and trauma. To contact Gretchen, please click here.


FREE THERAPY A Balanced Life LLC invites you to participate in individual therapy with Natasha Swayze, graduate student in the School of Social Work at Park University. This program includes eight free sessions of sand tray therapy.

Location: A Balanced Life LLC (6155 Oak Street, Suite B, Kansas City, MO 64113) Facilitator: Natasha Swayze, Park University MSW student under the supervision of Jane McKinney, LCSW, LSCSW, RPT-S, certified EMDR therapist   To schedule: Please call/text (816) 607-3091 or email



Saturday, December 14

9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

The Kansas City Public Library (Plaza Branch), Truman Auditorium

4801 Main Street, KCMO

Dark Side of the Full Moon delves into the unseen world of maternal mental health in the U.S. It will uncover the disconnect within the medical community to effectively screen, refer, and treat the 1.3 million mothers affected each year, giving a face and voice to the countless women who have suffered in silence. Panel discussion to follow. More information can be found at

*Due to adult content, attendees must be 17+. Co-sponsored by the Kansas City Public Library and The Pregnancy and Postpartum Resource Center.

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