Helpful tools

Here are some tools I taught to clients when I was working as a therapist. As always, these are for informational purposes only. For specifics, talk to your doctor or therapist. Feel free to share them with others.
I would be honored if you tell them where you got them.



Most people have been asked to rate pain or other symptoms on a numeric scale: 0= no symptoms 10= unbearable symptoms.

I tend to like a color scale. One main reason for this is that it is a little easier to relate to and another is that most symptoms are “fluid”: They can be yellow-orange, or blue-green.
This scale is good for addressing almost anything – depression, anxiety, anger, pain…
Most of life happens in degrees. Once we realize that, we can deal with challenges more effectively.

Red: Unbearable; out of control
Orange: Difficult to tolerate or manage
Yellow: Moderatly challenging; not easily ignored
Goe for the green

Blue: Uncomfortable, but not interfering with attention or other activities
Green: All is good

Most of the time, it works best to take action when symptoms are at “yellow.” Sometimes, things will be more uncomfortable. That’s okay, take action. There are times when challenges can go from red to at least blue.



We all have times when we need to be redirected: When we are down, anxious,bored or just “blah.”
The challenge is, we are not likely to come up with an idea in that moment.
When you are in such a spot, pull out this handy helper:
Copy and paste this into a file on your computer and make as many copies as you need, so that you can access it at any time.
Write down ten simple things you can do that make you feel better.
You can use some of the suggestions below, or come up with your own.
Then, when you need a redirect, choose from your list. If you don’t want to do anything you have already written, but something else comes to mind, write it down; then go do it.
You may need to do more than one thing to get out of your slump or discomfort. That is perfectly fine.


1. ________________________________________

2. ________________________________________

3. ________________________________________

4. ________________________________________

5. ________________________________________

6. ________________________________________

7. ________________________________________

8. ________________________________________

9. ________________________________________

10. ________________________________________

put on favorite music play with the dog take a hot bath
Go for a short walk call a friend watch a movie
read write or journalize draw or paint
play a musical instrument bake something read comics
work on a puzzle work in the garden go people watching



This is a sorting tool that I have found to be extremely useful.
I originally read about it in a book called, “Rational Emotive Therapy” in the early 1970’s.
These days, it is used for all kinds of life management.
In my mind, its greatest value is that it gives the person employing it power over themselves so that they live from the inside out, instead of simply reacting to situations.
Something that is said or done.

What someone makes of that situation.
Sometimes, we “hit the bullseye,” sometimes we’re clear off the wall; most of the time, we’re somewhere in between.

A feeling statement only needs three words: “I feel _____.”
Feeling words are things like: Happy, sad, angry, amused, perplexed…
Most of us have very poor feeling vocabulary, so it might be worth your while to write a list of feeling words.

What we say or do in return.

******C and D are actually based on B; not A******

In a continuing ed course on pain management, I saw one more component:
A question or information to challenge the original interpretation.

Now, let’s play with this a bit:
You walk into a restaurant. Someone you used to hang out with, but haven’t seen for years, is there. He starts to yell in your direction.

B How many interpretations can you come up with?
“He’s angry at me.”
“He’s excited and happy to see me.”
“He and the people he’s with are already engaged in an animated conversation.”
Add some of your own.

C If you believe he is angry at you, how will you feel?
If he’s excited and happy to see you?
If he and his friends are in an animated conversation?

d How might you respond?

E What additional information might change your interpretation and feelings?

This is good for helping with anger, anxiety, pain, depression or perplexing situations.

4 thoughts on “Helpful tools

    1. Thanks, Vicki. I have found that people like a color scale better than the more sterile numeric one. Actually, it occurred to me recently that one could use any combination of colors that he/she wants. For example, let’s say your favorite color is red. For your scale, “Rockin’ in red” might be your good place, followed by your next favorite color. Let’s say that gray or brown is your least favorite. That color would be the one you use for “out of control,” “unbearable” or “very symptomatic.” Oh, the creative fun that could be had here! Hannah

  1. I love the colour as opposed to number scheme. Thinking about the nuances of mood that aren’t clearly definable as part of a linear continuum helps me identify and explore ideas that otherwise would have completely escaped me.

    Thanks for following the Bipolar Bum and for recommending I read this post. Brilliant.

    All the best,

    1. Hello, H and J, Welcome. I am glad you like my tools. Actually, since I posted the color scale, it has occurred to me that one could use any and as many colors as he/she wants. For example, you could put your favorite color in the “green” spot and your least favorite at “red.” I myself find that the color scale is a bit more intuitive than a numeric one. Try it out and let me know how it works. Also, do feel free to share it. As I said at the top, I would be honored if you tell people where you learned it.
      I also welcome suggestions.
      Blessings on you.

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