The Coping Kete

Category Archives: Engagement

No. 138: Visualising My Intentions

This week, to attain, maintain or regain my sense of wellbeing…

I will practice telling the difference between my expectations and my good intentions and get in the habit of letting my intentions guide me instead of my fears. While my expectations are useful, they can get in my way at times, but my good intentions bring me back to what it is important to me, back to my values.

This week, I will take a moment every morning to practice slow, belly breathing while I focus my attention on visualising my positive intentions for the day. 

Before I get out of bed in the morning, I will lie back and do a few minutes of belly breathing.

As I breathe slowly down into my belly and let each breath float back out, I will think about my good intentions for the day by saying to myself “today I would like to ….” and then picturing it happening in my mind.

If my self-critic or inner future-predictor interferes and I start thinking about barriers to my good intentions or reasons why it won’t work out, I will notice the thoughts then come back to my breath and my intentions for the day. After a few minutes, I will open my eyes if I had them closed and move on into my day, carrying my values and positive intentions with me.

In this way, I will get used to setting aside my expectations to get a clear sense of what I value and what I want to happen, so I can carry these things throughout my day and come back to them when I find myself in a tough moment. I’ll also get to start my day off with a bit of calm breathing which might help set me up for a more relaxed day too.

Once I am comfortable with spending a few moments breathing and connecting with my values and wishes rather than my fears and expectations, I will add this to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for self-soothing during times of stress and upset.When I notice I am distressed, I will be able to take a moment to breathe, come back to my own values and intentions as a way of soothing my unhelpful thoughts and problem-solving how I will deal with the situation I am facing. 

No. 136: One Thing I Can Do/ One Thing I Like

This week, to attain, maintain or regain my sense of wellbeing…

…I will practice focusing my attention on the things I can do and the things I like to engage with so I can self-soothe when I am stressed and create  positive emotion when I am low.

To prepare, I will take a page in a notebook and divide it into two columns. The first column, I will title ‘One Thing I Can Do’ and the second column I will title ‘One Thing I Like’ (see example below).

To practice, I will take a moment at the end of each day to write down an example of ‘One Thing I Can Do’ and ‘One Thing I Like’ from my day. In the ‘One Thing I Can Do’ column, I will write down one thing that I did that day that I think I did well and what skill it involved. In the ‘One Thing I Like’ column, I will write down one thing from my day that I enjoyed or appreciated and what it was that I liked about it. If I’ve been having tough times for a while, it might be hard to do this because I will be out of practice at noticing these things and I might have stopped doing a lot of the things I am good at and like. If I find it hard, I will have compassion for myself and practice noticing the smallest of small signs of ‘Things I Can Do’ or ‘Things I Like’ – for example, getting out of bed, showering and single moments of laughter.

As I move through the week, I will think through my growing list and know that there are things I can do to get through and things I like that can change my mood. As my awareness grows I will start trying to mindfully do those things when I notice my mood is low or my thinking is negative.  This week, I will practice building the evidence that lets me remind myself “there is always one thing I can do and one thing that I can enjoy.”

Once I am comfortable noticing what I can do and what I like, and mindfully doing those things, I will add this to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping with distress. When I find myself feeling stuck, hopeless or unsure of myself, I will be able to self-soothe by coming back to my old list to remind myself of all I can do to get through and change my mood and engage with a way of shifting my experience by doing just one of the things I can do and one thing that I like. This strategy could become self-soothing, engagement or mindful distraction depending on how I used it. 

My notebook columns would look something like this… 

No. 135: Reward Myself for Surviving

This week, to attain, maintain or regain my sense of wellbeing…

… I will practice injecting enjoyable moments into my daily life and appreciating myself by scheduling reward points into the end of every day. During my scheduled reward points, I will be able to practice being aware of what I deal with each day and responding by rewarding my efforts, whatever they may be, whether I struggled or succeeded.

To get started, I will write a list of things that I find enjoyable and can use as rewards. The list could include things like going to a movie or having a treat food or doing a hobby activity or lying around listening to music or catching up with someone you enjoy or having a massage or anything at all. Rewards can be big or they can be small, but they cannot be harmful. So having a binge-drinking session or taking drugs wouldn’t be the right kind of reward to use.

Once I have my list of rewards, I’ll schedule time to give myself one reward at the end of every day for the next week.

At the scheduled time each afternoon/evening, I will take a quiet moment to reflect on what I have survived that day. When I think of difficult moments in the day, I will observe the thought and say to myself “and that was hard so I can reward myself for getting through.” When I think of positive moments of the day, I will observe the thought and say to myself “and that was good, so I can reward myself for having a part in it.”

Once I have reflected for 2 or 3 minutes, I will go ahead and give myself the reward I had planned.

When I am comfortable with engaging in rewarding behaviour on a usual week, I will add ‘Plan Little Rewards’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy to use during times of distress. When I notice I am upset, I can reflect on what I have been surviving, make myself aware of how much I have to reward myself for by saying the reflection statements and then planning some rewarding activities for the coming week.

No. 133: Play

This week, to attain, maintain or regain my sense of wellbeing…

… I am going to play everyday. It’s true that all work and no play makes for a pretty dull time – it also means that we don’t get a chance to properly wind down after something stressful. Life can’t be all serious, sometimes we need a bit of silly. This week, I will spend some time everyday playing. I might spend five minutes seeing if I can still do knuckle-bones or an hour with a friend and a board-game or twenty minutes outside with a basketball or half an hour in the park on the swings. I might need to do a bit of prioritising and planning to make sure it actually happens. If I find it hard to think of something to play, I will make a list of things that I enjoyed playing as a child and work my way through each of them. It could be tricky to fit a play in everyday, but I can do it if I have lots of different kinds of play, some that I can do in the space  of five minutes and fit in at a busy time. Sometimes I will play with another person, and other times it can be solitary play. The key is that there is a time of light-heartedness in my day. This week, no matter how I feel each day, I will make sure I get at least five minutes of play. I will try to notice what things make me laugh or lift my mood and what things don’t make any difference, so I can repeat the things that work for me.

Once I am comfortable with playing everyday, I will add ‘Play’ and a list of the things that worked for me to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for times of stress and distress. When I notice myself having a low mood or starting to get stressed on a regular basis, I will engage with some play to inject some balance in my life and shift my mood for a little while. Playing won’t change the bad things in my life, but it will give me a break and insert some lighthearted variation into my daily life that might make it easier to cope with and recover from the tough stuff. When things are stressful, we all need a bit of time to recover, I will be able to use play as a way to recover my energy levels when things are hard.

No. 129: Gratitude Diary

This week, to attain, maintain or regain my sense of wellbeing…

…I will practice bringing positives to my own attention by keeping a daily Gratitude Diary. Each evening before bed, I will write down three things I am grateful for that day. If I’ve been feeling down for a long time, it might be hard to recognise the things I am grateful for, so I will start small. As I move through each day, I will let myself pause to appreciate things as they unfold, to help make it easier to notice them later when it comes time to write my daily entry. 

This week, no matter what has happened that day, I will find room for three things I am grateful for. It is okay to have good times in the middle of bad times – this week, I will practice doing that.

As the week goes by, I could experiment with remembering the things in my Gratitude Diary during the day and see if I notice a lift in my moods. Keeping a Gratitude Diary will make me engage with the things I am grateful to have experienced. So over the week, I will gather a collection of positive memories of my week. If I notice it helps keep my moods more balanced, I could keep doing this for as long as I want. 

Once I have practiced keeping a Gratitude Diary for  a while, I will add ‘Gratitude Diary’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy to try when I am distressed by unwanted thoughts and moods. Sometimes we need to let the things that give us hope and inspiration in. And that can be really difficult to do when we are down, especially if we aren’t used to doing this kind of thing on purpose. When I am ready, I will practice using my Gratitude Diary to self-soothe during times of stress and upset.

No. 126: Be the Super Hero in My Own Story

This week, to attain, maintain or regain my own sense of wellbeing…

… I will practice being the super hero in my own life. So often we can find ourselves being the villain in our own stories, bullying ourselves with negative self-talk, sabotaging our own goals, holding ourselves back from new and exciting things, treating ourselves badly and keeping ourselves in situations that are ultimately harmful. This week, instead of being my own bad-guy, I will be my own good-guy.

So this week, as I move through each day, I will practice making my decisions and talking myself through with the intention of being the hero in my own daily life. This means, that I will encourage myself when I need encouraging, I will allow myself to dream big, I will throw myself the life-line of hope and help myself to reach out for it, I will rally my support troops around me when I need a whole crew of super heroes to get through a particular struggle. When I need rescuing from a bad day, I will give myself some kindness. When I feel vulnerable, I will visualise myself reacting from a place of strength. Whenever I find myself at a cross-roads moment, I will ask myself, what would the hero in my story do right now? In this way, throughout my week, I will use the idea of being a super hero for myself to practice real, genuine self-care and building a sense of inner strength.

Once I am familiar with imagining I am my own super hero to self-soothe and meet my needs, I will add ‘Be the Super Hero in My Own Story’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy to try during times of stress and distress. If I find myself feeling overwhelmed, I will approach the situation as the hero of my own experience, giving myself just what I need to get through safely.

No. 125: Connect with Being Part of a Community

This week, to attain, maintain or regain my sense of wellbeing…

…I will practice connecting with the community around me. This week, as I move through each day, I will practice belonging to my community and letting my community belonging to me. We so often live right next to each other for years, without ever stopping to say ‘hey how is it going?’ to each other and the world can become a lonely, anonymous place at times.

This week, I will say hello to the shop-keepers and checkout operators and stop to pass the time of day. I will introduce myself to my neighbours if I don’t know them and pause to chat when I see them.   I will take part in any free, public events and projects like music in parks, open mic nights, art exhibitions or tree planting working bees. I will walk around my community and appreciate the spaces around me. I will take the time to ask people about themselves and what they do, whenever I have a chance so I can learn about the people around me.

All the while I will remind myself that I am part of a wider community and the wider community is part of me. When I am bored or at a loose end, I will do something to connect with being part of that community. This week I practice getting to know my community and letting my community get to know me.

After engaging with my community for a while, I will be well prepared to self-soothe and distract myself from negative thoughts and feelings when the going gets tough. The experience of connection will be like ammo when I find myself feeling disconnected or lonely. Connecting with my community may help me practice expressing myself to others and build a wider support network of people I could turn to in a rough spot.

When I am familiar with doing things that connect me to my community, I will add ‘Connect with Being Part of a Community’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of shifting my mood during times of stress and distress. If I am feeling down, I will be able to turn to one of my familiar community connection strategies to distract myself. Doing things that connect me with my community might also help to self-soothe some things too, especially if I’ve been feeling isolated. When I notice my self-talk seems lonely, I will remind myself of my previous experiences of being connected to self-soothe and I will try to put some of my previous activities into action.

 

No. 124: Satisfy My Basic Needs

This week, to attain, maintain or regain my sense of wellbeing…

… I will practice making sure I meet all of my basic needs for safety, shelter, nourishment and rest everyday. These needs are represented by the first two levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (see image below). Attending to my basic needs will set me up to be able to work towards satisfying my psychological and self-fulfillment needs.

I might need to spend some time planning towards this – a written schedule can be a big help. This week, instead of worrying about my higher-level needs for belonging, esteem and self-actualisation, I will return to the simple goals of meeting my most basic needs for survival. I will make this an act of self-care and self-respect, where I make my own physical wellbeing a priority.

This week, I will focus my attentions on the most basic of self-caring acts by making sure I eat regularly, drink enough water and get enough sleep. This will set me up to cope well with whatever stressors come my way and allow me to better work towards the higher-level needs that have more personal meaning. If I need help or cooperation from others to reach this goal, then I will talk to the people around me to express my needs and request their support. This might help me to work on fulfilling my psychological need for belonging – as working towards a common goal (such as satisfying our basic needs) can help people to connect with each other.

Sometimes giving ourselves a small goal to focus on can help soothe the pressure we feel to fulfill larger and more difficult goals. Making sure I give myself what I need to be physically healthy is also one way that I can work towards improving my sense of self-esteem or self-worth. This week I send myself messages that I deserve to look after myself.

Once I am familiar with creating a daily routine that meets all of my physical health needs for rest, warmth, food, shelter and movement, I will add ‘Satisfy My Basic Needs’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of shifting my mood in times of stress and distress. 

No. 116: A Moment for Self-Care

This week, to attain, maintain or regain my sense of wellbeing…

… I will practice using small moments of self-care to create positive experiences in my day. Self-care is the act of caring for myself by meeting my basic needs for food and water, movement, fresh air, sunlight, stillness, and physical care. I will spend some time every morning and evening focused on a self-care activity from one of these categories.

I will start out by making a list of activities I like for each kind of self-care first and then use my diary to plan which activities I will do each morning and night. I might even add to these categories if I want to, I could add ‘Connection’ or ‘Noise’ or any other kind of activity that I feel fits with my idea of what my ‘basic needs’ are.

For example

  • Food and water
    • Sit down and eat breakfast
    • Take time to prepare lunch
    • Make something really healthy for dinner
    • Eat a favourite food
    • Stop to drink a glass of water
  • Movement
    • Dance to music in my room
    • Go to a ‘No Lights No Lycra‘ event
    • Do some yoga stretches
    • Take mini-breaks to stroll round the room
  • Fresh air
    • Pause and do some belly-breathing
    • Stand outside and breathe deep for a moment
    • Pop my head out an open window
  • Sunlight
    • Read a book in the sun
    • Do some gardening
    • Eat lunch outside
  • Stillness
    • Go to bed early to read a book
    • Light some candles and listen to chill-out music
    • Paint something on that blank canvas I have sitting around
  • Physical care
    • Make one of the spaces in my house nice to be in
    • Cleanse and moisturise my face
    • Wash and brush my hair
    • Wear something that feels good to be in

As I do each activity I will focus all my attention on the task at hand, being aware as I go that I am making a simple gesture of caring to myself. As I move through the week, I will be mindful of how I am affected by my moments of self-care so I can tell which activities work to shift my mood and whether I want to adjust them at all.

Once I am comfortable purposefully doing self-care activities on a regular basis and have found some that boost my mood, I will add them to my Personal Coping Kete and use ‘A Moment of Self-Care’ as a way of nurturing and valuing myself during times of stress and distress.

No. 114: List Poems

This week, to attain, maintain or regain my sense of wellbeing…

…I will spend 10 – 15 minutes every day writing a list poem about the things I have seen, done and felt that day. Each evening, I will sit down with a notebook and write a list of five things I saw that day, five things I did that day and five things I felt or thought. I will try to make each item on each list different. Then I will rearrange or join the items on my lists into a poem. I might add words and images or change things in my lists as well.

In this way I will practice regularly reflecting on my daily experience and finding a creative way to express it. While I am thinking of the words to use and working on rearranging the lines, I might get a bit of time out from worrying about things. If I get distracted by concerns of the day I will work them into the list and return my focus to the creative task at hand.  By working to include a number of different experiences in the list I will practice having an expansive awareness of my day without letting one experience override everything I have been aware of.

If I felt like it, I could share my poems with someone else as a way to connect with support and encouragement, but they are really something that I will do just for myself.

Once I am comfortable making list poems about a typical day, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for distracting myself from the moment and creatively expressing myself in times of stress and distress.

Example list poem. 

28/09/2012

The aluminium sky
the neighbour’s stray cat
my own reflection in the window
outside the path littered with petals
the wind-blown tree.

I have typed so many messages
dressed myself to match
bought new socks and worn them
cooked hot food and eaten it
peeled an orange and given you half.
My small victories. 

I was caring about everything
sadness for all the news
I thought I saw you flinch when I said that
worrying over the day’s mathematics
joy in the act of nurturing something.

 – M. Barr