The Coping Kete

Category Archives: Engagement

No. 26: Stop Point

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

I will practice taking a break. This means that for one set period of time I will not do work. I will take a break from all self-criticism and worries about the past/present/future. I can pick them back up again in a week or so if I still want or need them.  Whatever my situation happens to be right now, I will take time to do things that are good and fun for me, without pressure to perform to any level or achieve any outcome, other than to take a break. I will actively relax. I will socialise. I will spend some quality time to alone.

I will plan a couple of things I’d really like to do or see or try. Wherever I am, I will holiday.

Once I am used to taking regular breaks, I will add this to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for shifting negative moods when they are hard to deal with. Sometimes, we have been pushing ourselves for too long, and taking some time out helps to recharge the batteries.

No. 25: Bite Sized Chunks

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

I will break the things I need or want to achieve into a series of easily achievable steps.  I will start out by writing a list of things I need or want to get done. I will pick the more important or pressing items on the list and spend some time breaking each of those down into their parts. For example, ‘I need to tidy the house’ would become ‘vacuum the lounge’, ‘clear the surfaces’, ‘fold the washing’ and ‘wash the dishes’.  I’ll then plan my week so that I do one or two of the small bite-sized chunks each day.

By the end of the week, I’ll be that much closer to my desired end-point.  But the main point is that when I start to get stressed out about things, I can remind myself that ‘I have got it under control, life is a work in progress, and I’m on my way‘.  I will be able to experience a sense of accomplishment more often, as I tick off each of the small steps I have achieved, instead of having to wait until I reach the final goal. I will be able to trust that I’ll get there in the end.

Once I am used to breaking things down into manageable chunks and reminding myself I have done so, I will add the strategy to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping when things seem too hard to tackle. When things start to feel overwhelming or stressful, I will remind myself that all I need to do is the next step, and then the next step, and I’ll make it through in the end.

No. 18: Eating Mood Foods

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

I will eat at least one Mood Food every day to give myself the essentials that my body needs to operate effectively and regulate my emotions.  By setting my body up to respond well to stress, I will build my resilience to distress – I will have the energy and resources I need to cope.  By paying mindful attention to eating foods that are good for me in this way, I will be engaging in the practice of valuing myself.  I could also use this as a chance to explore new foods and recipes.

Mood Foods contain magnesium, selenium, B-vitamins, folic acid, tyrosine, tryptophan and zinc, among other things.  These vitamins and minerals are involved in low energy, concentration, insomnia, irritability, confusion, anxiety and low motivation.  There is an excellently detailed list of foods to incorporate in the Nutrients Table at www.mentalhealth.org.uk.

In the Engage Booster Group, we circled the foods we liked or might like on the Nutrients Table and then found ways of incorporating them into one meal a day.  Everyone who tried it noticed a difference in the way they felt two weeks later, even though nothing in their environment had changed. The group decided to try to continue with this for another month and see what happened.

Some Good Mood Foods:

  • Brazil nuts – 3 brazil nuts a day meets all of your magnesium and selenium needs.
  • LSA: A combination of ground linseed, sunflower seeds and almonds that can be sprinkled over most foods to add magnesium, selenium, tryptophan, zinc and B3 content to whatever you are eating. Or just eat whole almonds and sunflower seeds.
  • Bananas – these are a power food, they contain so many essentials and all of the essentials we named above.
  • Blackberries, Pineapple, Kiwifruit
  • Peas, Spinach, Broccoli
  • Salmon, Tuna, Mussels – for omega-3 oils, folic acid, B vitamins and zinc.
  • Olive oil
  • Brown rice, Wholemeal pasta, Wholemeal bread – wholegrains contain Folic Acid, magnesium and important B vitamins.  They also provide you with longer lasting energy and make you feel full longer than processed grains.
  • Plain yoghurt, Parmesan Cheese, Cheddar Cheese
  • Miso soup – zinc and tyrosine: you can also cook with miso, it’s a soy-bean extract.  Marmite is a good source of tyrosine too.

Once I’ve gotten comfortable eating and using these foods, I will add ‘Eat and Prepare a Mood Food’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of shifting my mood and engaging with resilience when I am feeling distressed.

No 17. What Would Goofy Do?

This week, in order to attain, maintain or regain my sense of wellness…

I will practice taking some time out with a notebook and doing a writing exercise to cope with stress.  When I think I need a break from the moment, I will sit down with a notebook and choose a cartoon character.  I will imagine that this cartoon character is in my situation instead of me.  I will write for 5 minutes about how this character would view and react to the situation. It will distract me and maybe even give me a different perspective of things.

I will need to keep a notebook and pen or pencil in my bag or pocket for this one.

Once I am used to doing writing exercises when I am not particularly upset, I will add ‘What Would A Cartoon Character Do? Writing Exercise’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a way to shift unwanted moods.

No 16 – Regular contact

This week, in order to attain, maintain or regain my sense of wellness…

I will reach out to another person to talk about my day and what’s on my plate every day.  I will also give the other person the chance to talk to me about their day and what is on their plate at the same time.  This way things will not build up for me and I will get ongoing support and access to other perspectives.  If I am upset, I might get comfort and understanding.

This may take some planning, especially for those of us who are still building a social support network.  On days when I do not know who to ring, visit or chat to at the water cooler, I will call Youthline, Warmline or Lifeline and utilise a pair of expert ears.

It helps to make a list of people you can call.  And to start off with there’s

  • Youthline – Ph: 0800 37 66 33 | Free text: 234 | email: talk@youthline.co.nz
  • Warmline – Ph: 0508 WARMLINE or 0508 927 654
  • Lifeline – Ph: 0800 LIFE LINE or 0800 543 345
  • The Phobic Trust: 24-Hour Anxiety Help-Line; 0800 1 4 ANXIETY
  • A parent; A sibling or cousin; A friend; Another friend; A colleague

Once I am used to reaching out to someone regularly, I will add “Call Someone To Talk About It” to my Personal Coping Kete as something to do during times of stress.


No. 14 – A Letter to The Past

This week in order to attain, maintain or regain my sense of wellness

I will use letter-writing as a means of private expression.  If I find myself thinking over and over a past negative experience, I will write a letter to one of the people in the situation or my past self explaining how it was for me and airing any unfinished business.  I will finish the letter by writing what I need now and what I can do for myself now.

When I have written down everything I wanted to say but didn’t have the chance to, I will screw the letter up and throw it away as a symbolic gesture of moving on from things I cannot change.

I will then turn my attention to one small thing I have been needing or wanting to get done.

Whenever my thoughts turn back to the experience, I will remember what was at the heart of my letter and give myself empathy and compassion for what has distressed me.  I will then remember that moment of releasing it and bring my thoughts back to the current moment by describing the immediate situation to myself.

Often we need to let go more than once. If I find this engagement strategy helpful, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of expressing feelings about the past again later.

No. 10 – Permission to be Fully Human

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

I will have realistic expectations of myself and give myself permission to be average.   By giving myself permission to be average this week, I free myself from the pressures of trying to be perfect or trying to appear like I’ve got everything together.  I will tell myself things like “Today I only need to do what I can do.  What I can do is enough.”

This week it will be okay to make mistakes and say silly things occasionally, to not know what is happening, to need to ask questions and to feel distressing emotions. If I notice I am worrying about those things, I will remind myself “I only need to do what I can do.  What I can do is enough.”

Often times it is our negative judgement of our own experiences and the pressure we put on ourselves to achieve our high expectations that creates and/or intensifies our experiences of stress and distress.

This week, I give myself permission to be fully human, rather than an idealised version of myself. My mistakes are learning experiences that will strengthen me, not distressing experiences to regret and avoid.

Once I have experienced a whole week of being average and nothing terrible happening as I consequence, I will add ‘Give Myself Permission to Be Human’ to my Personal Coping Kete. When I notice that I am feeling stressed, pressed or distressed, I will remind myself that all I need to do is survive the current moment.

No. 5 – Regular Self-Checks

This week, to attain, maintain or retain my sense of wellness …

I will practice being mindful of what I am feeling and what I need.  Once every hour or two, I will check in by mentally asking myself ’what do I feel right now?’ and then ‘what do I need to do for myself right now?’

I will give myself those things that I am capable of giving (or getting).  Do I need food? Sleep? A breath or two? Reassurance? A kind thought? A glass of water? A chat? A distraction? Assistance? By creating small moments in my day, I will become practiced in the art of responding to my needs as well as privately connecting with and expressing my feelings.

Once I am comfortable with creating moments in my days, I will add ‘Do a Self-Check’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for moments of stress and distress.

No. 3 – Space to Make Considered Responses

This week, in order to attain, maintain or regain my sense of wellness…

I will practice giving myself the opportunity to respond consciously with awareness, rather than automatically, based on emotion.  Each day I will take 5 minutes out, to think about a time of minor stress during the day and write down in a notebook

  • what just happened
  • what it made me think of at the time
  • what I would like to do next
  • and what I will do next

Sometimes we get distressed because things seem overwhelming and out of our control.

If we take some time out of the situation and work through it, we are able to access a wider perspective of our environment, why it’s affecting us and what to do next.

Writing helps to focus the mind on the task at hand & flick us over into a more methodical frame of mind.

Once I have gotten comfortable with thinking about my experiences in this way, I will add ‘Write Myself Through a Considered Response’ to my Personal Coping Kete for use in times of stress and distress.