The Coping Kete

Monthly Archives: February 2011

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No. 34: Body Scan and Tuning into Your Strength

This week, to attain, maintain or regain your sense of wellbeing when you are stressed, pressed or distressed…

…practice being mindful of your body with a common exercise called a Body Scan and self-soothing by tuning into all the different ways your body brings you strength and helps you operate in the world, all the way from beating your heart, breathing your breath, walking your legs, and more.

Set aside a minute or two to practice each day. Choose a low stress time of the day to practice, when it’ll be easier for you to try something new. Your thinking mind will start responding to what you notice in your body during the exercise and this can be kind of distressing, but it’s a normal part of what our minds do. Practice noticing the responses that show up for you, putting it into words to describe it to yourself, and bringing your mind purposefully back to the task at hand.

Brief Body Scan Practice: Settle yourself into a comfortable position and close your eyes or let them fall on a spot in front of you. Notice what it feels like to lie or sit there like that. Allow your breath just to breathe itself in its own natural rhythm while you take a few minutes to observe what is happening in your body from your head to your toes.

Just check in briefly with each part of your body and describe to yourself in words what sensations you notice – What do you feel in your head… your face… throat… your neck and shoulders… your chest… stomach… your back… buttocks… legs… and your feet? Linger for a moment on each body part and really observe what is there:

  • What is the temperature?
  • Are there places of tension, pain or discomfort?
  • Notice where the sensations begin and end, where are intense spots and where are the edges?
  • Where does your body contact with your surroundings or your clothes?
  • What urges are present as you notice these sensations?
  • Notice that there is not just one sensation, there are sensations within sensations

As you do this, you will start to notice other thoughts pulling you away from the moment. Practice observing and describe these to yourself too, in the most neutral terms you can find, and come back to scanning the sensations in your body from head to toe as your breath simply breathes itself. Notice what happens to the sensations in your body as you breathe in and out.

Notice how there are these sensations here in your body, and there you are noticing it. You can notice it without being caught in it. Our thoughts, feelings, and physical responses are like weather, and this part of us noticing it, is like the sky. No matter how big the weather gets, the sky remains unchanged above it.

Notice how there are these sensations here in your body, and there you are noticing it. You can notice it without being caught in it. Our thoughts, feelings, and physical responses are like weather, and this part of us noticing it, is like the sky. No matter how big the weather gets, the sky remains unchanged above it.

It’s often easier to learn how to do a mindful body scan when you have a voice to guide you and you can find some websites and apps with recorded exercises in the Online Resources Pack here.

Strength Self-Talk: Once you have checked in with your whole body, practice talking yourself through everything your body allows you to do and does for you to keep you alive and moving through the world For example: ‘here I am in my body, with this skeleton that keeps my head connected to my neck and my feet connected to the ground, my shoulders are holding me up, my arms are working, my heart is beating, my mind is thinking, I am breathing, my stomach is digesting my food, my eyes allow me to see, I can move my arms/legs/fingers/toes when I want to.’ 

Finish up by reminding yourself that “no matter how I feel, I can still compel my muscles to move” and then test this out for yourself by giving yourself a little stretch, maybe shrugging your shoulders, making a fist with your hands, and wriggling your toes in your shoes. As you do this, practice taking deep breaths through your nose, into your belly and out through loosely pursed lips and observing and describing the thoughts that distract you while you go. Even when we face challenges, disabilities, and impairments, we still have bodies full of strength and survival skills that we can rely on and which we have relied on to get us through until now. This strategy is all about deliberately bringing our attention to these most basic of things we can rely on in this moment right now. Be careful not to use this to try to ignore or minimise your own real challenges, that’s not going to be very comforting at all.

When you are comfortable with the brief body scan and strength self-talk, add it to your Personal Coping Kete as a way soothing anxious or distressing thoughts. No matter what level of disaster or disarray is happening, you will be able to use this strategy to ground yourself in your body and remind yourself of your power to move and survive. This can help us tell ourselves “I can handle this,” and start to believe it.

No. 33: Moving Into It

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

I will practice coping with the things I don’t want to think about by scheduling short moments in each day when I will deliberately think about them for a few minutes.

This week I will focus on living the lesson behind the saying “I cannot leave until I first allow myself to arrive.” Rather than avoiding or constantly moving away from certain thoughts and feelings, I will move into them, so that I can practice letting them leave.

For a few minutes I will make myself aware of the different memories, thoughts and feelings I have been holding off. I will observe them pass through my mind and body as they come and go, by describing them to myself in my head.  I will practice feeding myself comforting and encouraging self-statements throughout the exercise, ultimately making this an experience of self-compassion and care.

I will then turn to my next task.

Once I am used to deliberately observing the thoughts and memories that distress me and comforting myself, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of working through what is bothering me in moments of distress.

No. 32: An interesting day

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

I will plan interesting days into my week. This week, every second day is going to be an interest day. I will make sure that I do, talk about, watch or read interesting things. I will approach each present moment with the mindful curiosity and inquisitiveness that I was born approaching the world with.  I will find out things I have wondered about or connect with old hobbies.

This might take some planning. It’s easy to fall out of step with what actually does interest us.

My first interest day might need to involve exploring what I find interesting. I could use the internet, the Engage Online Resources Sheet or Community Resources Directory or my local library as places to find things that will absorb me. Or talk to a friend to come up with ideas. They might even want to join me.

Regardless of what I do or where I find myself, I will take interest in what is around me.

If I can’t do a day, I will do a moment.

Once I have gotten comfortable having Interest Days I will add them to my Personal Coping Kete as an engagement strategy for times when my mood needs a lift and my thoughts need to shift.

No. 31: Getting Sensory

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

I will take 15-30 minutes at night to practice sensory modulation as a way to relax and unwind before bed. Sensory modulation is a way of regulating how you feel through your senses by making pleasant changes to your surroundings. This means putting some quiet, soothing music on, dimming the lights or lighting candles, and sitting somewhere comfortable with a snug, heavy blanket across my knees. It means just spending some time focusing my mind on the safe, content sensations of the blanket on my lap, the couch beneath me, the fabric under my hands, the calm lighting and the soothing music.

I can return my mind to this state in memory whenever I need to.

Once I am familiar with using sensory modulation to relax on a regular basis, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of shifting distressing moments.