The Coping Kete

Monthly Archives: July 2011

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No. 55: Progressive Muscle Relaxation

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

I will practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation for two minutes every day so that I am well-versed in its use when I am feeling stressed, pressed or distressed and really need it.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation allows me relax and distract myself from my thoughts by tensing and releasing my muscles and focusing on the sensation of release.

I will find a comfortable spot, either sitting or lying down, and take a moment to breathe. In the morning before getting up or at night before going to sleep is the perfect time to practice, because I’m already lying down.

As I breathe slowly, I will tense the muscles in each area of my body for 10 slow seconds, starting at my toes. Then I will release the tension in those muscles, again for 10 seconds. Then I will move on to the next group of muscles.  I will focus my attention on the sensations I experience in my body when I tense each muscle and especially on the sensations I experience when I release each muscle.

Throughout the exercise I will keep my breathing slow and regular as in the standard breathing exercise, as I work my way through my body, tensing and releasing one muscle-group at a time. If I am not yet familiar with the standard breathing exercise, I will spend a week with that before moving onto Progressive Muscle Relaxation.

If my mind wanders, I will bring it slowly back to the sensations in my body as I tense and relax each set of muscles.

Once I have become well-practiced at this exercise in everyday moments, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete for use at any time, anywhere to distract from and self-soothe stressful and distressing feelings.

This exercise is particularly good for racing thoughts and insomnia.

StepByStep Guide to Progressive Muscle Relaxation

  1. Toes. With legs relaxed, dig your toes into the floor; relax. Bend the toes up as far as possible; relax.
  2. Calves and feet. Point the toes (without raising the legs); relax. Point the feet up as far as possible (beware of cramps – if you get them or feel them coming on, shake them loose); relax.
  3. Thighs. Extend legs and raise them off the floor but don’t tense the stomach; relax. Dig your feet (heels) into the floor or foot rest; relax.
  4. Butt. Tense the butt tightly and raise pelvis slightly off chair; relax. Dig buttocks into chair; relax.
  5. Stomach. Pull in the stomach as far as possible; relax completely. Push the stomach out as far as possible; relax.
  6. Back. With shoulders resting on the back of the chair, push your body forward so that your back is arched; relax. Be very careful with this one.
  7. Shoulders. Pull them back (careful with this one); relax them. Push the shoulders forward (hunch); relax.
  8. Arms. The biceps are tensed (make a muscle – but shake your hands to make sure not tensing them into a fist); relaxed (drop your arm to the chair). The triceps are tensed (try to bend your arms the wrong way); relaxed (drop them).
  9. Hands. The fists are tensed; relaxed. The fingers are extended; relaxed.
  10. Neck. With the shoulders straight and relaxed, the head is turned slowly to the right, as far as you can; relax. Turn to the left; relax. Dig your chin into your chest; relax.
  11. Mouth. The mouth is opened as far as possible; relaxed. The lips are brought together or pursed as tightly as possible; relaxed.
  12. Tongue (roof and floor). Dig your tongue into the roof of your mouth; relax. Dig it into the bottom of your mouth; relax.
  13. Eyes. Open them as wide as possible (furrow your brow); relax. Close your eyes tightly (squint); relax. Make sure you completely relax the eyes, forehead, and nose after each of the tensings.

Feel free to adapt this to suit your situation and preferences as you need or wish to.

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Acknowledgement: Progressive Muscle Relaxation was originally developed by Edmund Jacobson in the 1930’s and has become a widely used relaxation method. 

No. 54: Paint

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

I will practice painting something on a piece of paper, wood, cloth or canvas to shift the moment. It doesn’t matter what I paint, I will focus my attention on the sound of the brush on the surface and allow myself to get lost in the brush-strokes.  I could simply colour in the surface, paint how I feel or try to copy something that is around me. Painting is great because I can start it and then come back to it later. When things get stressful or distressing, I can return to the artwork and add to it or I can start a new one if I am feeling completely different.

This will give me some brief valuable ‘me’ time in my day where I can distract myself from what’s going in my day or a moment. This gives my unconscious mind a bit of a rest and sets me up for a moment of safety.

I could get a few tubes of acrylic paint for a few dollars each from my local stationary shop. Some emporium style shops have a great range of really cheap paints, brushes, papers and canvases – but really, I can paint on anything. If I keep in mind that I can do a lot with just one colour and I’ll be able to get started almost straight away.

Once I am used to taking a few moments to paint in my everyday life, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of shifting or expressing moments of stress and distress.

This week’s strategy comes from a participant at today’s RCNet Monthly Forum. We’ve fleshed it out a bit. 

No. 53: One of Those Regular Reflection-Points

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

I will spend some time reflecting on where I am and where I want to be. This week will be a period of planning what I want to work on next. As I move through my week, my distress responses and feelings of dissatisfaction will become useful indicators that give me clues on what I would like to be different in my life.  I will remind myself that I am a work in progress and the messy areas are simply the bits I haven’t gotten to yet.

We’ve now been posting weekly strategies for a year. Today’s post marks the beginning of the next round of strategies.

This week, I will keep a notebook on me at all times. Whenever I notice something that I would like to be better at or find easier or respond differently to, I will write it down.

At the end of each day I will spend a bit of time reading over my notes for that day. I will spend some time writing down what skills and strengths I will need to develop in order to transform these things for myself.

At the end of the week, I will look back over my reflections and select the easiest, simplest one to work on first. In the coming weeks, I will focus on practicing techniques that will help me to develop this skill.

I will add ‘A Reflect Point’ to my Personal Coping Kete and return to it from time to time to review where I am at and where I want to go.

No. 52: Radical Acceptance

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

I will practice radical acceptance. Acceptance is “The action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered.”  Radical Acceptance is “seeing exactly what is [even the really bad things] and just… accepting the fact of its existence.

This week I consent to receive life on its own terms. 

By practicing Radical Acceptance, I give up on fighting reality. I accept what is and what isn’t. It means I accept the things I cannot change. It doesn’t mean I become passive and give up on changing the things I can change. This week I will practice telling the difference between the two.

In accepting how things are, I will be free to respond to current events as they really are and nurture myself in the most effective way. In accepting how things are, I give up on all self-blame or negative judgement, because I also accept myself and my reactions.

I will accept what is happening and what I need in the moment, and I will give it to myself.

Motto for the week “que sera sera… whatever will be, will be.”

Once I am used to using radical acceptance with the everyday stuff, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for soothing unwanted emotions and letting go of distressing thoughts. When I find myself feeling stressed, pressed or distressed, I will observe myself without judgement and without wasting any energy on denying or resisting what is happening or how I feel.

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Acknowledgement: Marsha Linehan is known for popularising mindfulness and the concept of radical acceptance in the mental health community with Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT).