The Coping Kete

No. 152: Do Something for My Future Self

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

… I will practice choosing the course of action that will make me feel better later by doing something for my future self each day. We so often spend our time caught up in surviving the day-to-day things that lie in front of us, that we forget to spend time setting up our future selves  to thrive. This week I will practice nurturing my future self.

To start with I will make a list of small things I could do in a day to help me feel better later. Each day, I will choose one thing from my list to do and plan in a time to do it.

For example, going to bed 30 minutes earlier might make my mornings easier; eating breakfast might make my afternoons easier; doing a job I’ve been putting off might make me feel less stressed tomorrow; going for a walk might give me a mood lift and help me sleep better later; setting some goals might help me feel like I have a bit of direction later etc…

As I get used to the practice of doing small things for my future self in a planned way, I will practice pausing as I make decisions in my daily life to ask myself what course of action would help me feel better later. In this way I will get familiar with responding to typical daily decisions in a way that nurtures my wellbeing in the long-term.

When I am used to making choices for my future self on ordinary days, I will add ‘Do Something for My Future Self‘ to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping during times of stress and distress. When I find myself feeling upset, I will be able to distract myself by doing something that will help me feel better later and self-soothe with the idea that my actions will make things easier for me soon. This might help me be able to hold my distress without getting caught up in it.

No. 151: Mindful Moment

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

… I will pause once a day to practice being mindful of the present moment and myself inside it. Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment on purpose, without judgment and with full awareness of both the internal and the external parts of our experience. I can do this by purposefully observing the present moment, describing it to myself and then participating in the experience.  In order to fully observe, describe and participate in the moment I need to focus on one thing at a time, take a non-judgmental stance and be effective. Being effective means choosing the direction that is most helpful or doing what needs to be done without being trapped in our emotions but without ignoring them either. This week I will practice taking the time to observe what is around me and what is inside me. I might need to set an alarm or decide on another reminder ahead of time to help me remember to practice. While I’m new at mindfulness, I’ll practice at a time when my emotions aren’t running super high.

Once a day I’ll practice taking a mindful moment. Breathing calmly and moving into a comfortable position, I will focus my mind on the here and now…Noticing what is happening around me right now, I will observe my surroundings and describe them  to myself without judgement. When I notice myself making judgments, I will observe them that way, carefully re-word them and return my mind to the present moment as I continue with my breathing. I can ground myself in the present moment by paying attention to my five senses and participating in them with awareness. What do I see around me right now… what do I hear… what do I smell… what do I taste… what do I touch? I will allow my thoughts and feelings to register and come back to my senses. I will name thoughts as thoughts, feelings as feelings, separating the past from the present, acknowledging the things that are unwanted instead of pushing them away. I will observe and describe any thoughts and worries about the past or future that arise, without evaluating them or chasing them. I will then turn my attention back to observing and describing the physical environment around me and how I experience it. Once I have observed the whole of my surroundings and what is going on inside me, I will turn my attention to the next task I have at hand, carrying my wider awareness with me.

When I am comfortable paying attention to the present moment at an ordinary time, I will add ‘Mindful Moment’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping with stress and distress. When I notice my emotions starting to run high, I will be able to pause, ground myself in the present and tolerate my distressing thoughts and feelings without pushing them away. I will be able to observe and describe my experiences for what they are and continue to be fully aware of my surroundings and my senses.

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Acknowledgement: Mindfulness can be traced back to buddhist philosophy. Thich Naht Hanh is known for creating the Engaged Buddhism movement  and popularising mindfulness in the Western world. Jon Kabbat-Zinn is known for popularising mindfulness in the medical community with the Mindfulness-Based Stress-Reduction (MBSR) programme at the University of Massachusetts. Marsha Linehan is known for popularising mindfulness in the mental health community with Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT).  The basic practice of mindfulness features in many strategies shared in The Coping Kete. Once you learn the basic skills, you can use mindfulness in any moment you find yourself in, in countless different ways. There is an awful lot behind each of the skills involved. Follow the links above to learn more. 

No. 150: Make a Memory Jar

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

… I will practice holding onto positive memories by making and using a Memory Jar. To make a Memory Jar, all I need to do is get a jar with a lid that I can fill with reminders of my positive memories throughout the year. Each day, I will write down at least one positive thing I want to remember later. I’ll write down the small things like amazing views or scenery I have seen or fabulous food I have eaten or moments of laughter with friends as well as the big events and achievements that happen throughout the days and weeks of the year.  Some people add objects and pictures to their memory jars too – like ticket stubs from good movies and concerts, photos of friends, shells from beach trips, dried flowers etc etc. My Memory Jar can become a real lucky dip of treasured moments that I will be able to use as fuel for feeling good in days to come.

To start with, I’ll need to get my Memory Jar ready.  Click here to see some Memory Jars made by other people. Some people decorate their memory jars – I could get really creative with this. I might find myself having pessimistic or cynical thoughts about the activity, especially if I am in a low mood when I sit down to do it. Finding it hard to remember positive things doesn’t mean that there have been no positive things. It just means I haven’t noticed any positive things. Sometimes it can help to write down something I think I would find positive on a different day if I was in a better mood. By practicing the art of writing something down every day, I will practice holding onto positive memories in the face of difficulty and hardship.

After I have made my Memory Jar, I will schedule in some time each day for the next week, to write a new memory on a slip of paper and add it to the jar.  If I have been feeling low, I will sit down with the Memory Jar during the time of the day when I usually feel the best. It is harder to notice positives when we are feeling negative, so if I find it tough to think of positive memories from the day, I won’t be hard on myself for it. I will have compassion for myself and let myself start small. I might find it easier to carry some little slips of paper with me, so I can write down positive moments as they happen. This might help me be able to notice these things so I can add them to my Memory Jar.

At the end of the week, I will look through my Memory Jar and practice remembering each of the good moments in my week. I will then plan in how to continue adding to my jar as I move through the year. At the end of each week, I’ll review a few of my good moments and again plan how to continue adding to my jar. It might help to keep it somewhere I will see it often. Reviewing my memories each week will help me to get comfortable holding my positive memories in my mind without cancelling them out with the bad stuff that has happened. This will help me to be more comfortable remembering good memories when I am feeling bad.

As I gather more and more  slips of paper with good memories on them, and get comfortable noticing and recording positive memories, I will add ‘Use My Memory Jar’ to my Personal Coping Kete for moments of stress and distress. If I am finding things hard, I will take out my Memory Jar and use the little slips of paper to shift my thoughts to good times and moments of gratitude. I might even find some ideas for positive things I can do in the present to shift my mood to a more enjoyable place. In times of stress and distress, as well as remembering good memories, I will add one new good memory to my Memory Jar. Even when everything is terrible, I will be able to find one good thing to add to my Memory Jar. Doing this during tough times might help me to balance out some of my unwanted thoughts and feelings and shift the intensity of my moods a bit. Turning my mind towards positive events when I feel distressed might help me learn to let go of unhelpful thoughts and hold onto more helpful ones. Each time I notice I am dwelling on something unhelpful, I will use my Memory Jar to help me talk myself through in a way that gives me a more balanced viewpoint that takes the good on board with the bad.

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Happy New Year from Engage Aotearoa/CMHRT and Engage Resources Ltd.

No. 149: Balloon Breaths

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

…I will practice relaxing myself with my breath. Whenever I notice my breathing, I will clasp my hands together and place them on my belly, just below my rib cage (right on my diaphragm). I will imagine my stomach is a balloon. As I breathe in, I will blow my belly up like a balloon, pushing my hands out. I will let my breath fall out slowly through my lips in one long, smooth breath. I will take 5-10 breaths like this, blowing my belly up like a balloon with every breath in and letting the air out nice and slowly on each breath out.

As my mind distracts me from the task, I will bring my attention back to my breathing. It can help to notice the movement of the hands, the sensation of the breaths and to count out each deep breath in and out ‘In one….out one…in two…out two…’

Afterwards, I will notice what effect this breathing exercise has on me. I will notice how the heart slows down, how the body feels more still, the mind more calm.

When I am comfortable slowing my breathing down like this at an ordinary time, I will add ‘Balloon Breaths’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping with stress and distress. When I feel agitated or upset, I will be able to take a brief moment to do 5-10 balloon breaths and calm down my physical stress responses that make it difficult to think clearly and respond in a helpful way. By taking a moment to breathe deeply and fully, I will be able to clear my head a bit before I act on my emotions.

Balloon breathing is another way of thinking about diaphragmatic breathing.  Diaphragmatic breathing is a well-known strategy for calming physical stress responses and is a great base for any number of relaxation exercises like visualisation and sensory modulation.

No. 148: Practice Compassion

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

…I will practice being compassionate towards myself. When I notice critical thoughts or judgments about myself or things I have done or not done, I will practice responding in my mind with kind words, that share sensitivity for my suffering and respect for my humanity. I will practice choosing compassionate and accepting words to talk to myself about my mistakes, weaknesses, flaws and limitations.  Other people can criticise me if they wish, but I will give myself compassion.

As I move through my week, I will keep an eye out for self-talk that is harsh, critical and judgmental. For example, I will watch out for self-talk where I label myself stupid or useless when I make a mistake. When I notice I am labeling myself harshly for my mistakes and limitations, I will give myself compassion by pausing to remind myself it is human to struggle. I will appreciate my strengths by remembering them to myself and recalling that my flaws and limitations are simply part of a whole, not all that I am.  By responding to myself with compassion throughout the week, I will practice accepting my whole self, warts and all. I do not need to be perfect, nor would I want to be.

When I am used to talking to myself with compassion and acceptance on an ordinary day, I will add ‘talk to myself with compassion’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping with stress and distress. When I find myself in distress, I will be mindful of how I am talking to myself and be careful to use compassionate words. In times of stress and distress, I will be better able to give myself messages of kindness, instead of giving myself messages of shame or judgement that make me feel worse.

No. 147: One Thing at a Time

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

… I will practice doing just one thing at a time. I will pick one daily activity, like taking a shower or brushing my teeth, drinking a coffee or eating breakfast. Each time I find myself doing my chosen activity, I will do just that activity, with an awareness of what I am doing in that moment. For example, instead of drinking my coffee while I read emails – I will just drink my coffee and notice the experience in its fullness. I can anchor myself in each of my five senses as a way to practice being aware of what I am doing: sight, taste, hearing, smell and touch.

While I notice the activity at hand, I will practice letting my thoughts come and go, without chasing them. My inner world is part of my current experience in any moment and I will allow it into my attention.  By turning my attention to the one thing I am doing, I’ll practice not being pulled into other thoughts and feelings, even though I know they are there. As other thoughts enter my mind, I will observe them and my responses to them with kindness, then bring my attention back to the one activity in front of me.

Doing one thing at a time, frees our minds up to do that one thing more efficiently. Taking time to do one thing at a time also lets us experience the simple pleasures of everyday things more fully. Practicing doing one thing at a time and focusing my attention on the task during everyday activities, will help strengthen my ability to focus my attention on mindful distraction tasks during times of distress.

Once I’m used to the art of doing one thing at a time, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping when the going gets tough. When I am feeling overwhelmed by emotions or unwanted thoughts, I will choose any small activity I can find to do and I will focus my awareness on that for a while. I’ll observe my thoughts as they float to the surface of my attention, notice my responses to them and then turn my mind back to doing the one activity before me and experiencing it fully. It could be anything from dusting an ornament to making dinner. Whatever I choose, I will do just that one thing and I will pay attention to every part of it.

No. 146: Be Still and Breathe

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

… I will practice being mindful of the wider moment by pausing as often as I can remember and simply being still. Throughout the day, wherever I am when I remember, I will stop what I am doing, be still and just breathe. Whatever is going through my head, I will notice and let pass, while I breathe and be still. I will take this time to notice the light and temperature and textures around me and the sensations in my body as I stop what I am doing and settle into the moment.

When I notice thoughts I will practice noticing them kindly, without judging them. I will practice letting the thoughts I notice pass by looking at what else there is to notice in this moment. Moving my awareness on will help me make sure I don’t get hooked into one particular train of thought. If I notice myself making judgements, I will observe the judgement and again move my awareness to what else I notice while I am breathing and being still.

In this way, I will practice having little rest spots throughout my day, where I can slow down and notice what is happening inside and around me, without getting hooked into the stressful stuff. Taking moments to slow down and be still might help me be aware of what am dealing with, while I allow myself to be mindfully distracted by my surroundings. After a little while of being still and breathing, I will carry on with what I was doing.

When I am comfortable stopping to be still and breathe in everyday moments, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for times of stress and distress. When I notice I am getting wound up, I will be able to stop what I am doing, be still, breathe and look around me to get a bit of soothing space between feeling and responding.

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This week’s Coping Kete strategy is inspired by a strategy from a member of the public who attended The Butterfly Diaries launch during Mental Health Awareness Week.

No. 145: Look For Movement

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

… I will practice taking a break from thinking and focusing on something relaxing to improve the moment.

This week, when I notice myself caught up in my thoughts, I will pause and mindfully look around me or out the window at all that is moving. For just a minute or two, I will mindfully breathe and notice all that is moving in the space where I am and, if I am indoors, all that is moving outside my space, through the window.

As I stand or sit, I will simply observe the movements of the things around me. When I notice my mind wandering back to my thoughts of the future, I will congratulate myself for being mindful of my thoughts and turn my attention back to noticing the movement of the things around me – the direction the grass is blowing in, the way the flowers in the garden throw their heads around, the way the trees move, the laundry on the washing line and how it all moves together.

After a minute or two, I will return to my day and what I was doing.

Once I am comfortable interrupting a thought and making myself mindful of the movement around me, I will add ‘Look for Movement’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of giving myself space when I am distressed. If I can give myself space when I am feeling stressed or distressed, I will give my mind and body time to rest and make it easier for me to face the things that are tough. If I can give myself space before I react to my distressing feelings, I might react in a different way that has more helpful consequences for me in the long-run.

This week’s Coping Kete strategy comes from a member of the public who attended The Butterfly Diaries launch on the 13th of October and decorated the launch tent with a strategy that helps them feel better when things are tough.

 

The Butterfly says: “I Take a break from thinking sometimes and go outside and notice how everything is moving in the wind.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Acknowledgement: Mindfulness can be traced back to buddhist philosophy. Thich Naht Hanh is known for creating the Engaged Buddhism movement  and popularising mindfulness in the Western world. Jon Kabbat-Zinn is known for popularising mindfulness in the medical community with the Mindfulness-Based Stress-Reduction (MBSR) programme at the University of Massachusetts. Marsha Linehan is known for popularising mindfulness in the mental health community with Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT).  The basic practice of mindfulness features in many strategies shared in The Coping Kete. Once you learn the basic skills, you can use mindfulness in any moment you find yourself in, in countless different ways. There is an awful lot behind each of the skills involved. Follow the links above to learn more. 

No. 144: Be Aware of My Choices

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

… I will practice noticing all the different ways I can control my outcomes by paying attention to the choices I make each day and purposefully choosing the option that moves me towards more of what I want.

This week, as I move through each day, I will practice being aware of each of the small choices I make. When I notice that I am making a choice, I will practice pausing to observe what options I am choosing between and what the possible outcomes of each of the options might be. I will then deliberately choose the option that will bring me closer to what I want for my future – whether that is how I want to feel later in the day or what I want to be doing next year.

I’ll start out doing this with the small choices I make, such as what I eat and drink, what I watch on TV, what I work on next, where I sit and everyday things like that.

Noticing how my small choices change the way I experience my daily life, might help me to be make more mindful decisions, that effect me in more positive ways. Slowing down and thinking about our choices is especially hard when we are distressed, which is why we so often do and say things we regret when we feel angry or upset. If I practice slowing down and being aware of my choices in everyday moments, it might be easier to slow myself down and think about my choices when I’m distressed. In this way, I will learn how to hold my own responses and act based on what I want and need, not just on what I feel.

This week, as I notice myself making a choice, I will pause, ask myself what the other options are, think about the possible consequences and what consequences I want, then choose the option that brings me closer the outcome I desire.

When I am comfortable pausing myself and observing my options before I make everyday kinds of choices, I will add ‘Be Aware of my Choices’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping during times of stress and distress. By being aware of the choices I am making and choosing the option that brings me closer to what I want for my future, I will be able to guide myself through the tough moments in a way that has a positive effect on me, rather than getting caught up in my distress and making coping decisions that make things harder in the long-run.  The simple act of stopping to think through the options and make myself aware of what I want and need will help me practice giving myself a delay between feeling and acting, a mini time-out to have a little think. Doing this could be a form of mindful distraction, moving my mind away from how I feel in the moment to what I want in the future and what my choices are.

No. 143: Finding Excuses to Get Outside

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

…I will find excuses to spend small amounts of time outside and work them into my day to give myself little moments of mindfulness in nature.  To start with, I will make a list of all the things I can do outside around my house or around my work or anywhere in between.

For example:
Weed the garden
Check the mail
Water the garden
Hang out washing
Bring in washing
Read the newspaper in the sun
Have lunch at the local park
Eat breakfast on the lawn
Drink my coffee under a tree
Walk to the dairy for milk
etc… etc…. etc…

Then, as I move through my week, I will practice giving myself time outside to do these things. I might schedule them in to my diary to help me remember to do them or I might be able to remember whenever the opportunity presents itself. When I find myself outside I will mindfully observe the environment around me and how it feels to be in it doing what I am doing. I will describe each part of my experience to myself and fully focus on participating in the experience of being outside. If I notice my thoughts distracting me from my moment outdoors, I will observe them for what they are and bring my mind back to the present moment. This will allow me to practice engaging with environments that are soothing and enjoyable as part of my everyday life. It might also help me get all the Vitamin D I need. Vitamin D comes from the sun.

Once I am used to enjoying outside as part of daily life, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a way to self-soothe or distract myself during times of stress and distress. Taking myself outside and mindfully doing something else when I am distressed might give me the space I need to feel more calm before I respond to my distressing feelings, while still allowing them to be there.