The Coping Kete

Tag Archives: Breathing Exercises

No. 67: Removing the Pressure

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

…when I encounter everyday problems and hiccups, I will make things seem more manageable by reminding myself ‘all I need to do is get through this one moment.’

Instead of piling pressure on myself to measure up to expectations, I will tell myself that I don’t need to do anything but get through each moment and anything else is an added bonus, so I can relax and go with it.

I’ll then take myself through the standard breathing exercise while I give myself a brief running commentary of the moment I am currently in. Once I have described the moment to myself I will come back to my original idea that I just need to get through this moment and that means all I need to do is keep breathing.

Once I am comfortable removing the pressure and doing some breathing in everyday situations, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete for times of stress and distress.

No. 66: Redirect & Breathe

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

…When I find myself worrying about how something will turn out, I will redirect my thoughts by visualising the situation exactly as I would like it to go. In the same way that champion athletes picture themselves successfully completing their task before they begin, I will imagine myself competently going through each motion of the task before me. I will see myself smiling and feeling good. I will imagine myself feeling strong and at ease. I will see the people around me responding positively. I will see myself at the other end of the challenge having come through it well. Each time a new worry surfaces, I will visualise myself handling it well. As I focus my mind on images of myself getting through and enjoying myself doing it, I will take slow breaths in through my nose, allowing my stomach to rise with each breath in. I will let each breath drift out through my loosely pursed lips.

In this way, for a short time, I will give myself physical safety messages with the breathing and psychological safety messages with my visualisation. I will also prepare myself to handle the situation more effectively, because I will have seen what that looks like. This is much more useful than filling my head up with what the worse case scenario looks like. When I find constant worries running through my head, this visualisation could be a good way to redirect them without suppressing them. I can let each of my worries arrive so I can help them leave by imagining it being resolved effectively.

This week I will feed myself visions of strengths and successes. 

Once I am comfortable breathing and redirecting myself to visions of my strengths and successes in everyday situations, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete for moments of stress and distress.

No. 57: That Was Then & This Is Now

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

….when I notice my mind wandering over the past, I will practice bringing myself back to the present by regularly pausing to describe each of the elements of my environment in the present moment.

I will use the standard breathing exercise to send my body calming messages, while I look around my current environment and observe what is happening around me right now.

Once I am familiar with recalling myself to the present moment in everyday situations, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of distracting myself from distressing memories and recollections. When my mind wanders back onto the memories, I will give myself compassion for the distress that the event originally caused and then move my awareness back to the current moment, in which I am safe.

For example, I could say to myself “it’s natural to be remembering that now. That was then, and this is now, right now I am in a room at the computer….[describe the room] … and I am safe.”

I will be kind to myself with my self-talk when these remembrances occur. Especially, I will give myself the kindness of bringing myself back to the present when I need it.

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.

_ _ _

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

No. 35: A Longterm Perspective

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

I will practice tuning into a long-term perspective to shift my mood. When I notice moments of stress, I will take three deep breaths and imagine how I might think and feel about the current situation in five years from now.

By making myself aware of how I will feel and think about a particular stressor in 5 years, I will gain a wider perspective of what is happening in the moment to help reduce any unpleasant feelings and thoughts.

I will remind myself: This too shall pass. While something can seem very intense, overwhelming or unbearable in the moment, once time has passed the emotional intensity does too. With the passage of time solutions are often found for problems, skills and strengths are further developed, lessons are learned, new connections are made and broken bridges are mended. This week I will think long-term and I will observe what happens when I wait and see what happens.

Once I am used to thinking long-term about small, everyday problems, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete to help balance out more intense emotional responses.

No. 34: Signs of Safety

This week, to attain, maintain or regain my sense of wellbeing, when I am stressed, pressed or distressed…

I will practice feeding myself signs of safety. As I move through my day, I will take moments to mentally scan my body, describing to myself everything that shows I am ultimately safe right now – ‘my head is connected to my neck, my shoulders are strong, my arms are working, my heart is beating, my mind is thinking, I can move my legs, I am breathing.’ As I do this, I will practice taking slow breaths through my nose, into my belly and out through pursed lips. 

I will remind myself that no matter how I feel, I can still compel my muscles to move.

When I am comfortable giving myself signs of safety in everyday situations, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a way soothing anxious or distressing thoughts. No matter what level of disaster or disarray is happening, I will give myself these messages of safety to balance out my fear responses. This will help me tell myself “I can handle this,” and believe it.

No. 15 – The Mini Self-Hug

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

I will practice using sensation to self-soothe and slow things down.  I will place my right palm on the front of my left shoulder, with my arm across the front of my body. I will feel the warmth of my hand soaking into my skin and muscles. I will notice the solidity of my arm cradling my body.  I will focus my thoughts on the sensations in my hand and shoulder and my arm across my chest.  I might gently stroke my shoulder to give myself comfort or press my palm into my shoulder.  I will take a few deep, relaxing breaths and let myself know that everything will be okay in the end.

This exercise is kind of like giving yourself a little nuturing mini-hug and it can be done anywhere, relatively inconspicuously.

Once I’m used to doing this regularly, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete to try during moments of stress and distress.

No. 13 – Building a Room for Possibility

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

I will practice focusing my thoughts on the inevitability of change to help shift bad moods.  To start with, I will practice this strategy for minor mood changes. When I notice a slight shift in mood or a bit of stress, I will take a breath and say things to myself like, “everything changes and so will this,” or “this too shall pass.”

I will leave space in my thoughts for the possibility of things being different. I will remind myself that nothing stays the same forever.  In this way, I will make sure that my thoughts are not promoting a hopeless way of looking at my situation or experiences.

I will then turn my attention to something else altogether in order to shift the moment. Sometimes it is a sense that we will feel this way or be dealing with the same problems forever that makes things so unbearable or overwhelming.

Once I am comfortable thinking this way to get through the smaller moments, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a self-soothing strategy for moments of heightened distress, when perspective might be lost. I will be able to remind myself of all the smaller instances in which I told myself it would pass, and it did.

No. 12 – Power Ballads

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

I will spend 5 minutes every day singing along to music.  If I can’t find a CD or set of songs to play, I will sing old songs I know off by heart.  If I have time on my hands and am feeling anxious or stressed, I will pass some of the time by singing.  I can do this alone or with others.

Singing has real physical effects which you can use to your advantage.  Singing changes the way we are breathing and this alters the level of CO2 in our bloodstreams, which triggers the release of neurotransmitters and creates a sense of elation.  Depending on the song you are singing, it can also be a powerful form of  self-expression and sense of connection. Singing is a very good way of changing the moment for ourselves.

Once I’ve gotten used to spending some time singing, I will add ‘Power Ballads’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy to shift my mood when I am feeling distressed.

No. 11 – Float for a Moment

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

I will practice using visualisations to shift my moment. Each day I will take a minute to pay attention to taking deep, slow breaths while I briefly visualise myself floating on my back down a calm river.  The sun is shining, but not too hotly.  I am mindful of the way the sun feels on my closed eyelids and how the buoyant water feels flowing beneath me. I allow the river to take me where it will, sometimes moving faster and other times meandering slowly; I cannot push the water.

I will spend just a minute holding this image, and the sensations it brings, in my mind. If my attention drifts onto other things, I will mentally drop the worries in the river and watch them flow away.

I will then return to the situation at hand, with my centred and more accepting state of awareness. I will observe how I feel afterwards.

Once I am familiar with doing this visualisation to shift my attention, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of soothing or distracting myself from anxiety, anger or low moods.