The Coping Kete

Tag Archives: Expectations

No. 158: Plant Seeds and Nurture Them

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

… practice being aware of your valued actions by visualising or symbolically planting seeds for each of your valued intentions.

It is New Years Eve and that is good time to set goals for the coming months, but goals tend to be short-lived and easily side-tracked by shifting priorities. On the other hand, our values represent how we want to be in the world, regardless of the state of our goals. Values are always in progress, whereas goals can be achieved, failed or finished with. A goal might be to ‘Quit Smoking’. A value might be ‘Caring for my Physical Health.’ See the shift? A goal is a place on a map, but a value is a direction on the compass we use to guide us. Different values tend to take on differing levels of importance as we move through life. Much of the suffering we go through is the result of being distant from our values, or prioritising one set of values over things we also hold dear to our hearts.

So this week, try doing a ‘Seed Planting Ceremony’ for the New Year, or the day or week ahead. First, take a moment to sit in stillness and bring your mind to what you want to nurture in your life. How do you want to treat yourself, the planet and others in the coming months? What is most important to you right now? When your mind throws up thoughts of what you don’t want, name it to yourself and bring your awareness to the values you would like to be guided by in such situations. What do you want to stand for as a person? What brings vitality and meaning to life for you? Write everything down as you go, then read back through and pick out the things that are priorities for you at the moment.

Next, make ‘paper seeds’ for each of values you want to ‘plant’ and nurture in your life by writing each one down or drawing them on a separate piece of paper. Give a name to each of the ‘seeds’ you are planting so you can easily bring it to mind when you need help to find a valued path forward. Choose a small object or picture for each of the important ‘seeds’ too if you would like. Next reflect on what you are doing, have done, or would do when living fully in line with this value that is so important to you? What small actions will grow it? Write these down too and then place the paper and the object in a special jar or container.

Try to create at least one different ‘seed’ for each of the areas of your life that are important to your health and wellbeing. As you learn more about what you value in your heart of hearts, you can return and create more paper ‘seeds’ to grow.

Take some time once a day to turn your mind to the ‘seeds’ you ‘planted’. Pick a few out of the jar, reflect on the ways you have moved towards it that day, acknowledge the things that have pulled you away with compassion, and visualise yourself nurturing this in yourself tomorrow.

As you move through each day, see if you can practice bringing your attention to these valued directions, by naming them to yourself as a reminder and seeing how they can guide your next steps.

Once you are comfortable with setting your intentions by naming and visualising the values you want to nurture, add ‘Plant Seeds and Nurture Them’ to your Personal Coping Kete. Then in times of stress and distress, you’ll be able to returning to your values as helpers and visualise how you want to move forward, given what you have got.When you notice myself feeling lost or confused or distressed or uncertain, pause, find a valued direction, and choose one workable step towards it.

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. 138: Visualising My Intentions

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

I will practice telling the difference between my expectations and my good intentions and get in the habit of letting my intentions guide me instead of my fears. While my expectations are useful, they can get in my way at times, but my good intentions bring me back to what it is important to me, back to my values.

This week, I will take a moment every morning to practice slow, belly breathing while I focus my attention on visualising my positive intentions for the day. 

Before I get out of bed in the morning, I will lie back and do a few minutes of belly breathing.

As I breathe slowly down into my belly and let each breath float back out, I will think about my good intentions for the day by saying to myself “today I would like to ….” and then picturing it happening in my mind.

If my self-critic or inner future-predictor interferes and I start thinking about barriers to my good intentions or reasons why it won’t work out, I will notice the thoughts then come back to my breath and my intentions for the day. After a few minutes, I will open my eyes if I had them closed and move on into my day, carrying my values and positive intentions with me.

In this way, I will get used to setting aside my expectations to get a clear sense of what I value and what I want to happen, so I can carry these things throughout my day and come back to them when I find myself in a tough moment. I’ll also get to start my day off with a bit of calm breathing which might help set me up for a more relaxed day too.

Once I am comfortable with spending a few moments breathing and connecting with my values and wishes rather than my fears and expectations, I will add this to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for self-soothing during times of stress and upset.When I notice I am distressed, I will be able to take a moment to breathe, come back to my own values and intentions as a way of soothing my unhelpful thoughts and problem-solving how I will deal with the situation I am facing. 

No. 136: One Thing I Can Do/ One Thing I Like

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

…I will practice focusing my attention on the things I can do and the things I like to engage with so I can self-soothe when I am stressed and create  positive emotion when I am low.

To prepare, I will take a page in a notebook and divide it into two columns. The first column, I will title ‘One Thing I Can Do’ and the second column I will title ‘One Thing I Like’ (see example below).

To practice, I will take a moment at the end of each day to write down an example of ‘One Thing I Can Do’ and ‘One Thing I Like’ from my day. In the ‘One Thing I Can Do’ column, I will write down one thing that I did that day that I think I did well and what skill it involved. In the ‘One Thing I Like’ column, I will write down one thing from my day that I enjoyed or appreciated and what it was that I liked about it. If I’ve been having tough times for a while, it might be hard to do this because I will be out of practice at noticing these things and I might have stopped doing a lot of the things I am good at and like. If I find it hard, I will have compassion for myself and practice noticing the smallest of small signs of ‘Things I Can Do’ or ‘Things I Like’ – for example, getting out of bed, showering and single moments of laughter.

As I move through the week, I will think through my growing list and know that there are things I can do to get through and things I like that can change my mood. As my awareness grows I will start trying to mindfully do those things when I notice my mood is low or my thinking is negative.  This week, I will practice building the evidence that lets me remind myself “there is always one thing I can do and one thing that I can enjoy.”

Once I am comfortable noticing what I can do and what I like, and mindfully doing those things, I will add this to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping with distress. When I find myself feeling stuck, hopeless or unsure of myself, I will be able to self-soothe by coming back to my old list to remind myself of all I can do to get through and change my mood and engage with a way of shifting my experience by doing just one of the things I can do and one thing that I like. This strategy could become self-soothing, engagement or mindful distraction depending on how I used it. 

My notebook columns would look something like this… 

No. 127: Give the Future the Benefit of the Doubt

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

… I will practice coping by experimenting with being at peace with not knowing what the future will bring.

Rather than following any worried thoughts about what might go wrong and getting stuck there, I will give the future the benefit of the doubt by reminding myself that I don’t know what will happen and letting the mystery of my future unfold as it will.

This week, as I move through each day, I will practice catching negative or stressful thoughts about the future and saying to myself ‘I do not know what the future will bring and I am at peace with that, I trust my future to unfold as I need it to.’  I will then simply move forward, doing my best with what I have. This week I will trust myself to do what I need to do, to get through.

Once I am familiar with trusting my future to unfold as I need it to, on an ordinary day in the face of my day-to-day stresses, I will add this strategy to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping during times of distress.

No. 120: Reserve Judgement

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

…I will practice reserving judgement about what the future might bring. Each day, when I find myself moving into a new task or situation, I will take a couple of seconds to say to myself “Lets just see what happens, whatever happens, I’ll handle it. For now I reserve judgement.” Then I will move on to the next part of my day with an open mind.

When I am comfortable saying this to myself in ordinary, everyday situations and moving forward with an open mind, I will add this strategy to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of improving my mood during times of stress and distress. When I find myself stressed or distressed about what I think might happen in the future, I will take a moment to reserve judgement and trust myself to handle whatever comes my way. This might help me balance out my fears and worries, when they seem overwhelming.

No 117: Allowing Myself Room to Hope for the Best

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

…I will practice hoping for the best, rather than fearing the worst, by doing exercises where I imagine things go well. This week, I leave room for the possibility that the best outcome might happen. I will keep my hopes realistic so they don’t become expectations (For example, winning lotto and becoming a millionaire by the end of the day is perhaps unlikely but doing my job well today and having some pleasant interactions with other people is much more achievable).

As I move through my day, I will pause at the start of each task I do and I will take a moment to imagine it turning out how I would like it to. I will remind myself “it is possible for things to go well for me.” I will do this even for small ordinary tasks that I have no doubt about doing well. In this way I will start to build up my sense of things turning out okay sometimes, so it slowly becomes easier to let myself hope for the best, especially when I get to the big things.

When I am familiar with reminding myself of the positive possibilities in the course of an ordinary day, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of balancing fearful, anxious or pessimistic thoughts and feelings when they crop up. Sometimes it is too easy to be overcome by thoughts that predict the worst. I can cope by allowing room for the possibility that things will be okay for me in the end.

No. 112: Build My Willpower Muscles

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

…I will practice changing my automatic responses by working on doing small, unimportant things differently on a daily basis.

I will first choose something really basic like doing something different from my norm when I arrive home each day or trying to always lift my coffee mug with the opposite hand. Then as I move through my week, I will practice checking myself and switching my cup to the other hand. I will practice being understanding with my self-talk when I forget to do the small thing differently or find it uncomfortable or difficult.

In this way I will slowly get used to seeing myself as someone who can do small things differently and use my willpower to resist a habit. This might help me to feel better about attempting to change something bigger and more important to me, such as reducing alcohol intake or changing my daily routine.

Once I am comfortable with interrupting a small habit and replacing it with something different, I will add ‘Use my Willpower Muscles’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for shifting my attention and energies to small habits and automatic responses that I am able to change. I might need to think a bit about what my automatic responses have been before I am able to choose one small thing to work on changing. I will remind myself of my previous experience with changing something small and how I was able to do it in the end.

No. 109: Create Something Simple to Have Faith in

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

… I will practice coping with uncertainty by creating a simple vision for the future that I can have faith in achieving and then reminding myself of it on a regular basis.

First of all, I will think of the simple things I would like to see in my future. I will make sure I think of positive and realistic things, that I could have faith in achieving or maintaining if I put my mind to it. I could list things like being close to my family, a safe place to live, regular healthy meals or a daily routine I enjoy.

Second, I will visualise or imagine what a day would look and feel like in that future. I will try my best to bring a realistic and detailed picture of it into my mind, from waking up in the morning to going to bed at night.

Finally, I will write down all of the things I imagined I did and experienced as part of that day.

As I move through my week, I will regularly bring my mind back to that simple vision of my future and remind myself that no matter where I am now, my vision of the future is where I will one day be. If I find this hard, I might set an alarm on my phone to remind me to spend a moment visualising it.

Whenever I can, I will mindfully do what I imagined I would do in the course of a day in my vision of the future.  In this way, I really can have faith that I will gradually get there and I will give myself small bits of evidence that helps me have hope every day.

When I am familiar with creating a simple vision and visualising it throughout the day, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for self-soothing and engagement in times of stress, distress or mental unwellness. When I am finding it hard to have hope, I will focus my attention on creating something I can have hope in.

By spending time visualising a positive picture of my future and reminding myself of the small things I can do to achieve it, I can actively balance any worried thoughts I might be having about how things are going to turn out and leave room for the possibility that everything will turn out okay in the end.

No. 99: Normalising and Validating My Own Responses

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

… I will practice normalising and validating my own emotional responses and thoughts by regularly tuning my attention into what I am currently thinking and feeling and reassuring myself that these are normal responses, that make sense given my situation. Making sense, doesn’t mean they are accurate or worthwhile hanging on to, but I am human and my thoughts and feelings are acceptable, even when I don’t like them.

“Whatever I am feeling is okay, I am where I need to be, I am still moving forward.”

Sometimes we judge ourselves for our thoughts and feelings and this makes us feel worse and try to hide what is going on for us. Hiding things almost always makes them worse. This week, I do not need to hide my emotions and thoughts because I will remind myself that my emotions and thoughts are acceptable.

I will start out by noticing and normalising only slight moods and negative thoughts. Once I am comfortable with letting myself know my slight moods and negative thoughts are normal and valid, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for comforting more extreme feelings of distress: Remembering I Have Normal, Valid Responses Like Everyone Else.

When I can make sense of my experiences as valid, normal responses, I will be more empowered to express myself and get support.