The Coping Kete

Tag Archives: Expectations

No. 62: Easing the burden

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

I will remember the words of Ingrid Bacci, ‎”Inner growth is a slow and incremental process that accomplishes extraordinary results through what often look like minute daily changes” 

As I move through my daily life, this week, I will recall this quote and remind myself that all that is required are “minute changes” – and minute changes or minute actions are usually pretty manageable. I will observe how thinking about things in this way affects me.

There’s real wisdom in the old saying that the longest journey, begins with the smallest step. I will take comfort in my smallest steps. In each moment of distress, I will ask myself, what’s the smallest step I could take to shift my experience right now? What’s smaller than that? When I’ve got to the minutest change, I’ll think about giving that a go.

The act of thinking through this exercise is a minute change in itself, whether it leads to anything else or not. When I manage to do it, I will be sure to acknowledge the achievement to myself.

Once I am used to lowering my expectations for myself in everyday situations, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete for times of heightened stress of distress. When I feel impatient or frustrated with myself about something or feel overwhelmed by a situation, I will remember that growth and survival comes from minute actions. I will think of minute actions I can take in the moment and remember how they have affected me recently.  

No. 40: Inviting Good Times In

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

I will create opportunities for enjoyment and positive emotion by inviting friends, family-members, colleagues or acquaintances to do things. This week, I will invite someone to do something or seek invitations to join in with other people almost every day. I will understand that people are not always available and don’t always enjoy the same things. When one invitation does not work out, I will make another one.  In this way I will give myself some positive environments and the chance to experience positive emotion and form meaningful connections. My invitations may result in future activities instead of immediate ones, and this will give me something to look forward to. I will also strengthen my social interaction skills as I practice making and seeking invitations and following through on them.

I might experience anxiety in doing this week’s experiment in engagement. This week, I will suspend my beliefs/fears about how other people might think of or respond to me. I will use self-soothing strategies to calm those fears and allow for the possibility that something better will arise from engaging in more activities with more people and opening my experience up to new things.

Once I am comfortable inviting opportunities for positive interactions, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for shifting low moods and negative thoughts in times of distress.

No 39: Tuning into Grey-Scale Thinking

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

I will practice choosing to see all the shades of grey in each situation, rather than focusing on the black and white. This week I give up on absolutes.

I will catch thoughts that contain words like ‘always’ or ‘never’ or ‘should’ or ‘have to’ and replace them with words like ‘sometimes’, ‘could’ or ‘might’.  I will consider alternative ways of viewing things and leave room for the possibility that one of the more positive perspectives could be true.

I will allow the good to exist side-by-side with the bad, without letting one cancel the other out.

Once I am comfortable thinking about everyday situations in greyscale terms, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of soothing intense emotional responses to unwanted situations.

No. 38: Giving Up On Getting It Right

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

I will give up on trying to get things right. Instead of being concerned with getting the right answer, saying the right thing, doing it right and looking right I will be as open as possible, I will be willing to not get the right answer, to go through the process, rather than jumping ahead to the future.

By remaining concerned with ‘being right’, the mind produces excess tensions in the body.

When I make the choice to have an open mind, to wait and see what happens and to let whatever happens be okay, it will have a beneficial effect on my body.

This week, it does not matter whether I am right or mistaken – it matters that I allow myself the opportunity to try things and relax into myself. I do not need to be on guard all the time to make sure I behave appropriately or am accepted. I can relinquish my control on getting things right, and still survive, still be accepted and still move forward in life. By removing the pressure to do it right, I am more likely to feel comfortable trying things.

Once I am used to giving myself permission to be wrong and make mistakes every day, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for balancing distressing thoughts when I need to soothe distressing moods.

No. 37: Fears or facts?

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

I will practice distinguishing between thoughts, feelings and responses that are related to fears and those that are related to facts as I move through my daily life. When I notice shifts in mood, I will ask myself what is driving the reaction. It might help to take some time out to jot down what is running through my mind on a piece of paper. If I realise I am responding to something I fear could be true, I will remind myself that this is a natural thing to fear. I will remind myself, there is often a big difference between what is plausible and what is true.  I will then return my thoughts to the facts of the current situation – to the observable pieces of information.

This way I can practice keeping my interpretations of events in perspective.

When I am used to examining the basis of my thoughts and sifting fear from fact in everyday situations, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for times of distress.

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. 24: Future predicting

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

I will practice noticing when I am predicting the future negatively and get used to balancing those thoughts out. This week, when I notice slight shifts in my mood, I will ask myself whether I am concerned with something that is happening right now or whether I am concerned with something I think will happen later. If it is hard to do in the moment, I will do think about it in hindsight at the end of each day.

If I find that my thoughts are mainly focused on future events, I will remind myself that ‘no matter how much I think I know, I cannot truly predict what is yet to come’. I will tell myself “I make the choice to have an open mind, to wait and see what happens”.  I will open myself to the new and unknown, instead of jumping ahead to the future and acting/reacting as if that future were present now. I will focus on what is actually present now in the current moment rather than anticipating what could be present in the future or playing out old responses to things I do not want to revisit from the past.

By remaining in the present and acting with awareness of it, instead of allowing my thoughts to move to the future, the future becomes much more fruitful.

I will reduce the negative power of future-predicting thoughts by allowing for the possibility of different outcomes and ensuring the ‘language’ of my thoughts includes words like ‘maybe’, ‘might’ and ‘could’ rather than using any absolute terms like ‘will’, ‘must’ or ‘always’. This week I leave room for the possibility that things will work out in a way that I can handle.

Once I am comfortable with noticing when I am future predicting and holding an open mind, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of self-soothing negative thoughts about the future when I am distressed and finding things tough.

[Note: Holding future-predicting thoughts with conviction is especially common in anxiety and depression. They distort perception and work to shape what happens later in a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy that contributes to getting us stuck in a certain emotion and type of experience. We often do this when we think we know how others will react to us or predict that our performance or coping ability will be poor.]

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. 9 – A Body of Strengths

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

I will remind myself of my strengths regularly throughout my day. If I find this difficult to do off the top of my head, I will prepare a written list in advance that I can pull from pocket or bag and read.  I will add to this list as time goes on and I get better at identifying the positive attributes, qualities and skills that I possess.  If I am unsure of my strengths and skills, I will ask people who know me to have a think about it and get back to me with what they think my positive qualities are.

Once I am used to thinking about my positive qualities a bit, I will add ‘Remember I am a Body of Strengths’ to my Personal Coping Kete.

By thinking about my strengths during moments of stress and distress, I will work to balance my thoughts, emotions and physical responses. Whenever I notice that my self-talk is full of put-downs, self-directed insults or pessimistic expectations I will start listing in my head the strengths and skills that I have shown in the past.

It can help to do a few diaphragmatic breaths first, especially if you are really distressed. See Week 6 for instructions on how to learn diaphragmatic breathing.  Once you’ve learned it, it’s a great complement to most strategies.