The Coping Kete

Tag Archives: Mindfulness

No. 23: Doodle Through

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

I will practice using sketching to shift my attention. When I notice I need a break from the current moment, I will doodle in a notebook with a pen or pencil. I will just draw/sketch shapes and colour them in, or trace lines on the page or draw koru or flowers or anything at all. It doesn’t matter what I create, the point is that I will focus my attention on the pen in my hand and the lines I am creating. I will observe how I feel after doing this. I can make this one easier to practice by carrying a small notebook and pen/pencil in my bag or pocket.

Once I am comfortable spending a bit of time drawing patterns or shapes in a notebook, I will add the strategy to my Personal Coping Kete for when I want to distract myself from stress or distress. By focusing attention on this simple action instead of the stressful or distressing thoughts, I can take some of the heat out of my emotions and get through the current moment.  It’s also a good way to keep my hands busy if I am feeling fidgety or restless, but need to sit still.

No. 19: Normal is Just a Setting on The Washing Machine

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

I will practice giving myself compassion by countering my self-critic with normalising self-talk.  This week, when I notice critical self-talk, I will use silent self-talk to explain to myself what it is that I am dealing with at the moment. I will remind myself that I am human and that many people in my situation, with my history and my barriers would probably feel a similar way right now.  I will explain to myself what barriers or additional challenges I am faced with at the current time (e.g. being hungry, tired or new to a situation). I might start and finish my bit of self-talk with a self-soothing statement like ‘it’ll be okay,‘ or something similar.  I will make sure my breathing is deep and slow during this exercise.

I will then turn to another thought-balancing, distraction and/or problem-solving strategy as needed.

For example, if I was feeling upset at something someone had said to me, I might silently say to myself: “When they made that comment before, it seemed like they were making a dig at you and so you’re feeling hurt, like anyone would. It’s a been a long day and you haven’t eaten since breakfast. We’re all a bit short fused and more easily offended when we are tired and hungry.”

Once I am comfortable with recognising my critical self-talk and counteracting it with normalising statements, I will add the strategy to my Personal Coping Kete for moments of distress. When I find myself upset I can reflect on any critical self-talk and turn it around with normalising, compassionate self-talk.

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. 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.

No. 10 – Permission to be Fully Human

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

I will have realistic expectations of myself and give myself permission to be average.   By giving myself permission to be average this week, I free myself from the pressures of trying to be perfect or trying to appear like I’ve got everything together.  I will tell myself things like “Today I only need to do what I can do.  What I can do is enough.”

This week it will be okay to make mistakes and say silly things occasionally, to not know what is happening, to need to ask questions and to feel distressing emotions. If I notice I am worrying about those things, I will remind myself “I only need to do what I can do.  What I can do is enough.”

Often times it is our negative judgement of our own experiences and the pressure we put on ourselves to achieve our high expectations that creates and/or intensifies our experiences of stress and distress.

This week, I give myself permission to be fully human, rather than an idealised version of myself. My mistakes are learning experiences that will strengthen me, not distressing experiences to regret and avoid.

Once I have experienced a whole week of being average and nothing terrible happening as I consequence, I will add ‘Give Myself Permission to Be Human’ to my Personal Coping Kete. When I notice that I am feeling stressed, pressed or distressed, I will remind myself that all I need to do is survive the current moment.

No. 7 – Letting My Surroundings In

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

I will practice using mindful awareness to silently observe and describe my surroundings to myself in neutral and accepting terms.

I will start out by describing the elements of the situation or my thoughts that I find distressing.

Then I will observe and describe other elements of my immediate environment to yourself.

I will try to ensure my body posture and eye gaze allow for me to take in my surroundings – I will sit/stand up straight and open my posture, look around me and widen my focus. We so often turn ourselves into closed systems when we are distressed.

I will simply observe and describe, but try not to make judgements about my observations.

When I notice that I have made a judgement, I will observe and describe it to myself and then turn my attention back to something around me.

When I am comfortable observing my surroundings and bringing my thoughts back to that task, I will add ‘Mindfully Observing my Surroundings’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a distraction strategy for moments of distress.

No. 6 – Practicing Proper Belly Breathing

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

Spend 1 minute doing diaphragmatic breathing every morning.

Diaphragmatic breathing is a standard relaxation/breathing exercise where you:

  • Place one hand flat on your stomach and one on your chest.
  • Breathe in slowly through your nose (or pursed lips). With each in-breath, push your belly out and imagine pulling the air into the bottom of your belly.
  • As you breathe in watch your hands; the hand on your belly should rise more than the hand on your chest.
  • Pause briefly.
  • Breathe out slowly through pursed lips (as if silently whistling).
    • Your out-breath should be 2 times longer than your in-breath – though that is something to aim for over time.
  • Pause briefly.
  • Breathe in again and continue with the pattern of slow deep breaths in and slow, relaxed breaths out for 3-5 minutes.  It might help you to do a count for each breath in and out (e.g. 2 seconds in and 4 seconds out).
  • You can do this without the hands if you wish, but it can help to ground things and focus on the out breath.

This exercise takes practice before it is useful.  If I get hungry for air, I can try yawning or opening my mouth wide to relieve the sensation; it happens because the body is used to another breathing pattern and this is new.

Breathing is a way to control heart-rate and racing thoughts, reducing anxiety and panic and getting some space between feeling and responding.

Once I have become comfortable doing the breathing exercise every day, I will add ‘Standard Belly Breathing Relaxation’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a self-soothing or distraction strategy in times of stress or distress.

No. 5 – Regular Self-Checks

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

I will practice being mindful of what I am feeling and what I need.  Once every hour or two, I will check in by mentally asking myself ’what do I feel right now?’ and then ‘what do I need to do for myself right now?’

I will give myself those things that I am capable of giving (or getting).  Do I need food? Sleep? A breath or two? Reassurance? A kind thought? A glass of water? A chat? A distraction? Assistance? By creating small moments in my day, I will become practiced in the art of responding to my needs as well as privately connecting with and expressing my feelings.

Once I am comfortable with creating moments in my days, I will add ‘Do a Self-Check’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for moments of stress and distress.

No. 1 – A Simple Exercise in Mindful Distraction

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

…I will practice politely excusing myself from any present company & take 2-5 minutes to give myself space by going outside & looking around me.

I will focus on the plant-life around me, the various movements, the way the light is falling & the different sensations I feel by slowly describing it all to myself.  I will return to this widened awareness throughout the day.

Once I am comfortable doing this, I will add ‘Timeout for Outside Mindful Distraction’ to my Personal Coping Kete for use during times of stress and distress.

This is the first of many, weekly coping strategies to experiment with.  You might like to download the information & strategies in the Coping Skills Recovery Resource sheet too. Come back in a week for a new strategy.