The Coping Kete

Tag Archives: Physical Needs

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. 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.

No. 124: Satisfy My Basic Needs

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

… I will practice making sure I meet all of my basic needs for safety, shelter, nourishment and rest everyday. These needs are represented by the first two levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (see image below). Attending to my basic needs will set me up to be able to work towards satisfying my psychological and self-fulfillment needs.

I might need to spend some time planning towards this – a written schedule can be a big help. This week, instead of worrying about my higher-level needs for belonging, esteem and self-actualisation, I will return to the simple goals of meeting my most basic needs for survival. I will make this an act of self-care and self-respect, where I make my own physical wellbeing a priority.

This week, I will focus my attentions on the most basic of self-caring acts by making sure I eat regularly, drink enough water and get enough sleep. This will set me up to cope well with whatever stressors come my way and allow me to better work towards the higher-level needs that have more personal meaning. If I need help or cooperation from others to reach this goal, then I will talk to the people around me to express my needs and request their support. This might help me to work on fulfilling my psychological need for belonging – as working towards a common goal (such as satisfying our basic needs) can help people to connect with each other.

Sometimes giving ourselves a small goal to focus on can help soothe the pressure we feel to fulfill larger and more difficult goals. Making sure I give myself what I need to be physically healthy is also one way that I can work towards improving my sense of self-esteem or self-worth. This week I send myself messages that I deserve to look after myself.

Once I am familiar with creating a daily routine that meets all of my physical health needs for rest, warmth, food, shelter and movement, I will add ‘Satisfy My Basic Needs’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of shifting my mood in times of stress and distress. 

No. 123: Count Ten Breaths

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

… I will practice counting out ten deep breaths twice a day as a way of sowing the seeds of mindfulness into my daily life.

To do this, I will imagine my thoughts are following my breath as I breathe into my belly and count  ‘in, one’ and then breathe out and count ‘out, one’, then ‘in, two… out, two’ and so on until I get ten. Each time I breathe in, I will see my thoughts moving down into my belly and each time I breathe out, I will see them being released with my breath. I will not hold on to any particular thoughts, but come back to my breath as I count in and out until I get to ten.

In preparation I will schedule in two times a day so I don’t have to rely on my memory to remember to practice counting my ten breaths (such as waking up and going to bed) or set up a daily trigger to remind me to practice (such as waiting for the kettle to boil or sitting down to eat).

When I am comfortable stopping to count ten breaths into my belly and ten breaths out, I will add ‘count ten breaths’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping during moments of stress and distress. By stopping to count ten breaths I will feed my body calming signals, mindfully distract my attention and give myself some space before responding to whatever it is that lies before me.

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The Coping Kete is taking a summer holiday and will be back in mid-January 2013 ready for another year of coping strategies. Search the archives for fresh ideas to try in the meantime and have a safe holiday period.

No. 121: Mindfulness Walks

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

… I will practice using mindfulness walks to shift my mood. I will start by scheduling in at least ten minutes to go for a walk outside everyday. While I walk I will focus my attention on the current moment, in which I am walking and looking around me and really noticing what is there. I will also notice myself and how my body feels to be moving around in the world. When I notice thoughts about the day returning to my mind, I will observe my thoughts briefly and then come back to being aware of my current environment and what is around me.

Across the week, I might experiment with walking in different places. The environment I walk in might change the way I respond. For example, walking in the city streets might connect me with the bustle of people living their lives and walking in the park might connect me with nature. This week I will try to be aware of how different environments effect me. I will then be able to use this information to make sure I give myself time in the environments that soothe and calm me on a regular basis.

Once I am comfortable going for a walk and tuning into my surroundings on a regular basis, I will add ‘Go For a Mindfulness Walk’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for dealing with stress and distress. When I notice I am feeling distressed, I will be able to use the strategy to shift myself out of the distressing moment for a little while and possibly return with a fresh perspective.

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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. 116: A Moment for Self-Care

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

… I will practice using small moments of self-care to create positive experiences in my day. Self-care is the act of caring for myself by meeting my basic needs for food and water, movement, fresh air, sunlight, stillness, and physical care. I will spend some time every morning and evening focused on a self-care activity from one of these categories.

I will start out by making a list of activities I like for each kind of self-care first and then use my diary to plan which activities I will do each morning and night. I might even add to these categories if I want to, I could add ‘Connection’ or ‘Noise’ or any other kind of activity that I feel fits with my idea of what my ‘basic needs’ are.

For example

  • Food and water
    • Sit down and eat breakfast
    • Take time to prepare lunch
    • Make something really healthy for dinner
    • Eat a favourite food
    • Stop to drink a glass of water
  • Movement
    • Dance to music in my room
    • Go to a ‘No Lights No Lycra‘ event
    • Do some yoga stretches
    • Take mini-breaks to stroll round the room
  • Fresh air
    • Pause and do some belly-breathing
    • Stand outside and breathe deep for a moment
    • Pop my head out an open window
  • Sunlight
    • Read a book in the sun
    • Do some gardening
    • Eat lunch outside
  • Stillness
    • Go to bed early to read a book
    • Light some candles and listen to chill-out music
    • Paint something on that blank canvas I have sitting around
  • Physical care
    • Make one of the spaces in my house nice to be in
    • Cleanse and moisturise my face
    • Wash and brush my hair
    • Wear something that feels good to be in

As I do each activity I will focus all my attention on the task at hand, being aware as I go that I am making a simple gesture of caring to myself. As I move through the week, I will be mindful of how I am affected by my moments of self-care so I can tell which activities work to shift my mood and whether I want to adjust them at all.

Once I am comfortable purposefully doing self-care activities on a regular basis and have found some that boost my mood, I will add them to my Personal Coping Kete and use ‘A Moment of Self-Care’ as a way of nurturing and valuing myself during times of stress and distress.

No. 101: Stretching Distraction

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

…I will practice stretching to distract myself from the present moment and lift my energy.

Once a day I will spend a few minutes doing some basic yoga stretches. As I do them I will practice mindfully focusing my attention on the movements I am making and the way they feel in my body. I will practice letting thoughts of the day pass through my mind as I observe them and bring my mind back to my stretches.

  1. Neck Roll: Standing up, relax your shoulders, drop your head forward to rest your chin on your chest. Slowly roll your head to rest your right ear on your right shoulder, pause, return to centre then slowly roll your head to rest your left ear on your left shoulder, pause, return to centre. Repeat.
  2. Shoulder and Arm Rotation: Stretch your arms out to the side and imagine you are pushing apart two walls. Repeat three times. Keeping the arms at shoulder level, rotate the shoulders forwards and then backwards. Repeat three times. Slowly drop arms to the side and observe the sensation produced in your body.
  3. Swaying Tree pose: Standing with your feet at hip-width, reach your arms above your head, clasp your hands together, exhale and lean gently to the left. Inhale and come back to centre. Then exhale and lean to the right. Repeat.
  4. Cat Pose: Kneel on all fours with hands shoulder distance apart and your knees the same distance apart. Exhale while arching your back up and looking down at your belly. Hold for a few seconds. Inhale as you arch your back down and lift your head.

Once I am familiar with doing stretches as part of my ordinary day, I will add them to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of distracting myself from distressing moments and times of stress and tension. When I notice I am feeling tense, I can take myself away from present company for a moment and practice my stretches. 

No. 96: Learning a Theme Song

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

…I will use music to help me improve the moment and connect with positive emotion by learning to hum or whistle a song I associate with happy vibes and good energy.

If no song jumps to mind automatically I will get to spend some time listening to different songs until I find one I like.

Then as I move through my day, I will periodically remember to practice humming or whistling the tune while I am doing my daily tasks. This could help to insert some pleasant energy into whatever I am doing.

Once I am comfortable and familiar with humming or whistling my tune, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a distraction and self-soothing technique for times of stress and distress.

Then, when I find myself stressed or distressed, I can distract myself for a moment by trying to remember the tune and whistling/humming it. The act of humming and whistling changes the level of oxygen in the blood and can physically help to soothe negative emotions I could be feeling, so I can return to the situation later with a clearer head. Whenever I hum or whistle my tune, I will be reminded of the positive message of the song I chose and this might also help inspire me through tough moments.

This is also a pretty good strategy to use if I ever feel so anxious that it gets hard to breathe. Humming or whistling a song could help to counteract that without having to focus my attention onto my breathing.

No 87: Being My Own Loving Parent

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

…I will practicing being my own unconditionally loving parent. When I find myself falling into self-critic mode, I will say comforting things to myself. I will encourage myself on. I will have compassion for what I am going through. I will praise my strengths and remember my victories. I will attend to my self-care needs and make sure I am alright. I might imagine my ideal kind of loving parent in advance so that I am prepared with the kinds of things I might say to myself if I get distressed.

This week, I take care of myself the way I want to be taken care of by others.

Once I am comfortable saying caring and encouraging things to myself in everyday moments, I will add this strategy to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of soothing distress. When I encounter stress or distress I will think about how I would want my ideal loving parent to respond to me and I will respond to myself that way.

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.