The Coping Kete

Tag Archives: Relaxation

No. 159: Mindful Drawing

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

… I will practice being mindful by taking a few moments a day to sit and draw something I see.  Drawing can teach us to notice properly rather than gaze absentmindedly (The Book of Life), it doesn’t have to be about artistic ability at all. The aim can be simply to notice properly the parts of things and how they fit together. This makes it a good way to strengthen our mindfulness muscles. My drawings could be simple scribbles in pencil or ballpoint pen. If I notice I get too caught up with trying to draw a ‘good’ or accurate picture, I could do the exercise without looking at the paper at all – it really matters that little what I actually put down on the paper.

It’s never easy to start a new practice, I might need to schedule in some time to do this each day and organise myself some basic materials to have on hand. I could snatch a moment at lunchtime or I could plan a little trip to somewhere I might enjoy noticing in more detail.

Sitting down to draw, I will take a moment to settle into my stillness and allow my breath to fall into its natural rhythm. Sometimes concentrating on drawing can lead us to hold our breath – this isn’t a breathing exercise, but it’s still important to breathe. I’ll allow my eyes to wander until they settle on a scene or object to draw. For the next few moments, I will simply draw what I see on the page, however it comes out. As my mind wanders, I will notice my thoughts and bring myself back to what I am drawing. As I notice my thinking mind judge the ‘goodness’ of what I am drawing, I will use my watching mind to observe the thoughts and bring my attention back to the detail I see around me and continue with the task of drawing it.

As I move through the week, I will experiment with drawing in different locations and drawing different things and observe how focusing on these different things effects my thoughts and feelings.  What is beautiful and soothing to me? What is energising and inspiring for me to see? What sights and scenes weigh me down? How does my body respond to this? Always coming back to my watching self and the act of marking down what I see.

Practicing mindful drawing could help me ground myself in the present moment during times of stress and distress. It can be a useful way to learn mindfulness when it is hard to do breathing or visualisation-based exercises, or if mindfulness is an unfamiliar practice. Really, mindfulness just means paying attention to the present moment, this involves using the part of our mind that is aware of our thoughts (our ‘watching mind’) instead of being totally involved in the part of our mind that is doing the thinking (our ‘thinking mind’). Other names for our watching mind are our ‘Observing Self’ (in ACT) or ‘Wise Mind’ (in DBT). In DBT our ‘thinking mind’ is broken down into our ‘feeling mind’ and our ‘rational mind’, because we really do have lots of different kinds of thoughts running through our brains at any point in time.

Once I am comfortable doing mindful drawing in ordinary moments, I will add Mindful Drawing to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping with stress and distress. Mindful drawing could take me out of my thoughts for a moment, allow my body a chance to calm down, and give me something neutral or positive to focus on for a while, which could give me a tiny injection of positive vibes when things are feeling chaotic or overwhelming. I could also use the exercise as an excuse to take myself somewhere I might enjoy. Giving myself pleasurable experiences is an important part of engaging with a life I feel is worth living.

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. 146: Be Still and Breathe

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

… I will practice being mindful of the wider moment by pausing as often as I can remember and simply being still. Throughout the day, wherever I am when I remember, I will stop what I am doing, be still and just breathe. Whatever is going through my head, I will notice and let pass, while I breathe and be still. I will take this time to notice the light and temperature and textures around me and the sensations in my body as I stop what I am doing and settle into the moment.

When I notice thoughts I will practice noticing them kindly, without judging them. I will practice letting the thoughts I notice pass by looking at what else there is to notice in this moment. Moving my awareness on will help me make sure I don’t get hooked into one particular train of thought. If I notice myself making judgements, I will observe the judgement and again move my awareness to what else I notice while I am breathing and being still.

In this way, I will practice having little rest spots throughout my day, where I can slow down and notice what is happening inside and around me, without getting hooked into the stressful stuff. Taking moments to slow down and be still might help me be aware of what am dealing with, while I allow myself to be mindfully distracted by my surroundings. After a little while of being still and breathing, I will carry on with what I was doing.

When I am comfortable stopping to be still and breathe in everyday moments, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for times of stress and distress. When I notice I am getting wound up, I will be able to stop what I am doing, be still, breathe and look around me to get a bit of soothing space between feeling and responding.

_ _ _ _ _

This week’s Coping Kete strategy is inspired by a strategy from a member of the public who attended The Butterfly Diaries launch during Mental Health Awareness Week.

No. 145: Look For Movement

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

… I will practice taking a break from thinking and focusing on something relaxing to improve the moment.

This week, when I notice myself caught up in my thoughts, I will pause and mindfully look around me or out the window at all that is moving. For just a minute or two, I will mindfully breathe and notice all that is moving in the space where I am and, if I am indoors, all that is moving outside my space, through the window.

As I stand or sit, I will simply observe the movements of the things around me. When I notice my mind wandering back to my thoughts of the future, I will congratulate myself for being mindful of my thoughts and turn my attention back to noticing the movement of the things around me – the direction the grass is blowing in, the way the flowers in the garden throw their heads around, the way the trees move, the laundry on the washing line and how it all moves together.

After a minute or two, I will return to my day and what I was doing.

Once I am comfortable interrupting a thought and making myself mindful of the movement around me, I will add ‘Look for Movement’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of giving myself space when I am distressed. If I can give myself space when I am feeling stressed or distressed, I will give my mind and body time to rest and make it easier for me to face the things that are tough. If I can give myself space before I react to my distressing feelings, I might react in a different way that has more helpful consequences for me in the long-run.

This week’s Coping Kete strategy comes from a member of the public who attended The Butterfly Diaries launch on the 13th of October and decorated the launch tent with a strategy that helps them feel better when things are tough.

 

The Butterfly says: “I Take a break from thinking sometimes and go outside and notice how everything is moving in the wind.” 

 

 

 

 

 

 

_ _ _

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. 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. 141: Observe My Physical Connection to the Moment

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

…I will, practice grounding myself in the physical moment as a way of changing my experiences. This week, I will interrupt myself once a day, place both feet flat on the ground and take a few deep breaths into the bottom of my lungs (see belly breathing exercise here). As I breathe, I will focus my attention onto the sensation of my feet connecting with the ground. I will look around me and notice the other sensations I feel as my body connects with the environment around me – the air on my skin, the temperature of the light. After a few moments, breathing slowly and noticing my connection to the space around me, I will turn my attention back to my day.

I might set an alarm on my phone to help remind me to practice turning my attention away from one thing and onto my connection with the physical environment around me in this specific moment. In this way, I will get skilled at letting go of one moment and shifting my attention to something calm and grounding.

When I’m familiar with interrupting an ordinary moment to ground myself in the space around me, I will add the strategy to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping during times of stress and distress. When I notice myself becoming upset or focused on unhelpful thoughts, I will be able to take some time out to calm my distress before returning to what needs my attention next. The breathing will help me to soothe my physical responses while being mindful of my physical space will distract me from unwanted or unhelpful thoughts.

_ _ _

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. 134: Grounding Myself with Sounds

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

…I will practice getting grounded by slowing down and observing the sounds around me. I will begin by closing my eyes and noticing the sound of my breathing, then I will gradually move my awareness away from my body as I notice the sounds I can hear close to me, then further into the distance. Then I will bring my awareness back towards my body until I become aware of the sound of my breathing again.

Each time I notice my mind wandering back onto concerns of my day, I will bring my awareness back to the sounds around me. As I return from the distance to the sound of my breathing, I will remind myself “I am here, in this place, breathing my breath.” Then I will open my eyes and return to my day.

I’ll start out by practicing this exercise for one or two minutes every morning or night and then move to practicing pausing during the day between tasks to take a moment to ground myself within my body and in environment around me. In this way I will get used to letting go of my thoughts and concerns and giving myself a moment of peace. This will help prepare me for interrupting unhelpful thoughts and giving myself a moment of peace when emotions are running high.

Once I am familiar with this kind of exercise I will add ‘Grounding Myself with Sounds’  to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of shifting my mind away from unhelpful thoughts during moments of stress and distress.

_ _ _ _

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. 132: Breathing Affirmations

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

…I will spend a moment every morning taking some calm, slow breaths while I repeat a couple of positive self-affirmations in my head.  For just two minutes, I will sit still, with my eyes closed, as I breathe deep into my belly and gently repeat my affirmations in my mind. As I notice my mind drifting away from my affirmations into doubtful, critical or negative chains of thought, I will bring myself back to my slow breathing and once more begin repeating my affirmation to myself. After a couple of minutes I will open my eyes and carry on with my day. Before I try this, I will need to prepare some statements that I might find validating, hopeful, strengthening or soothing in some way. 

A positive self-affirmation is just a statement about something positive that I think is true about myself or my place in the world.

What is a useful, comforting affirmation for one person, might not be any help to another person. So this exercise involves doing some exploration of what fits for me. Some people use inspiring quotes they have read somewhere, others use simple self-statements like “I am okay, whatever happens, I can survive it.” Others like to acknowledge their values and intentions. Others like to remember things like “I am connected to the wider universe and the ancestors that came before me.” Really, an affirmation can be anything at all.  Over the week, I will pay attention to the kinds of statements that I find useful and figure out what kinds of self-affirming statements work for me.  This week, each morning, I will have a chance to get used to hearing myself being kind and encouraging to myself.

Once I am comfortable with doing a breathing exercise while I think some self-encouraging statements, I will add the Breathing Affirmations to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping during times of stress and distress. When I notice myself feeling upset or troubled in some way, I will take a moment to breathe and feed my mind some soothing, strengthening thoughts.

No. 131: Mindfulness of My Breath

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

...I will practice being mindful of my breath as a way of changing my state of mind in the moment.

This week, I will try to pause at least once a day to spend a few minutes simply noticing my breathing, as I observe my thoughts and come back to being aware of my breaths.  Observing my thoughts means that as I notice my mind has wandered I describe what I am thinking to myself in my head. For example I might say to myself “Oh I am thinking xyz about work right now…”  and then I will turn my mind to noticing my breathing. Observing and describing my thoughts might help me express to myself what is really going on for me.

I won’t try to change my breathing at all, I will simply sit still for a few minutes while I breathe and notice myself breathing. As I see thoughts come into my head, I will notice what I am thinking and then I will bring my thoughts back to my breathing. I will notice the sensation of the breaths as they come in and out, I will notice the temperature of the air, the sound of my breathing, the way the breath feels on the way in and the way it feels on the way out. While I notice my breathing and observe my thoughts, I will practice having compassion for myself  and not criticising myself for the thoughts I have. Even if I notice myself criticising myself, I will simply bring my thoughts back to my breathing without further judgement. After a few minutes, I will open up my eyes and come back to my day.

It might seem pointless at first, but giving ourselves a chance to be mindful of our breathing has been shown to help a lot of people feel calmer about things, even though it doesn’t change the situation. Taking time to be mindful of our breath can help us  feed ourselves the air we need to have a clear head and give us the space we need for our thoughts to become clear to us.

Once I am used to spending some time being aware of my breathing while I observe my thoughts, I will add this exercise to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of dealing with stress and distress. When I notice myself becoming tense or upset, I will pause and spend some time focused on my breathing while I observe my thoughts without judgement and come back to my breath. No matter what happens, I am still here breathing. This can be an excellent way to give myself some space when things are tough. Sure, breathing doesn’t change anything I am facing, but it gives me some time and room to clear my head and become aware of where I am at in the moment, so I can move forward through my day with awareness and a bit more clarity.

_ _ _

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. 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.

_ _ _ _

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.