The Coping Kete

Tag Archives: Self-care

No. 161: Laughter Yoga

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

… practice laughter yoga for just a moment every day.

Laughter yoga is the practice of deliberate, voluntary laughter. The idea is that forced laughter soon turns into real laughter and has the same benefits for body, mind and mood that spontaneous laughter does. Laughing on purpose can help us learn how to create laughter from the inside and how to use laughter to shift our moods, rather than waiting for our moods to shift before we can laugh. Laughter yoga is usually practiced in groups. We get the most benefit if we can laugh vigorously for 20-30 minutes, according to Laughter Yoga Aotearoa New Zealand. Natural laughter usually comes in bursts and this why practicing in groups can help. But there’s no reason why we can’t also practice laughter yoga alone, using a few simple exercises to get us started.

This week experiment with what happens if you schedule some time to practice laughing for no reason, without needing something ‘out there’ to give you a reason. It might help to start with just a few minutes and build up to 5 or 10 or even more. You might want to warn the people you live with to expect to hear some loud laughter coming from your room for a while – they might even want to join you and that can make it even more silly and fun.Laughter yoga is something that can wake your body up, so best not to schedule your practice time right before bed, unless you find that it tends to make you feel relaxed and tired afterwards. Test it out first. It will probably feel strange to do this at first, but that’s okay. This week, give yourself permission to be silly for a brief time each day.

Here are some simple Laughter Yoga exercises that involve forced, extending laughing.

  1. Take a Laughter Drink
    • Standing up straight, feet hip-width apart, raise one hand in front of you as if holding an imaginary (and bottomless) cup full of laughter.  Take a deep breath into the bottom of your belly then ‘pour’ the laughter into your mouth as you breathe out and force yourself to fake laugh until the cup is empty. Repeat this for ten breaths in and ten breaths out, trying to laugh for a little bit longer each time you breathe out.
    • You can also imagine the cup is full of different kinds of laughter. The light, giggling laughter is floating on the top, the deepest belly laughter is sitting on bottom. Start with light tee-hees and move through the whole range of laughs until you get to the loudest, deepest ha-ha-has. With each cycle of breaths, try to laugh for a little bit longer.
  2. Laughter Balloons
    • Stand with your back straight and feet hip-width apart, place both palms flat on your belly and imagine you are holding a giant, empty balloon against your stomach. This time, on your first in-breath laughter will fill the balloon as you breathe down into your belly and stretch your arms out in a circle in front of you. Then slowly release the laughter out of the balloon on the out-breath, laughing out loud until the balloon is emptied and your palms are once again flat on your belly. Repeat five to ten times, aiming to laugh for longer each time.
  3. Laughter Hand-Ball
    • Standing with your back straight and your feet hip-width apart, facing a wall, pretend you have a laughter ball in your hands. Take a deep breath in and on the out-breath, ‘throw’ the ball at the wall with a burst of laughter, and ‘catch’ the ball when it bounces back with another burst of laughter. The louder your laugh, the faster the ball will travel. Experiment with a different kind of laughter each time.
  4. Laughter Body Fill
    • Standing with your back straight and feet firmly grounded on the floor, this time, laughter will fill your body. Imagine each in-breath fills a different part of your body with the energy to laugh. On each out-breath laugh out loud from that part of your body, whatever that means to you, starting with your toes, and moving up through your legs, stomach, chest, shoulders, nose and the top of your head.

If you work up to spending five minutes on each exercise, eventually you will be doing 20 minutes of yoga laughter a day. As you move through the week, observe how this affects your body and moods. Test out different ways to adapt the exercises to suit.

Once you are comfortable using yoga laughter at an everyday kind of time, add it to your Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping during times of stress and distress. Doing some laughter yoga could allow you to take a break from my distressing thoughts, shift your body’s physical stress responses and help release some of your brain’s happy chemicals.

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. 155: Make Space for What is Here

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

…practice allowing and making space for tough emotions when they appear. Rather than tightening up around them and getting stuck struggling against them or having to make them stop, test out what happens when you allow the thoughts and feelings to be there. Being human involves a wide spectrum of emotions; we are allowed to feel them all and we are supposed to feel them all. One way of allowing our feelings to be there without becoming engulfed in them is to observe them inside us and make room for them to be there. This is often called an acceptance or expansion strategy.

To begin with, pick a couple of neutral anchor-tasks that you do every day and can use to practice with, like making your morning cuppa, walking to the bus, eating a meal, or waiting for emails to load, something that allows your mind to wander.

  1. Whenever you find yourself doing your anchor-tasks, take a moment to observe the moods, sensations, and urges that arise within you and put words to what you are feeling in this moment. As you observe, take a step back and be aware of yourself noticing. There are these feelings inside you, and then there is you, noticing them. If you can notice them within you, they cannot get bigger than you.
  2. Notice the feeling again, where does it sit in your body? Where are the edges?  Gently remind yourself “I have space for what is here” and imagine yourself expanding around it, making room. Take a deep breathe in to help you do this. Feel your belly and your chest expand as you breathe in and let go as you breathe out.
  3. Take a second deep breath in and shift into an open, relaxed posture, and remind yourself gently “I have space for this” as you allow your breath to let go and your muscles to go loose.
  4. Then take a third deep breath. Imagine sending this breath to the place these feelings sit in your body, see space opening up around them, whatever that means to you. There is the feeling, and there you are noticing it. Remind yourself again that you have room for this. Then after a moment, bring your attention back to your surroundings and the task at hand (or what you really need/want to be doing), carrying this sense of space with you and returning it to when you need to.

You can practice this on any experiences at all, positive feelings can drive us into unhelpful responses sometimes too. There are no good or bad, right or wrong feelings. Once you are familiar with using this strategy at a planned time, it will get easier to do it throughout the day when you notice yourself dealing with stress and distress. Sometimes, part of making space for stress and distress, means soothing it. It might help to respond to distressing thoughts and feelings with supportive self-talk as you breathe, observe and open up around them. Expanding to make space also means accepting what you need and getting those needs met. You might need some self-care or distraction or support to help you, making room for our own distress, doesn’t mean you have to carry it on your own, give up on trying to feel better, sit in it, agree with it, like it, or want it. It just means that we start out by allowing it to be.

When you are comfortable doing this, add ‘expanding to make space’ to your Personal Coping Kete as a way to survive the times when you are struggling.  You’ll be able to take a moment of observe your thoughts and moods in the moment by putting words to them. Breathing deeply, remind yourself “I have space for what is here” and imagine yourself expanding around it.
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Acknowledgement: “Expansion” is an acceptance strategy found in Russ Harris’s ACT self-help book ‘The Happiness Trap‘.

This post is one person’s way of learning and practicing expansion – it isn’t necessarily the right way. When it comes to coping there is almost never a right way. We’ve each got to experiment to make it our own.   

 

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. 148: Practice Compassion

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

…I will practice being compassionate towards myself. When I notice critical thoughts or judgments about myself or things I have done or not done, I will practice responding in my mind with kind words, that share sensitivity for my suffering and respect for my humanity. I will practice choosing compassionate and accepting words to talk to myself about my mistakes, weaknesses, flaws and limitations.  Other people can criticise me if they wish, but I will give myself compassion.

As I move through my week, I will keep an eye out for self-talk that is harsh, critical and judgmental. For example, I will watch out for self-talk where I label myself stupid or useless when I make a mistake. When I notice I am labeling myself harshly for my mistakes and limitations, I will give myself compassion by pausing to remind myself it is human to struggle. I will appreciate my strengths by remembering them to myself and recalling that my flaws and limitations are simply part of a whole, not all that I am.  By responding to myself with compassion throughout the week, I will practice accepting my whole self, warts and all. I do not need to be perfect, nor would I want to be.

When I am used to talking to myself with compassion and acceptance on an ordinary day, I will add ‘talk to myself with compassion’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping with stress and distress. When I find myself in distress, I will be mindful of how I am talking to myself and be careful to use compassionate words. In times of stress and distress, I will be better able to give myself messages of kindness, instead of giving myself messages of shame or judgement that make me feel worse.

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.

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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. 142: The No Sandwich

This week, to attain, maintain or regain my sense of wellbeing…
…I will practice being assertive by using ‘the no sandwich’ in my daily life when I find myself wanting to say ‘No’ to something I have been asked.

The No Sandwich involves saying ‘No’ as the middle part of a three-statement sandwich: Empathy Statement + No I Can’t + Empathy Statement. Saying no this way tells the person, I understand what you need and it does matter to me, even though I cannot do what is being asked, I feel for your situation and our relationship is important to me. This is a useful way of saying no without offending people.

This week, I will practice the No Sandwich in the times I would ordinarily say no to something day-to-day and non-emotional, like if I am offered a food or beverage I don’t want at the time or asked to go out when I am not free. I will use these unemotional situations to practice the technique.

The No Sandwich Goes Like This…

  1. A positive or empathy statement about what has been asked or why it has been asked. E.G. “That sounds like it could be fun” or “I can totally relate to being so busy you can’t get it all done yourself, it is so stressful, I’m kind of in the same boat.”
  2. I’m sorry, no I can’t… E.G. “I’m sorry, no I can’t go out tonight.” or “I’m sorry, no I can’t pick up that extra work at the moment.”
  3. A second positive or empathy statement. E.G “I hope you enjoy yourself though.” or “I hope you are able to find some way to ease the pressure soon.” 
 Practicing the No Sandwich on day-to-day things might help me get my own needs met more, manage my time and deal with the demands of saying ‘no’ without having to worry about causing anyone offense. If someone does not accept my No Sandwich, I will offer them another one.
Part of saying no, involves knowing what we do and do not want and accepting those wants and needs as valid. We all have different levels of awareness of our own needs, so part of this week might also involve noticing my own needs and how I respond to them, such as whether I usually tend to put them aside to please others or not. I might start the week by making a list of things I know I need this week, like time to sleep, prepare and eat food, do my work or study tasks, house-work and family time, friends time and alone-time, so I know where my boundaries are on the day-to-day stuff from the start.
When I am comfortable using the No Sandwich to say ‘no’ in ordinary day-to-day situations, I will add The No Sandwich to my Personal Coping Kete  as a way of expressing myself during times of stress and distress, when others may be crossing my personal boundaries or asking more of me than I am comfortable giving. When I am distressed, I will be able to use the No Sandwich to say ‘no’ to the things that don’t help me in a positive way. 

No. 133: Play

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

… I am going to play everyday. It’s true that all work and no play makes for a pretty dull time – it also means that we don’t get a chance to properly wind down after something stressful. Life can’t be all serious, sometimes we need a bit of silly. This week, I will spend some time everyday playing. I might spend five minutes seeing if I can still do knuckle-bones or an hour with a friend and a board-game or twenty minutes outside with a basketball or half an hour in the park on the swings. I might need to do a bit of prioritising and planning to make sure it actually happens. If I find it hard to think of something to play, I will make a list of things that I enjoyed playing as a child and work my way through each of them. It could be tricky to fit a play in everyday, but I can do it if I have lots of different kinds of play, some that I can do in the space  of five minutes and fit in at a busy time. Sometimes I will play with another person, and other times it can be solitary play. The key is that there is a time of light-heartedness in my day. This week, no matter how I feel each day, I will make sure I get at least five minutes of play. I will try to notice what things make me laugh or lift my mood and what things don’t make any difference, so I can repeat the things that work for me.

Once I am comfortable with playing everyday, I will add ‘Play’ and a list of the things that worked for me to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for times of stress and distress. When I notice myself having a low mood or starting to get stressed on a regular basis, I will engage with some play to inject some balance in my life and shift my mood for a little while. Playing won’t change the bad things in my life, but it will give me a break and insert some lighthearted variation into my daily life that might make it easier to cope with and recover from the tough stuff. When things are stressful, we all need a bit of time to recover, I will be able to use play as a way to recover my energy levels when things are hard.

No. 126: Be the Super Hero in My Own Story

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

… I will practice being the super hero in my own life. So often we can find ourselves being the villain in our own stories, bullying ourselves with negative self-talk, sabotaging our own goals, holding ourselves back from new and exciting things, treating ourselves badly and keeping ourselves in situations that are ultimately harmful. This week, instead of being my own bad-guy, I will be my own good-guy.

So this week, as I move through each day, I will practice making my decisions and talking myself through with the intention of being the hero in my own daily life. This means, that I will encourage myself when I need encouraging, I will allow myself to dream big, I will throw myself the life-line of hope and help myself to reach out for it, I will rally my support troops around me when I need a whole crew of super heroes to get through a particular struggle. When I need rescuing from a bad day, I will give myself some kindness. When I feel vulnerable, I will visualise myself reacting from a place of strength. Whenever I find myself at a cross-roads moment, I will ask myself, what would the hero in my story do right now? In this way, throughout my week, I will use the idea of being a super hero for myself to practice real, genuine self-care and building a sense of inner strength.

Once I am familiar with imagining I am my own super hero to self-soothe and meet my needs, I will add ‘Be the Super Hero in My Own Story’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy to try during times of stress and distress. If I find myself feeling overwhelmed, I will approach the situation as the hero of my own experience, giving myself just what I need to get through safely.

No. 125: Connect with Being Part of a Community

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

…I will practice connecting with the community around me. This week, as I move through each day, I will practice belonging to my community and letting my community belonging to me. We so often live right next to each other for years, without ever stopping to say ‘hey how is it going?’ to each other and the world can become a lonely, anonymous place at times.

This week, I will say hello to the shop-keepers and checkout operators and stop to pass the time of day. I will introduce myself to my neighbours if I don’t know them and pause to chat when I see them.   I will take part in any free, public events and projects like music in parks, open mic nights, art exhibitions or tree planting working bees. I will walk around my community and appreciate the spaces around me. I will take the time to ask people about themselves and what they do, whenever I have a chance so I can learn about the people around me.

All the while I will remind myself that I am part of a wider community and the wider community is part of me. When I am bored or at a loose end, I will do something to connect with being part of that community. This week I practice getting to know my community and letting my community get to know me.

After engaging with my community for a while, I will be well prepared to self-soothe and distract myself from negative thoughts and feelings when the going gets tough. The experience of connection will be like ammo when I find myself feeling disconnected or lonely. Connecting with my community may help me practice expressing myself to others and build a wider support network of people I could turn to in a rough spot.

When I am familiar with doing things that connect me to my community, I will add ‘Connect with Being Part of a Community’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of shifting my mood during times of stress and distress. If I am feeling down, I will be able to turn to one of my familiar community connection strategies to distract myself. Doing things that connect me with my community might also help to self-soothe some things too, especially if I’ve been feeling isolated. When I notice my self-talk seems lonely, I will remind myself of my previous experiences of being connected to self-soothe and I will try to put some of my previous activities into action.