The Coping Kete

Tag Archives: Self-care

No. 161: Laughter Yoga

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

… I will practice laughter yoga 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 I will schedule time to practice laughing for no reason, without needing something ‘out there’ to make me laugh. It might help to start with just a few minutes and build up to 10, then 20, then 30. I might also need to warn the people I live with to expect to hear some loud laughter coming from my room for a while – they might even want to join me. Laughter yoga is something that can wake my body up, so I won’t schedule my practice time right before bed, unless I find that it tends to make me feel relaxed and tired afterwards. It will probably feel strange to do this at first, but that’s okay. This week, I give myself permission to be silly for a brief time each day.

To practice laughter yoga, I will do some simple exercises that involve forced, extending laughing.

  1. Take a Laughter Drink
    • Standing up straight, feet hip-width apart, I will raise one hand in front of me as if I am holding an imaginary (and bottomless) cup full of laughter.  I will take a deep breath into the bottom of my belly, then ‘pour’ the laughter into my mouth for the entire out-breath. As I tip the ‘cup’ into my mouth and breath out I will force myself to laugh out loud as I ‘pour’ more of the laughter out of the cup. I will repeat this for ten breaths in and ten breaths out, trying to pour more and more laughter out of the cup each time.
    • This time I will 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. This time, when I tip the cup to my mouth, I will start with light tee-hees and move through the whole range of laughs until I get to the loudest, deepest ha-ha-has. With each cycle of breaths, I will try to laugh for a little bit longer.
  2. Laughter Balloons
    • Standing with my back straight and my feet hip-width apart, I will place both palms flat on my belly and imagine I am holding a giant, empty balloon against my stomach. This time, on my first out-breath my laughter will fill the balloon, until my arms are stretched out in a circle in front of me. Then I will take a deep breath in and slowly release the laughter out of the balloon on my next out-breath, laughing out loud until the balloon is emptied and my palms are once again flat on my belly. I will repeat this two-step process five to ten times, aiming to laugh for longer each time.
  3. Laughter Hand-Ball
    • Standing with my back straight and my feet hip-width apart, facing a wall, I will pretend I have a laughter ball in my hands. I will take a deep breath in and on the out-breath, I will ‘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 my laugh, the faster the ball will travel. I’ll experiment with a different kind of laughter each time.
  4. Laughter Body Fill
    • Standing with my back straight and my feet firmly grounded on the floor, this time, my laughter will fill my body. I will imagine each in-breath fills a different part of my body with the energy to laugh. On each out-breath I will laugh out loud from that part of my body, starting with my toes, legs, stomach, chest, shoulders, nose and the top of my head.

If I work up to spending five minutes on each exercise, I’ll eventually be doing 20 minutes of yoga laughter a day. As I move through the week I will observe how this affects my body and moods.

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

No. 158: Plant Seeds and Nurture Them

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

… I will practice being aware of my valued actions by visualising or symbolically planting seeds for each of my valued intentions. New Years Eve is a 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 ‘Care for my Physical Health.’ 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.

So this week, I will do a ‘Seed Planting Ceremony’ for the New Year. First, I will take a moment to sit in stillness and bring my mind to what I want to nurture in the coming three months. How do I want to treat myself, the planet and others in the coming months? What is most important to me right now? When my mind throws up thoughts of what I don’t want, I will name it to myself and bring my awareness to the values I would like to be guided by in such situations. Next, I will choose an object for each of the important ‘seeds’ or values I want to ‘plant’ and nurture in the coming months, or make ‘paper seeds’ by writing each one down on a piece of paper. Finally, I will take a moment to name each of the ‘seeds’ I am planting, visualise what nurturing that ‘seed’ will look like for me, and place it in a special jar or container. I’ll try to make sure there’s a different seed for each of the most important areas of my life, such as my relationships, my identity/self, my body etc.

As I move through the coming days, I will take time once a day to turn my mind to the ‘seeds’ I planted and my visualisation of nurturing those values in myself.  Over the coming weeks, I will practice bringing my attention to these seeds and seeing how they can guide my actions. When I notice myself feeling lost or confused or distressed or at uncertain, I will pause and visualise how I might nurture each of my seeds as I move forward. Focusing mindfully on these positives that are meaningful to me, might soothe some of that stress or confusion, by opening up a flexible path ahead for me and perhaps balance out some of my negative expectations and self-talk.

Once I am comfortable with setting my intentions by naming and visualising the values I want to nurture, I will add ‘Plant Seeds and Nurture Them’ to my Personal Coping Kete. In times of stress and distress, I will practice planting new seeds or returning to seeds I have previously planted and visualising how I want to move forward, given what I have got.

No. 155: Make Space for What is Here

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

…I will practice expanding to make space for stress, distress and upsets when they appear, rather than tightening up around them and getting stuck struggling against them or having to make them stop. Being human involves a wide spectrum of emotions; I can feel them all and this week I will practice allowing myself to.

To begin with, I will pick a couple of anchor-tasks that I do every day that I can use to practice with, like making my morning cuppa or waiting for emails to load. Whenever I find myself doing my anchor-task, I will take a moment to observe my thoughts and moods in the moment by putting words to them, one by one. Breathing deeply, for each observation, I will tell myself “I have space for what is here” and imagine myself expanding around it as I breathe and shift into an open, relaxed posture, releasing any muscles I am tensing. If I notice a struggle to expand around something, I will repeat the strategy with that set of thoughts, observing, describing, making space. After a moment, I will bring my attention back to my surroundings and the task at hand (or what I really need/want to be doing), carrying this sense of space with me.

Once I am familiar with using this strategy at a planned time, I can practice using it throughout the day whenever I notice an unwanted shift in my moods, so I start to get used to expanding around 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 I breathe and relax around them.  Expanding to make space also means accepting what I need and getting those needs met. I might need some self-care or distraction or support to help me, expanding around distress, doesn’t mean I have to carry it on my own or give up on trying to feel better.

When I am comfortable expanding around stress and distress, I will add ‘expanding to make space’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a way to survive the times when I am struggling.  I’ll be able to take a moment of observe my thoughts and moods in the moment by putting words to them. Breathing deeply, I will tell myself “I have space for what is here” and imagine myself expanding around it as I breathe and shift into an open, relaxed posture, releasing any muscles I am tensing. If I notice a struggle to expand around something, I will repeat the strategy with that set of thoughts, observing, describing, making space. After a moment, I will bring my attention back to my surroundings and what I need/want to be doing next, carrying this sense of space with me.
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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.