The Coping Kete

Tag Archives: Self-talk

No. 25: Bite Sized Chunks

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

I will break the things I need or want to achieve into a series of easily achievable steps.  I will start out by writing a list of things I need or want to get done. I will pick the more important or pressing items on the list and spend some time breaking each of those down into their parts. For example, ‘I need to tidy the house’ would become ‘vacuum the lounge’, ‘clear the surfaces’, ‘fold the washing’ and ‘wash the dishes’.  I’ll then plan my week so that I do one or two of the small bite-sized chunks each day.

By the end of the week, I’ll be that much closer to my desired end-point.  But the main point is that when I start to get stressed out about things, I can remind myself that ‘I have got it under control, life is a work in progress, and I’m on my way‘.  I will be able to experience a sense of accomplishment more often, as I tick off each of the small steps I have achieved, instead of having to wait until I reach the final goal. I will be able to trust that I’ll get there in the end.

Once I am used to breaking things down into manageable chunks and reminding myself I have done so, I will add the strategy to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping when things seem too hard to tackle. When things start to feel overwhelming or stressful, I will remind myself that all I need to do is the next step, and then the next step, and I’ll make it through in the end.

No. 24: Future predicting

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

I will practice noticing when I am predicting the future negatively and get used to balancing those thoughts out. This week, when I notice slight shifts in my mood, I will ask myself whether I am concerned with something that is happening right now or whether I am concerned with something I think will happen later. If it is hard to do in the moment, I will do think about it in hindsight at the end of each day.

If I find that my thoughts are mainly focused on future events, I will remind myself that ‘no matter how much I think I know, I cannot truly predict what is yet to come’. I will tell myself “I make the choice to have an open mind, to wait and see what happens”.  I will open myself to the new and unknown, instead of jumping ahead to the future and acting/reacting as if that future were present now. I will focus on what is actually present now in the current moment rather than anticipating what could be present in the future or playing out old responses to things I do not want to revisit from the past.

By remaining in the present and acting with awareness of it, instead of allowing my thoughts to move to the future, the future becomes much more fruitful.

I will reduce the negative power of future-predicting thoughts by allowing for the possibility of different outcomes and ensuring the ‘language’ of my thoughts includes words like ‘maybe’, ‘might’ and ‘could’ rather than using any absolute terms like ‘will’, ‘must’ or ‘always’. This week I leave room for the possibility that things will work out in a way that I can handle.

Once I am comfortable with noticing when I am future predicting and holding an open mind, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of self-soothing negative thoughts about the future when I am distressed and finding things tough.

[Note: Holding future-predicting thoughts with conviction is especially common in anxiety and depression. They distort perception and work to shape what happens later in a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy that contributes to getting us stuck in a certain emotion and type of experience. We often do this when we think we know how others will react to us or predict that our performance or coping ability will be poor.]

No. 21: Mind Reading

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

I will practice noticing myself trying to predict other people’s thoughts and balancing out my predictions. When I notice shifts in my mood I will scan through my thoughts and see if any of the thoughts I’ve been having about the situation were ‘mind-reading’ or focused on what others are thinking.

Mind-reading is a common thought distortion where we assume we know what people around us are thinking or feeling. Many people find their distress is being triggered because they assume other people are thinking negative things in relation to them; We might think others are displeased with us or our decisions for example.

This week, I will try to notice when/if I am doing this.  When I notice a mind-reading thought I will balance it by reminding myself that “I cannot know this for sure, it is just a theory.” I will then come up with two other possible theories for how the people around me are acting/reacting.  I will see whether there is any evidence for these other theories.

If it is appropriate at the time, I might ask the people around me whether or not they are thinking/feeling the things that I initially thought or feared they were.  For example, I might say “hey, I noticed you frowning just then, have I said something to annoy you?

Most of the time, people are going through their own things, and their reactions aren’t 100% about me. Other times, they may have misunderstood something I’ve done or said and by checking it out, I can correct them and let them know my true intentions. And more rarely, I may have actually upset someone, and by checking it out I can apologise and make it right where possible.  I can’t please everyone.

Once I am used to noticing myself mind-reading and balancing my predictions, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete for moments of stress and distress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

No. 15 – The Mini Self-Hug

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

I will practice using sensation to self-soothe and slow things down.  I will place my right palm on the front of my left shoulder, with my arm across the front of my body. I will feel the warmth of my hand soaking into my skin and muscles. I will notice the solidity of my arm cradling my body.  I will focus my thoughts on the sensations in my hand and shoulder and my arm across my chest.  I might gently stroke my shoulder to give myself comfort or press my palm into my shoulder.  I will take a few deep, relaxing breaths and let myself know that everything will be okay in the end.

This exercise is kind of like giving yourself a little nuturing mini-hug and it can be done anywhere, relatively inconspicuously.

Once I’m used to doing this regularly, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete to try during moments of stress and distress.

No. 13 – Building a Room for Possibility

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

I will practice focusing my thoughts on the inevitability of change to help shift bad moods.  To start with, I will practice this strategy for minor mood changes. When I notice a slight shift in mood or a bit of stress, I will take a breath and say things to myself like, “everything changes and so will this,” or “this too shall pass.”

I will leave space in my thoughts for the possibility of things being different. I will remind myself that nothing stays the same forever.  In this way, I will make sure that my thoughts are not promoting a hopeless way of looking at my situation or experiences.

I will then turn my attention to something else altogether in order to shift the moment. Sometimes it is a sense that we will feel this way or be dealing with the same problems forever that makes things so unbearable or overwhelming.

Once I am comfortable thinking this way to get through the smaller moments, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a self-soothing strategy for moments of heightened distress, when perspective might be lost. I will be able to remind myself of all the smaller instances in which I told myself it would pass, and it did.

No. 11 – Float for a Moment

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

I will practice using visualisations to shift my moment. Each day I will take a minute to pay attention to taking deep, slow breaths while I briefly visualise myself floating on my back down a calm river.  The sun is shining, but not too hotly.  I am mindful of the way the sun feels on my closed eyelids and how the buoyant water feels flowing beneath me. I allow the river to take me where it will, sometimes moving faster and other times meandering slowly; I cannot push the water.

I will spend just a minute holding this image, and the sensations it brings, in my mind. If my attention drifts onto other things, I will mentally drop the worries in the river and watch them flow away.

I will then return to the situation at hand, with my centred and more accepting state of awareness. I will observe how I feel afterwards.

Once I am familiar with doing this visualisation to shift my attention, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of soothing or distracting myself from anxiety, anger or low moods.

No. 10 – Permission to be Fully Human

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

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

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

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

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

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

No. 9 – A Body of Strengths

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

I will remind myself of my strengths regularly throughout my day. If I find this difficult to do off the top of my head, I will prepare a written list in advance that I can pull from pocket or bag and read.  I will add to this list as time goes on and I get better at identifying the positive attributes, qualities and skills that I possess.  If I am unsure of my strengths and skills, I will ask people who know me to have a think about it and get back to me with what they think my positive qualities are.

Once I am used to thinking about my positive qualities a bit, I will add ‘Remember I am a Body of Strengths’ to my Personal Coping Kete.

By thinking about my strengths during moments of stress and distress, I will work to balance my thoughts, emotions and physical responses. Whenever I notice that my self-talk is full of put-downs, self-directed insults or pessimistic expectations I will start listing in my head the strengths and skills that I have shown in the past.

It can help to do a few diaphragmatic breaths first, especially if you are really distressed. See Week 6 for instructions on how to learn diaphragmatic breathing.  Once you’ve learned it, it’s a great complement to most strategies.

No. 8 – Supportive Self-Talk

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

I will practice giving myself encouragement when I notice shifts in my mood or energy level, as I would encourage a dearly loved friend, who I truly believed in, “it’ll be okay, you can handle this.

By speaking to myself with respect, support and reassurance, I will practice valuing and nurturing myself.

In the moment, I will be providing myself with the possibility that things could turn out as I would like and reminding myself of the probability that whatever happens, I will be able to get through it.

Once I am comfortable with encouraging myself through smaller moments of pressure, I will add ‘Supportive Self-Talk’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a self-soothing strategy in times of stress and distress as a reminder to talk myself through the tough stuff too.