The Coping Kete

Tag Archives: Thought Balancing

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. 139: Replace “I Can’t” with “I Don’t”

This week, to attain, maintain or regain my sense of wellbeing…
…I will practice using my word-choices to help me work towards my goals. Often, when we want to make changes, there is something we want to stop doing and other things we want to do more of. This week, I will practice choosing words that focus on my control and power to decide.

Research has shown that often when we  start telling ourselves ‘I can’t do xyz thing’ we tend to want to do that very thing even more. Only one out of ten people who tried to cut back on chocolate by telling themselves “I can’t eat chocolate” actually managed to stop eating chocolate. On the other hand, the same study showed that eight out of ten people who told themselves “I don’t eat chocolate” managed to reach their goal. Telling ourselves that we can’t do things tends to leave us feeling restricted and wanting to rebel against ourselves, telling ourselves that we don’t do things tends to leave us feeling like we control what we choose to do. 

So this week, I am going to practice noticing myself thinking “I can’t do that now” or “I am not allowed…” and I am going to mindfully replace the word ‘can’t’ with ‘don’t’… “I don’t do that now”. As I move through the week, I’ll try to notice how this affects me, when the strategy is useful and what I do with the strategy to make it work for me. There might be times when I really can’t do something, like fly down to the bus stop, but I might be surprised at just how often the things I think are limits are really choices and preferences that I have.

Once I am comfortable with replacing my can’ts with don’ts on a day-to-day kind of basis, I will add the strategy to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of engaging with my goals to stop things that are no longer helpful to me. I will be able to pick up on any unnecessarily limiting thoughts I am having about my goals as things “I can’t do” and use my self-talk to transform the can’ts into don’ts. If there is something I want to change, like to stop drinking alcohol or taking drugs, I will be able to take control of my language to help soothe the pressure from the situation and make myself feel more in charge of what I am doing. I might make a list of the things I feel like I can’t do anymore, and then re-write each item using the words I don’t, and keep the list with me for times when I’m feeling tempted.

No. 138: Visualising My Intentions

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

I will practice telling the difference between my expectations and my good intentions and get in the habit of letting my intentions guide me instead of my fears. While my expectations are useful, they can get in my way at times, but my good intentions bring me back to what it is important to me, back to my values.

This week, I will take a moment every morning to practice slow, belly breathing while I focus my attention on visualising my positive intentions for the day. 

Before I get out of bed in the morning, I will lie back and do a few minutes of belly breathing.

As I breathe slowly down into my belly and let each breath float back out, I will think about my good intentions for the day by saying to myself “today I would like to ….” and then picturing it happening in my mind.

If my self-critic or inner future-predictor interferes and I start thinking about barriers to my good intentions or reasons why it won’t work out, I will notice the thoughts then come back to my breath and my intentions for the day. After a few minutes, I will open my eyes if I had them closed and move on into my day, carrying my values and positive intentions with me.

In this way, I will get used to setting aside my expectations to get a clear sense of what I value and what I want to happen, so I can carry these things throughout my day and come back to them when I find myself in a tough moment. I’ll also get to start my day off with a bit of calm breathing which might help set me up for a more relaxed day too.

Once I am comfortable with spending a few moments breathing and connecting with my values and wishes rather than my fears and expectations, I will add this to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for self-soothing during times of stress and upset.When I notice I am distressed, I will be able to take a moment to breathe, come back to my own values and intentions as a way of soothing my unhelpful thoughts and problem-solving how I will deal with the situation I am facing. 

No. 137: Use the Three Gates of Expression

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

… I will practice effective expression by regularly pausing before I speak to ask myself three questions.

  1. Is it true?
  2. Is it necessary?
  3. Is it kind?

I will let my answers to these questions guide me in what I choose to say and how I choose to say it. In this way I will get used to (1) speaking accurately, (2) saying what I need to say and (3) expressing myself respectfully, even if what I have to say might be hard for the person to hear.

This strategy is inspired by a Sufi saying that translates into English as:

Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates.
At the first gate, ask yourself, ‘Is it true?’ 
At the second ask, ‘Is it necessary?’
At the third gate ask ‘Is it kind?’

As I move through my week, I will practice pausing and briefly reflecting on these three questions in everyday conversation. This will help me work out how to pause myself, how to think about the three questions and how to work my reflections into what I choose to say. It might be that I need to take time out to reflect or I might be able to reflect quickly in the moment.

When I am familiar with doing this kind of reflective communication, I will add ‘Use the Three Gates of Expression’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of expressing myself during times of stress and distress. When I am upset, I will be able to consider what the grains of truth beneath my reaction are, whether it is necessary for me to talk to this person about this specific thing and how I can express what I have to say kindly and with respect. It might also help me to balance out my thoughts during moments of distress when things can easily become distorted or blown out of proportion.

No. 136: One Thing I Can Do/ One Thing I Like

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

…I will practice focusing my attention on the things I can do and the things I like to engage with so I can self-soothe when I am stressed and create  positive emotion when I am low.

To prepare, I will take a page in a notebook and divide it into two columns. The first column, I will title ‘One Thing I Can Do’ and the second column I will title ‘One Thing I Like’ (see example below).

To practice, I will take a moment at the end of each day to write down an example of ‘One Thing I Can Do’ and ‘One Thing I Like’ from my day. In the ‘One Thing I Can Do’ column, I will write down one thing that I did that day that I think I did well and what skill it involved. In the ‘One Thing I Like’ column, I will write down one thing from my day that I enjoyed or appreciated and what it was that I liked about it. If I’ve been having tough times for a while, it might be hard to do this because I will be out of practice at noticing these things and I might have stopped doing a lot of the things I am good at and like. If I find it hard, I will have compassion for myself and practice noticing the smallest of small signs of ‘Things I Can Do’ or ‘Things I Like’ – for example, getting out of bed, showering and single moments of laughter.

As I move through the week, I will think through my growing list and know that there are things I can do to get through and things I like that can change my mood. As my awareness grows I will start trying to mindfully do those things when I notice my mood is low or my thinking is negative.  This week, I will practice building the evidence that lets me remind myself “there is always one thing I can do and one thing that I can enjoy.”

Once I am comfortable noticing what I can do and what I like, and mindfully doing those things, I will add this to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping with distress. When I find myself feeling stuck, hopeless or unsure of myself, I will be able to self-soothe by coming back to my old list to remind myself of all I can do to get through and change my mood and engage with a way of shifting my experience by doing just one of the things I can do and one thing that I like. This strategy could become self-soothing, engagement or mindful distraction depending on how I used it. 

My notebook columns would look something like this… 

No. 135: Reward Myself for Surviving

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

… I will practice injecting enjoyable moments into my daily life and appreciating myself by scheduling reward points into the end of every day. During my scheduled reward points, I will be able to practice being aware of what I deal with each day and responding by rewarding my efforts, whatever they may be, whether I struggled or succeeded.

To get started, I will write a list of things that I find enjoyable and can use as rewards. The list could include things like going to a movie or having a treat food or doing a hobby activity or lying around listening to music or catching up with someone you enjoy or having a massage or anything at all. Rewards can be big or they can be small, but they cannot be harmful. So having a binge-drinking session or taking drugs wouldn’t be the right kind of reward to use.

Once I have my list of rewards, I’ll schedule time to give myself one reward at the end of every day for the next week.

At the scheduled time each afternoon/evening, I will take a quiet moment to reflect on what I have survived that day. When I think of difficult moments in the day, I will observe the thought and say to myself “and that was hard so I can reward myself for getting through.” When I think of positive moments of the day, I will observe the thought and say to myself “and that was good, so I can reward myself for having a part in it.”

Once I have reflected for 2 or 3 minutes, I will go ahead and give myself the reward I had planned.

When I am comfortable with engaging in rewarding behaviour on a usual week, I will add ‘Plan Little Rewards’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy to use during times of distress. When I notice I am upset, I can reflect on what I have been surviving, make myself aware of how much I have to reward myself for by saying the reflection statements and then planning some rewarding activities for the coming week.

No. 129: Gratitude Diary

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

…I will practice bringing positives to my own attention by keeping a daily Gratitude Diary. Each evening before bed, I will write down three things I am grateful for that day. If I’ve been feeling down for a long time, it might be hard to recognise the things I am grateful for, so I will start small. As I move through each day, I will let myself pause to appreciate things as they unfold, to help make it easier to notice them later when it comes time to write my daily entry. 

This week, no matter what has happened that day, I will find room for three things I am grateful for. It is okay to have good times in the middle of bad times – this week, I will practice doing that.

As the week goes by, I could experiment with remembering the things in my Gratitude Diary during the day and see if I notice a lift in my moods. Keeping a Gratitude Diary will make me engage with the things I am grateful to have experienced. So over the week, I will gather a collection of positive memories of my week. If I notice it helps keep my moods more balanced, I could keep doing this for as long as I want. 

Once I have practiced keeping a Gratitude Diary for  a while, I will add ‘Gratitude Diary’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy to try when I am distressed by unwanted thoughts and moods. Sometimes we need to let the things that give us hope and inspiration in. And that can be really difficult to do when we are down, especially if we aren’t used to doing this kind of thing on purpose. When I am ready, I will practice using my Gratitude Diary to self-soothe during times of stress and upset.

No. 127: Give the Future the Benefit of the Doubt

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

… I will practice coping by experimenting with being at peace with not knowing what the future will bring.

Rather than following any worried thoughts about what might go wrong and getting stuck there, I will give the future the benefit of the doubt by reminding myself that I don’t know what will happen and letting the mystery of my future unfold as it will.

This week, as I move through each day, I will practice catching negative or stressful thoughts about the future and saying to myself ‘I do not know what the future will bring and I am at peace with that, I trust my future to unfold as I need it to.’  I will then simply move forward, doing my best with what I have. This week I will trust myself to do what I need to do, to get through.

Once I am familiar with trusting my future to unfold as I need it to, on an ordinary day in the face of my day-to-day stresses, I will add this strategy to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping during times of distress.

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.