The Coping Kete

Tag Archives: Time-out

No. 101: Stretching Distraction

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

…I will practice stretching to distract myself from the present moment and lift my energy.

Once a day I will spend a few minutes doing some basic yoga stretches. As I do them I will practice mindfully focusing my attention on the movements I am making and the way they feel in my body. I will practice letting thoughts of the day pass through my mind as I observe them and bring my mind back to my stretches.

  1. Neck Roll: Standing up, relax your shoulders, drop your head forward to rest your chin on your chest. Slowly roll your head to rest your right ear on your right shoulder, pause, return to centre then slowly roll your head to rest your left ear on your left shoulder, pause, return to centre. Repeat.
  2. Shoulder and Arm Rotation: Stretch your arms out to the side and imagine you are pushing apart two walls. Repeat three times. Keeping the arms at shoulder level, rotate the shoulders forwards and then backwards. Repeat three times. Slowly drop arms to the side and observe the sensation produced in your body.
  3. Swaying Tree pose: Standing with your feet at hip-width, reach your arms above your head, clasp your hands together, exhale and lean gently to the left. Inhale and come back to centre. Then exhale and lean to the right. Repeat.
  4. Cat Pose: Kneel on all fours with hands shoulder distance apart and your knees the same distance apart. Exhale while arching your back up and looking down at your belly. Hold for a few seconds. Inhale as you arch your back down and lift your head.

Once I am familiar with doing stretches as part of my ordinary day, I will add them to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of distracting myself from distressing moments and times of stress and tension. When I notice I am feeling tense, I can take myself away from present company for a moment and practice my stretches. 

No. 96: Learning a Theme Song

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

…I will use music to help me improve the moment and connect with positive emotion by learning to hum or whistle a song I associate with happy vibes and good energy.

If no song jumps to mind automatically I will get to spend some time listening to different songs until I find one I like.

Then as I move through my day, I will periodically remember to practice humming or whistling the tune while I am doing my daily tasks. This could help to insert some pleasant energy into whatever I am doing.

Once I am comfortable and familiar with humming or whistling my tune, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a distraction and self-soothing technique for times of stress and distress.

Then, when I find myself stressed or distressed, I can distract myself for a moment by trying to remember the tune and whistling/humming it. The act of humming and whistling changes the level of oxygen in the blood and can physically help to soothe negative emotions I could be feeling, so I can return to the situation later with a clearer head. Whenever I hum or whistle my tune, I will be reminded of the positive message of the song I chose and this might also help inspire me through tough moments.

This is also a pretty good strategy to use if I ever feel so anxious that it gets hard to breathe. Humming or whistling a song could help to counteract that without having to focus my attention onto my breathing.

No. 95: Doing Something Else

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

…I will practice doing something else to shift my mood when I need to improve the moment. To prepare myself, I will make a list of random activities that I am familiar with. For example things like baking, reading a book, walking around the block, washing the dishes, cleaning the bathroom, doing a cross-word and making a card for someone are all pretty common activities that many people could do at almost any time.

It is important these are activities I am familiar with as learning something new is incredibly difficult during times of stress and distress.

When I notice myself getting stuck in an unhelpful mood or chain of thinking that I can’t really do much about right now, I will practice doing the items on my list. I will focus my attention on the task at hand, noticing my movements, the space around, various sensations and my desired outcome. If worried or distressed thoughts find their way into my mind, I will notice and observe them there as I carry on with what I am doing. In this way I will practice connecting my attention with the world outside myself when my inner world is getting too intense, without pushing my internal reality away altogether.

This week I remember that no matter how I feel, I can always compel my muscles to move. In this way I always have power over my circumstances. 

Once I have figured out which kinds of familiar activities help me to focus on something else when my emotions are not serving me well, I will add those activities to my Personal Coping Kete.

When I am finding it hard to counter-act unwanted thoughts or express distressing moods, I can use these activities to distract myself until some of the heat has come out of them and I am able to look at the situation more objectively.

No. 94: Moving to a New Space

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

…I will practice mindfully distracting myself from stressful or distressing thoughts and feelings by moving to a different location and observing and describing my new location to myself. I might move to a different room, go outside or walk to a local park or anywhere that is different.

I give myself permission to return to my distressing thoughts later, when I am feeling calmer, if I still want or need to.

I will spend at least five minutes looking around me. Instead of focusing on my inner world, I will focus on my outside world. I will actively look around my new space and centre my thoughts on what is around me and where I am, rather than what I feel or think about myself, other people or my life. As my mind tries to come back to those things, I will gently return my thoughts to the space I am now in without judgement. I feel whatever I feel, right now I am here. 

If this kind of thing is unfamiliar to me, I will start by practicing this when I am not stressed or distressed. Once this starts to feel like a comfortable thing to do, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as something to try when I am needing to improve the moment.


No. 89: Draw an Object

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

… I will practice drawing objects around me as a way of refocusing my attention away from unhelpful thoughts and giving myself a break.

If I notice myself getting stressed or distressed I will take a couple of moments to sketch an object in my immediate surroundings. It could be a pen on my desk or a plant on the windowsill or anything at all. I can draw it any way I want and it doesn’t matter whether my drawing even looks like the object at all. The point is to focus my attention on something else for a while.

I could also just spend some time each day drawing as a way to get some down-time.

In preparation I’ll make sure I have a notebook and a pencil on hand.

Once I am familiar with drawing objects in my surroundings as a way of capturing my attention, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for mindfully distracting myself from distress.

No. 88: Delaying My Response

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

…when I find I have something to say to someone, rather than rushing to express myself straight away, I will remind myself that I might feel differently later. I will resolve to turn my attentions to something else and see how I feel about it later on or the next day. I will then move onto completing my tasks for the day.

When I return to think about the situation and assess how I feel, I will start off by thinking about what might have been happening for the other person at the time and how that might have influenced their behaviour. I will think about whether the way I thought about it at the time, still seems accurate or whether there might be another way of looking at things. I will think about whether I need to do or say anything now or at another time and what I could do or say, taking their perspective into account as well my own.

Once I have become comfortable delaying everyday responses, I will add this strategy to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of dealing with distressing moments.

No. 86: Doing What I Can Do

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

… When I encounter a problem, I will turn my attention towards something I can accomplish to improve the moment.

To begin with, I will make a list of all of the big and small things I have been wanting to get done around the house and/or my workplace. I will break all of the big items on my list down into smaller parts so that in the end my list is a list of easy to achieve tasks.

When I find myself worrying about something I cannot change or predict, I will take out my list and begin working on one of the tasks I can do something about.

As I am doing the task I will focus my awareness on what I am doing in the current moment by noticing when my mind wanders onto the distressing thoughts and observing and describing my current surroundings and actions to myself to centre myself on the task at hand.

This week, I will respond to problems by doing something else that is positive for my life.   

Once I have gotten used to focusing on what I can do during times of low stress, I will add this to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for distraction and engagement during times of distress and unwanted emotion.

No. 85: Looking for Encouragement

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

…I will help myself get through my problems by letting someone know what I am feeling and seeking encouragement.

I will use whatever means is appropriate to me in the moment, whether I need to take a private moment to make a phone call to someone I trust or talk to someone I am with.

For example, if I am worried about something that is happening in a meeting or social situation, I might need to excuse myself to give a friend a call or ask to talk to someone I trust there privately or maybe I will be comfortable talking to whoever happens to be there. I’ll let them know the situation I am in, what I am worried about/how I am affected and what I need encouragement with.

And then I will let them encourage me. If it is a personal matter and I am talking to someone who finds giving encouragement difficult or uncomfortable, I might try something like asking them to help me remember what strengths I have to help me get through. It might sound cheesy when it’s put in those terms, but I can say it any way I want.

This week, I actively look for encouragement when I need it. Sometimes it is hard to believe in ourselves when the going gets tough – at these times, we can look to the people around us for reminders. Then, later, I can refer to the memories of their encouragement to get me through when they are not around.

It is okay to feel what I feel and to look for support when I need it. This week, I will not make myself stand alone.

If I am out of practice with seeking encouragement and support, I will start out by seeking encouragement for small things that I find easy to talk about, during times of low stress. This will allow me to get used to it, before I am in a bad way and find it hard to do. Once I can seek out other people without a large amount of anxiety, I will add this to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping during times of distress.

No. 80: Observing Myself as Part of Nature

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

…I will practice mindful distraction by going outside and observing myself as part of nature. This week, the first thing I will do once I have woken up in the morning and gotten dressed, is to take a moment to go outside where I can see at least some aspect of the natural world. For the next few minutes I will let whatever concerns I might have for the coming day fade into the distance where I can catch them up later if I still need to. I will focus my awareness on the way the clouds and air move, the way the plant-life grows, the way water flows or settles – everything falling into its shape.

As I make myself aware of these elements of nature, I will notice myself standing or sitting there, as part of this environment. Here I am, connected to the world. 

Doing this regularly, when I am not distressed, will help me make strong associations with the strategy so it is easier to do it when I need it. It’s also just a pretty nice way to start the day. In preparation for when I need to distract myself from unnecessary distress, once a day, I will…

“Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence….You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.”  [From The Desiderata, Max Ehrmann, 1927] 

Once I am comfortable doing this task as part of a regular day, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for mindfully distracting myself from distressing emotions and unwanted thoughts.

No. 78: Learning to Pause

This week to attain, maintain or regain my sense of well-being…

…I will practice pausing as a first response to intense emotion. While this may not seem like it will change much, it is a vital step in my journey to being able to change the way I respond to my feelings.

Each time I notice a shift in my emotion, I will pause myself by using self-talk to describe to myself what I am feeling in this moment. For example, when I notice I am feeling stressed out, I will pause and say to myself “I am feeling stressed out right now. It’s time to pause.” I will take a couple of deep breaths and then carry on as I see fit.

This week I am creating moments for myself between feeling and reacting. I can react however I wish, this week the focus is on creating the pause and giving myself encouragement to keep doing so.

Each time I pause myself, I will congratulate myself for being able to take the pause. Even if all I do is say ‘pause time’ in my head. It is not easy to pause oneself in the course of such an automatic reaction as an emotional response and it is important to acknowledge the achievement each time. This way I will reinforce the practice of pausing before responding to the way I feel and turn it into a habit.

Later, I will be able to follow this strategy with other techniques that allow me to change the way I am feeling after the pause. This week though, I am going to practice the pause, which is like a platform for launching other strategies from.

If this is difficult to begin with, I will practice on mild emotional experiences or I will practice pausing during times when I am not particularly feeling anything at all. Taking a week or so to do this can help us build up.

Once I am comfortable with pausing and describing the situation and how I feel about it to myself, I will add this to my Personal Coping Kete as a strategy for engaging with the current moment to deal with distress.