The Coping Kete

Monthly Archives: May 2011

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No. 46: Tuning Into Your Self-Supporter

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

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

I will congratulate or praise myself for each thing that goes even a tiny bit well.

We are so often so quick to let our self-critic remind us of everything we’ve fallen down on or that has gone wrong and we can lose sight of what our strengths and contributions really are.

This week I will let my self-supporter reign free. I will acknowledge the good things I do and am a part of. For example, if someone smiles at me, I’ll be all “look at me making that person smile!” in my head. In this way, throughout my day I will acknowledge my value and my strengths, and also increase the enjoyment associated with each positive.

This week is simple – I am going to notice, name and value my strengths, positive contributions and moments of capability, the big ones and the really small, everyday ones, like making someone smile.

Once I am comfortable noticing my strengths, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a self-soothing strategy for times of distress. When I find myself feeling anxious or stressed, I will recall these moments of praise and acknowledgement that I have given myself to balance out my inner critic.

No. 45: Voicing my inner experiences

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

…I will talk about my stresses. This week, the rule is that when I am experiencing any feelings of stress, I will name them, every time, even if they are only slight. This does not mean always going into detail or expecting help or even for the stress to get less as a result.

It means that whatever it is that I am dealing with, I am not dealing with it alone; the people around me know what I’m up to.  It also involves practicing accepting the way I feel without judging myself for it and gets me into the habit of expressing myself.

And who knows, the people around me might relate.

Once I am used to talking about my stress, I will add the strategy to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of shifting my mood when things are distressing.

No. 44: Making New Automatic Thoughts

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

I will begin practicing how to replace unwanted automatic thoughts with balanced alternatives that better serve me in the moment.

First, I will spend a couple of days noticing which automatic thoughts seem to pop into my head repeatedly. At the end of each day I will write down the most repetitive automatic thoughts I had that day.  If I already know which automatic thoughts are most repetitive, I can skip this first step.

Once I know which thoughts I want to change, I will prepare alternative statements that I can use to counter those unwanted automatic thoughts when they pop into my head. Whenever I hear myself thinking one of the unwanted automatic thoughts, I will say the balancing thought to myself, either in my head or out loud if I want to.  The more I am able to practice saying the new balancing thought to myself, the more automatic it will become.

Over time, I will be able to teach myself a new more balanced way of responding in the moment. In the moment, a balanced way of thinking will soothe my sense of distress, provided I am able to believe the balancing statement I give myself.

For example, a really common repetitive automatic thought is “I can’t do this.” This is a thought that can pop into a head in almost any difficult situation and increase how distressing it is. A possible balancing statement is – ‘This could be tricky, I just need to put one foot in front of the other.’  Each time I hear myself think ‘I can’t do this’ I will say my prepared balancing statement to myself instead.

It is really important to make the balancing statements ones that I can believe and agree with. Otherwise the exercise seems contrived and unnatural – it is likely to feel weird anyway, because the balancing thoughts are new ones.  It is very common for people to make balancing statements that are more about what they think they should think, rather than what they really could believe to be true.

Note: As balancing statements are generally new, they do feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable to practice, even if you have selected one that you believe in 100%.  It will be important to persevere through this feeling of unfamiliarity before the balancing thought will start to feel comfortable to hold for yourself. Alternatively, feeling uncomfortable saying the statement may be an indication that it is not something you really can believe yet and perhaps the statement needs to be changed a bit.

Once I have become comfortable doing this activity of noticing my thoughts and countering them with balanced statements I believe, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as something to try during moments of stress and distress when I want to connect with a different way of thinking about things.

No. 43: Ten Words

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

I will practice using poetry to express myself. I will use the short ‘Ten Words’ writing exercise to sort out my thoughts, centre myself and express what is going on for me.  By making myself aware of what my current moment is all about, I will be able to move beyond responding in the moment based on my emotions, by getting a better understanding of what they are about. This will help me to better express myself to others if I want to.

After the writing exercise, I will turn to a support, engagement, mindfulness or self-soothing exercise if I am still feeling distressed, pressed or stressed in any way. Understanding things is a great tool, but it does not automatically mean that we will feel better. This writing exercise doesn’t guarantee we form the most accurate or expansive understanding either. To do that, we need to talk to other people.

This week I will do the writing exercise at least one time a day, keeping in mind that it usually takes 90 repetitions of something new before it becomes an automatic, easy way of responding.

Once I’ve gotten used to writing poems, I will add it to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of expressing myself when I am experiencing stress or distress.

Ten Words Writing Exercise

Step 1: Write down ten words that come into mind when you think about what you are experiencing in the current moment (that’s right now). If you can’t think of ten, just write down however many you can think of.

Step 2: In any order you want to, write one sentence to expand on how each word is relevant. You can simply explain why you wrote the word down or you might like to describe the way the word is experienced or felt or compare it to something that it reminds you of.  If you would like to get creative, this exercise can be used to write a short story or a poem. This is a useful thing to do, because these can be often be read to others.

For example

1. Stress | 2. Stretched | 3. Jittery | 4. Responsibility | 5. Racing | 6. Commitments | 7. Money | 8. Hunger | 9. Love | 10. Value

stress: my stomach holds it, acid-tongued.

Stretched: i am my own god of destruction and creation, i want to reach in all directions like Siva

Jittery: i pull myself these ways, the pulse running to keep time with the mind

Responsibility: so many rocks i’ve got to hold up above my head and balance there

Racing: while i send my brain stem messages of ‘calm. the. hell. down.’ and ‘this. is. not. a. survival. moment’

Commitment: and i have promised things i mean to keep, which also is heavy

Money: and there is never enough of the things that we need

Hunger: and there is so much we want to get out of all this

Love: and i’m still struggling to let you love me and trying to relinquish my controls.

Value: it is still easier for me to trust the dark in a stranger’s eyes than let the light in yours reach me, but i am learning.

If I take out all my ‘inspiration words’ and join up my lines, they become a poem! This is something I could read to a friend or family member to communicate what I am dealing with at the moment.