The Coping Kete

Monthly Archives: December 2013

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No. 150: Make a Memory Jar

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

… practice holding onto good memories by making and using a Memory Jar. To make a Memory Jar, all you need to do is get a jar with a lid that you can fill with reminders of your positive, special or treasured memories throughout the year. Each day, write down at least one positive thing you want to remember later. Write down the small things like amazing views or scenery you have seen or fabulous food you have eaten or moments of laughter with friends as well as the big events and achievements that happen throughout the days and weeks of the year.  Some people add objects and pictures to their memory jars too – like ticket stubs from good movies and concerts, photos of friends, shells from beach trips, dried flowers etc etc. Your Memory Jar can become a real lucky dip of treasured moments that you will be able to use as fuel for feeling good in days to come.

To start with, you’ll need to get my Memory Jar ready.  Click here to see some Memory Jars made by other people. Some people decorate their memory jars – you could get really creative with this.

Next schedule in some time each day for the next week, to write at least one new memory on a slip of paper and add it to the jar.  If you have been feeling low, try to choose a time of the day when you usually feel the best. It is harder to notice positives when we are feeling negative, so if you find it tough to think of positive memories from the day, don’t be hard on yourself for it. It helps to start small with just little things that have brought us a bit of pleasure. You might find it easier to write things down as they happen or to think back further than this one day or week.

At the end of the week, look through your Memory Jar and practice remembering each of the good moments. Plan how to continue adding to your jar as you move through the year and then dip into it when you need some help to hold on to the good bits alongside the areas of dissatisfaction you carry or for those times you need some inspiration for how to feel better. It might help to keep it somewhere you will see it often. Reviewing your Memory Jar regularly will help you to get comfortable holding your positive memories in mind without cancelling them out with the bad stuff that has happened. This can help us to prevent the difficult things from taking over our whole view.

You might find yourself having pessimistic or cynical thoughts about the activity, especially if you are in a low mood right now. Finding it hard to remember positive things doesn’t mean that there have been no positive things. It just means you haven’t noticed any positive things or you didn’t count them when you did, maybe they seemed inconsequential or insignificant. Sometimes it can help to write down something you think you would find positive on a different day if you were in a better mood. By practicing the art of writing something down every day, you will practice holding onto positive memories in the face of difficulty and hardship, when it is all too easy to forget them. You’ll also have a really neat record of your year to look back on in days to come.

As you gather more and more memories in your jar, and get comfortable noticing, recording and recalling positive memories, add ‘Use My Memory Jar’ to your Personal Coping Kete for moments of stress and distress. If you are finding things hard, take out your Memory Jar and use it to shift my thoughts to good times and moments of gratitude and find some ideas for things to do in the present to shift your mood. In times of stress and distress, as well as remembering good memories, try to add one new good memory to your Memory Jar a day. Even when everything is terrible, you will be able to find one good thing to add to your Memory Jar. Doing this during tough times might help you to balance out some of your unwanted thoughts and feelings and shift the intensity of your moods a bit.

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Happy New Year from Engage Aotearoa/CMHRT and Engage Resources Ltd.

No. 149: Balloon Breaths

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

…I will practice relaxing myself with my breath. Whenever I notice my breathing, I will clasp my hands together and place them on my belly, just below my rib cage (right on my diaphragm). I will imagine my stomach is a balloon. As I breathe in, I will blow my belly up like a balloon, pushing my hands out. I will let my breath fall out slowly through my lips in one long, smooth breath. I will take 5-10 breaths like this, blowing my belly up like a balloon with every breath in and letting the air out nice and slowly on each breath out.

As my mind distracts me from the task, I will bring my attention back to my breathing. It can help to notice the movement of the hands, the sensation of the breaths and to count out each deep breath in and out ‘In one….out one…in two…out two…’

Afterwards, I will notice what effect this breathing exercise has on me. I will notice how the heart slows down, how the body feels more still, the mind more calm.

When I am comfortable slowing my breathing down like this at an ordinary time, I will add ‘Balloon Breaths’ to my Personal Coping Kete as a way of coping with stress and distress. When I feel agitated or upset, I will be able to take a brief moment to do 5-10 balloon breaths and calm down my physical stress responses that make it difficult to think clearly and respond in a helpful way. By taking a moment to breathe deeply and fully, I will be able to clear my head a bit before I act on my emotions.

Balloon breathing is another way of thinking about diaphragmatic breathing.  Diaphragmatic breathing is a well-known strategy for calming physical stress responses and is a great base for any number of relaxation exercises like visualisation and sensory modulation.

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.