• IdiotTheWise

C9. U4. S42. Or in other words - Improve The Moment.

Updated: Jul 17, 2020

I'm playing catch up with these sessions on the recordings rather than live sessions at the moment as I've been somewhat busy with life and another course in other other things. All good though. Therefore these next few entries will be very concise unless I go off on one of my boring rambles which I have not got the time for to be honest and no one wants to read my rambling madness to be even more honest.


Oh shit. I'm rambling already.


No class slides or things for this entry as I just listened audibly while working.


I will half inch some material though from the DBT site thingy if I need to. Dunno yet. Might delete, feel cheeky. (YoOoF talk).


Ok, lets be sensible. Ish. :


Let’s keep being honest then — life can be a real fucker.


Life is going well and things are feeling pretty good and then fucking wallop! Your life a car crash (sometimes literally).


That, however, is life. Tough shit. Rough with the smooth. Some of us have had more rough than smooth though, which makes life a tad more (or a fuck ton more) difficult to navigate due to neurological damage by trauma (abnormal cortisol release in the brain screwing things up and abnormally routed neuro path ways). That's a real SNAFU. It is for me. It's problematic.


How does one deal with the bollocks life can throw up at you and take it on the chin or at least a bit better than reacting like a jerk? I have been a real jerk. Guilty your honour. I have been hung drawn and quartered through character assaination by the self appointed judge, jury and executioners mind you. With out trial. But that's life!

Most people act impulsively. A few rare recall together people don't. All power to them.


I have been doing so, reacting impulsively, when not in a good "state of mind". Been doing it for ever, to my detriment.


People put their emotions before their logic when they face unexpected and overwhelming situations otherwise known as "triggers".







This can be very very extreme, especially when one has a very limited emotional tool box to draw upon.


Reacting emotionally, over emotionally or in my case and people like me with the same set of challenges, "kicking off" and melting down, really really really, is not the best option. It's a living hell. Horrific. If you are reading my blog, I suspect you have an idea of what I mean first hand or second hand. Either way, not fun.


So, people like me and perhaps you or your loved one who is unwell need a better ways to keep cool during surprising or frustrating circumstances. The melt downs. The fucking horrid, hellish, toxic melt downs.


We need to learn the emotional coping tools, the box of life skills tools we never learned as a child, teenager and young adult for whatever reasons. Yes, all of those phases. Hand in hand, more often than not.

A DBT skill called IMPROVE the Moment can help us manage these difficult emotions during stressful situations. Stress is what presses our crazy buttons.


If we can reduce the intensity of emotion, we can feel and be in far more control when life throws up these unexpected or even, expected SNAFU's This skill practice/technique legit helps and really does help me top keep my shit locked down when in the melt down zone and helps me, in fact, to avoid the melt down zone altogether.


I've completed this unit already and I have had time to practice this skill set and hone it for myself somewhat to fit in with how I live and how I roll. In fact, just last night I filled out an IMPROVE worksheet to help me get my head around a "thing"! Right away, after completing the worksheet, I felt lighter in my mind.


Here’s how it works…

IMPROVE is an acronym for strategies to improve your mental and emotional situation.


It stands for ( I ripped this bit from DBT path):

  • I: Imagery

  • M: Meaning

  • P: Prayer

  • R: Relaxation

  • O: One Thing in the Moment

  • V: Vacation

  • E: Encouragement







Imagery: Use your imagination to create a better situation than the one that you’re currently in. Transport yourself to a safe space in which everything will turn out okay. Visualize a soothing situation. Allow yourself to tap into the details of the image; imagine how you would feel different physically if you were present in the scene.

Meaning: Tap into what is most important to you in life. Consider what your values are, and shift your thoughts and actions so they are in line with those values. In addition, find a purpose or reason for what you are going through. What meaning can you find in your experience getting through previous crises?

Prayer: Prayer does not have to have a religious connotation. Reap the benefits of prayer by using mindfulness to focus on your presence in the world. You can use a mantra, a quote or even a song lyric to ground you in the moment when you're feeling troubled. Connect to something greater and open yourself up to the moment.

Relaxation: Relaxation helps reduce the bodily tension often associated with emotional distress. To shift out of the painful moment, try deep breathing, stretching, or progressive muscle relaxation. Help your body feel more comfortable and calm. When your body is calm, you mind will likely feel calm as well.

One Thing in the Moment: Using mindfulness to deliberately focus on just one thing at a time can be a powerful way to slow down your thoughts. Tune in to the present and focus on your breath in this moment, your sensations in this moment, your thoughts in this moment, etc. Letting go of the past and worries about the future can help you refocus your energy on the task at hand.

Vacation: A vacation does not need to be an actual trip. It can be a brief break from your regular routine. Break out of your typical schedule for an afternoon to do something that you haven't done in a while. Whether it's meeting friends, walking outside, or taking a long, hot shower, this mini vacation allows you to escape your thoughts and enjoy.

Encouragement: Be honest with yourself and provide realistic, yet hopeful encouragement in order to get through a difficult time. For example, remind yourself that the emotions you are experiencing are temporary and that you have gotten through times like this in the past. Or, tell yourself, “This too shall pass.” Keep your focus on the positive consequences that lie ahead and direct your thoughts on a healthy track.

Capeesh?



IMPROVE the Moment can be quite valuable when dealing with those SNAFU's and FUBAR's in life, those sneaky little uninvited problems that fuck with our emotions. Stress. Coping with stress.


There are loads of strategies involved with this skill, so find the strategy that works best for you. I found my way through trial and error and now I have a go to worksheet and journal system that works for me, sweet as a nut. Really helpful.


The goal is to learn to deal with difficult emotions more effectively, to cope with stress and overloads effectively and therefore not meltdown, act out and kick off at others or inwardly. It's so so soooo important to get to grips with this bit of dealing with BPD/PTSD and other similar and related conditions. It's key, in order to be able to delve deeper into ones self to REALLY start the shadow work. AND! Very importantly, not to hurt those around you and drive them away.


Trust. Me. ⬆⬆


Take note of how have you generally dealt with crises in the past, and see if these strategies, these IMPROVE skills can better those negative coping skills.


It’s important to let go of old habits if they are not beneficial and especially important if they are toxic. Vital to let them go and change that shit up.


We, us emotionally challenged folk, need to establish new coping strategies that are more likely to lead to positive and healthy results, a happier life, integrity and dignity and an end to self sabotage.


I write this blog entry with an absolutely genuine palpable heavy heart, knowing my losses due to my mental illness and the fact that it has taken me so long to get to this point in my life with my new found journey of learning, healing and recovery. I have had had periods of recovery from mental illness in the past and therefore periods of being "okay" and functioning. To cut a potential long ramble short, I so wish that someone along the way in the past had offered me the opportunity to engage in DBT properly and learn the insights and the skills instead of the watered down and sometimes fantastical bullshit that was offered up as "therapy". It wasn't.


It would have saved me years and years of pain, heart ache and loss.


So, if you are dipping your toes in or just toying with the idea of DBT for BPD particularly, please, take my advice and take the opportunity and get on the DBT journey. Other healing journey's can be done hand in hand or after. DBT is the place to "begin" the shadow work.


On a lighter note, I am grateful I am on this DBT road, now hand in hand with some other healing good shit that without getting some basic emotional things locked down, wouldn't be happening and I wouldn't really understand or "get".


I hope I make some kind of coherent sense! ( I cant be arsed to proof read this. It's said and done.)



Anyway, see ya!


M.


(oh, and watch these yo....) ⬇⬇











Update:


More IMPROVE shizzle, totally ripped my you ......



Note:


Okay, these things or at least an example of one model of IMPROVE worksheets that are very cool and I find actually help clear and unclutter the mind:


IMPROVE THE MOMENT WORKSHEET ADVANCED DISTRESS TOLERANCE SKILLS

IMAGERY


1. WHEN RUMINATING ABOUT THE PAST      a.  Remember & LIST times/things you did you're proud of or at which you were successful. _____________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________________________      b.  Remember & LIST any good memories or people from your past who were kind/helpful.  ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________    c. Safe Place (describe) ___________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ ________________________________________________________________________ FLASHBACKS a. When having flashbacks, imagine each memory:    -  being encased in a balloon and, when you pop the balloon, the flashback explodes.    -  being encased in a piñata.  When you break the piñata, what will come out of it?          _____________________________________________________________________      b.  When having flashbacks:

     1.  Imagine yourself shrinking the images and memories that come into your head and then picking them up and putting them in a tiny box & burning it or in a bottle. 

     2.  Imagine changing the colors in the images to black & white.      3.  Imagine making the images out of focus or turning them upside down.      4.  Imagine turning the volume down or increasing the speed to chipmunk speed.      c. When having flashbacks:

           - Imagine yourself surrounded by the police, army, or whatever forces you need to be in control of this memory and make things happen in your imagination the way you wished it could have happened years ago. Who would you bring with you & what would they do? ______________________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________________________________________

2. WHEN RUMINATING ABOUT THE FUTURE      a.  Play the positive 'What if?' Game and imagine good things happening.

  -  What if ___________________________________________[something good] happened?   -  What if _______________________________[everything turned out better than I hoped]?   -  Ask what am I able to do now? What is needed? Let go of the impossible.      b. IMAGINE  (Yourself as a superhero able to 'save the day' and vanquish all the bad guys).

   - What super powers would you have? _________________________________________.    - What would your 'Super' name be? __________________________________________.    - What kind of costume would you wear? _______________________________________.      c. What if you over-extended your catastrophizing & imagined adding lots of silly things to the story your mind is trying to tell you?      d.  What if your wildest & best fantasy came true?  What would happen?  MEANING 1.   WHY IS THERE SUFFERING?        a.  What do you believe about suffering?  Does it have a meaning? A purpose? _________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________ _________________________________________________________________________

Remember that by trying to find positive things about our distress, we are not denying that things are bad, or trying to say that distressing things are not distressing. We are trying to Improve the Moment, to find some things that help us feel better in the moment.? Lisa Dietz 2.   HISTORICAL EXAMPLES:

     a. Holocaust, Jews given homeland after almost 2,000 years.  Victor Frankl.      b. Depression, FDIC created, beautiful buildings, learned to live simply. 3. EVERYDAY EXAMPLES:

     a. Are you seeing something more clearly? Have you learned something?      b. Has this brought you closer to anyone or finally ended a toxic relationship?      c. Has this encouraged you to use your DBT Skills more? PRAY 1. WITH WORDS

       a.  Why me prayer?  Do this now and see how you feel: _____________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________       

b.  Distress prayer.  Beg for help or release?  Do this now and see how you feel: ___________ ____________________________________________________________________________

Acceptance prayer. Ask for the courage & peace to accept and acknowledge what is.   Do  this now and see how you feel? __________________________________________________________   __________________________________________________________________________

2. List examples of when your 'higher power' has entered your life & answered your prayers or the prayers of someone you know.  ____________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________




IMPROVE_THE_MOMENT_WORKSHEET
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Download DOC • 61KB




RELAX 1. WHY?

     a. You'll be able to focus & concentrate better.

2. HOW?     

a. Progressive Relaxation      b. Abdominal Breathing (breathe out first)      c. Use all the self-soothing skills.      d. Is there a problem that could be solved now?


3. Accepting with the body can help accepting with the mind. ONE THING AT A TIME 1. BE ONLY IN ONE TIME PERIOD AT A TIME

     a. Be present 'NOW'.  Being in the 'now' allows you to let go of anger, shame, worry?      b. Let go of the past and future, ruminating increases suffering.  Exercise instead.      c. Use grounding skills when distressed.  (1) Sing a song & stay with each note & word.  (2) Balance egg on short side  (3) Memorize something important to you.  (4) Count all the squares, triangles, rectangles, circles within your vision.  (5) Count all the red, blue, yellow, green, orange, brown, black, purple items you can see.  (6) Choose a random object, like a paperclip, and try to list 20-30 possible/crazy uses for it.      d.  Do Body Sensations Mindfulness      e.  Do Inside/Outside and Urge/Action Mindfulness Exercises      f.  Sit and listen to 'now'. VACATION 1. MINI BREAKS     

a.  Pick the right time, not when you must meet a deadline.      b.  Make them 5-10 minutes.      c.  Don't take too many vacations at once.      d.  Do what you would suggest your best friend should do. Be kind to yourself.

2. Take a vacation from adulthood.     

a. Get another to take over your duties short term.      b. Time out to regroup.      c. Plan in advance how & when & who will help.      d. Avoidance = chaos (running away vs. planning vacation).

ENCOURAGEMENT 1. CHEERLEADING STATEMENTS

a. I can do it. Say to yourself what you'd say to encourage another.  b.  I can win. 2. REMEMBER CHEERLEADERS DON'T YELL:

     a. You 'might' do it.      b.  You'll probably lose, but it won't hurt to try. 3. BELOW ARE SOME GOOD AFFIRMATIONS TO READ TO YOURSELF WHEN DISCOURAGED?


This situation won't last forever.

I've already been through many other painful experiences, and I've survived.

This too shall pass.

My feelings make me uncomfortable right now, but I can accept them.

I can be anxious and still deal with the situation.

I'm strong enough to handle what's happening to me right now.

This is an opportunity for me to learn how to cope with my fears.

I can ride this out and not let it get to me.

I can take all the time I need right now to let go and relax.

I've survived other situations like this before, and I'll survive this too.

My anxiety/fear/sadness won't kill me; it just doesn't feel good right now.

My anxiety/fear/sadness won't kill me; it just doesn't feel good right now.

These are just my feelings, and eventually they'll go away.

It's okay to feel sad/anxious/afraid sometimes.

My thoughts don't control my life. I do.

I can think different thoughts if I want to.

I'm not in danger right now.

So what?! This situation sucks, but it's only temporary.

I'm strong and I can deal with this.

I am a valuable and important person, and I'm worthy of the respect of others.

I am my own expert, and I allow others the same privilege.

I can express my ideas, and others need to respect my point of view.

I am aware of my value system and confident of the decisions I make based on my current awareness.

I am doing the best I can.

I have a positive expectancy of reaching my goals, after all, I've gotten thing far against all odds and I am not willing to give up the good fight.

I have pride in my past performance and a positive expectancy of the future.

I do many things deserving of compliments even though it is hard to hear them.

I feel warm and loving toward myself, for I am a unique and precious being, ever doing the best my awareness permits, ever growing in wisdom and love.

I am actively in charge of my life and direct it in constructive channels.


That is why I come to therapy and DBT Skills group.


My primary responsibility is for my own growth and well being (the better I feel about myself, the more willing and able I am to help others.)

I am my own authority (and I am not affected by negative opinions or attitudes of others.)

It is not what happens to me, but how I handle it, that determines my emotional well being.

I'm a success to the degree that I feel warm and loving toward myself.

No one in the entire world is more or less worthy, more or less important, than I.

I count my blessings and rejoice in my growing awareness.

I am an action person; I do first things first and one thing at a time.

I am warm and friendly toward all I contact; I treat everyone with consideration and respect.


I am kind, compassionate and gentle with myself.


Note:


I have lived most of my life full of self hatred and shame. Learning these mantras above and beginning to believe them and actually practicing this stuff is LIFE CHANGING!





PANIC LIST FOR DISTRESS TOLERANCE


Believe it or not, even the worst or most ridiculous of the suggestions below that sound stupid usually help a little, and the best skill of all is to wait 15 minutes, and then ask yourself if you can wait another 15 minutes, and so forth.


WHEN YOU FEEL ANGRY, FRUSTRATED, RESTLESS


Squeeze ice hard (this really hurts).

Put ice on a spot you want to harm.

Bite into a hot pepper or chew a piece of ginger root.

Rub liniment or Vicks Vapor Rub under your nose.

Take a cold bath/shower.

Scream or scream-sing your favorite song.

Stomp your feet on the ground'a lot.

Cover your arms with a layer of Elmer's glue and let it dry (or dry it with a hairdryer if you are impatient). Slowly, gradually pick the glue off your skin.

Try to balance an egg on its short side.

Memorize a poem or prayer or Scripture.

Flatten aluminum cans for recycling, seeing how fast your can go.

Rip an old newspaper or phone book apart. 

Shred documents one-by-one.

Throw ice against a brick wall.

Crank up the music and dance.

Stomp around in heavy shoes.


WHEN YOU FEEL DEPRESSED, SAD, MELANCHOLY, UNHAPPY


Use self-soothing skills.

Research something that interests you on the web.

Write in your journal answering these questions:Why do I feel I need to hurt myself? What has brought me to this point?Have I been here before? What did I do one time that made me feel better?What would I wish I had done four hours from now?


Make a list of the things you are grateful for.

Start with the easy things. You might want to begin with "I'm grateful for my non-toothache." Then go wild.  "I'm thankful that I can walk" or whatever is appropriate to you.


WHEN YOU FEEL OVERWHELMED OR OBSESSED WITH NEGATIVE THOUGHTS


When you are 'triggered', often that younger part of you becomes present and is unaware that it is now 2020.  

Doing something that focuses on child-like needs and behaviors often is exactly what is needed. Watch a funny or cartoon movie. Watch a children's program. Color in a coloring book. Go outside and swing, play on monkey-bars, ride a skate-board, 'play'. Find an old photo of yourself and create a fanciful and fun story about that child.  Spend time developing that part of the story in which your character finds answers to life's problems and discovers the gateway into 'fun'.



aaaaaand......


Fuck it. This next lot is ripped from one of my DBT workbooks and i want to share it (with permission granted) as it's really cool stuff and this is what i am about to embark on all over again. And I'll keep doing it over and over until I master it.


Wipe on, wipe off.



The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook, 1st Edition


Chapter 2


Advanced Distress Tolerance Skills: Improve the Moment


In the last chapter, you learned many important skills that you can use in a crisis. These skills will distract you from painful situations and then help you soothe yourself and relax so that you can deal with the situation in a more effective way. Remember, your plan for handling a crisis is to distract, relax, and cope.


Now that you’ve been practicing the distress tolerance skills from the last chapter, you’ll be ready for the advanced distress tolerance skills found in this chapter. These techniques will help you feel more empowered when you encounter painful situations in the future, and they’ll help you build a more relaxing and fulfilling life for yourself.

After trying each technique, mark the ones that are helpful so you can identify them later.


Safe-Place Visualization


Safe-place visualization is a powerful stress-reduction technique. Using it, you can soothe yourself by imagining a peaceful, safe place where you can relax. The truth is, your brain and body often can’t tell the difference between what’s really happening to you and what you’re just imagining. So if you can successfully create a peaceful, relaxing scene in your thoughts, your body will often respond to those soothing ideas.


Make sure you conduct this exercise in a quiet room where you’ll be free from distractions. Turn off your phone, television, and radio. Tell the people in your home, if there are any, that you can’t be disturbed for the next twenty minutes. Allow yourself the time and the freedom to relax. You deserve it. Read the following directions before you begin. If you feel comfortable remembering them, close your eyes and begin the visualization exercise. Or, if you would prefer, use an audio-recording device to record the directions for yourself. Read them aloud using a slow, soothing voice. Then close your eyes and listen to the guided visualization you created.


Before you begin the exercise, think of a real or imaginary place that makes you feel safe and relaxed. It can be a real place that you’ve visited in the past, such as the beach, a park, a field, a church/temple, your room, and so on. Or it can be a place that you’ve completely made up, such as a white cloud floating in the sky, a medieval castle, or the surface of the moon. It can be anywhere. If you have trouble thinking of a place, think of a color that makes you feel relaxed, such as pink or baby blue. Just do your best. In the exercise, you’ll be guided through exploring this place in more detail. But before you begin, make sure you already have a place in mind, and remember—thinking of it should make you feel safe and relaxed.


Complete the following sentences about your safe place before beginning the visualization:


·               My safe place is ___________

·               My safe place makes me feel ___________


Instructions


To begin, sit in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands resting comfortably, either on the arms of the chair or in your lap. Close your eyes. Take a slow, long breath in through your nose. Feel your belly expand like a balloon as you breathe in. Hold it for five seconds: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Then release it slowly through your mouth. Feel your belly collapse like a balloon losing its air. Again, take a slow, long breath in through your nose and feel your stomach expand. Hold it for five seconds: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Then exhale slowly through your mouth. One more time: take a slow, long breath in through your nose and feel your stomach expand. Hold it for five seconds: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Then exhale slowly through your mouth. Now begin to take slow, long breaths without holding them, and continue to breathe smoothly for the rest of this exercise.


Now, with your eyes closed, imagine that you enter your safe place using all of your senses to ground yourself in the scene.


First, look around using your imaginary sense of sight. What does this place look like? Is it daytime or nighttime? Is it sunny or cloudy? Notice the details. Are you alone or are there other people or animals? What are they doing? If you’re outside, look up and notice the sky. Look out at the horizon. If you’re inside, notice what the walls and the furniture look like. Is the room light or dark? Choose something soothing to look at. Then continue looking for a few seconds using your imaginary sense of sight.


Next, use your imaginary sense of hearing. What do you hear? Do you hear other people or animals? Do you hear music? Do you hear the wind or the ocean? Choose something soothing to hear. Then listen for a few seconds using your imaginary sense of hearing.


Then use your imaginary sense of smell. If you’re inside, what does it smell like? Does it smell fresh? Do you have a fire burning that you can smell? Or, if you’re outside, can you smell the air, the grass, the ocean, or the flowers? Choose to smell something soothing in your scene. Then take a few seconds to use your imaginary sense of smell.


Next, notice if you can feel anything with your imaginary sense of touch. What are you sitting or standing on in your scene? Can you feel the wind? Can you feel something you’re touching in the scene? Choose to touch something soothing in your scene. Then take a few seconds to use your imaginary sense of touch.


Last, use your imaginary sense of taste. Are you eating or drinking anything in this scene? Choose something soothing to taste. Then take a few seconds to use your imaginary sense of taste.


Now take a few more seconds to explore your safe place using all of your imaginary senses. Recognize how safe and relaxed you feel here. Remember that you can come back to this place in your imagination whenever you need to feel safe and relaxed. You can also come back whenever you’re feeling sad, angry, restless, or in pain. Look around one last time to remember what it looks like.


Now keep your eyes closed and return your focus to your breathing. Again, take some slow, long breaths in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Then, when you feel ready, open your eyes and return your focus to the room.


Cue-Controlled Relaxation


Cue-controlled relaxation is a quick and easy technique that will help you reduce your stress level and muscle tension. A cue is a trigger or command that helps you relax. In this case, your cue will be a word, like “relax” or “peace.” The goal of this technique is to train your body to release muscle tension when you think about your cue word. Initially, you’ll need the help of the guided instructions to help you release muscle tension in different sections of your body. But after you’ve been practicing this technique for a few weeks, you’ll be able to relax your whole body at one time simply by taking a few slow breaths and thinking about your cue word. With practice, this can become a very quick and easy technique to help you relax. Before you begin, choose a cue word that will help you relax.


1.            My cue word is ___________

To begin this exercise, you’ll need to find a comfortable chair to sit in. Later, after you’ve practiced this exercise for a few weeks, you’ll be able to do it wherever you are, even if you’re standing. You’ll also be able to do it more quickly. But to begin, choose a comfortable place to sit in a room where you won’t be disturbed. Make sure you’ll be free from distractions. Turn off your phone, television, and radio. Tell the people in your home, if there are any, that you can’t be disturbed for the next twenty minutes. Allow yourself the time and the freedom to relax. You deserve it. Read the following directions before you begin. If you feel comfortable remembering them, close your eyes and begin the relaxation exercise. Or, if you would prefer, use an audio-recording device to record the directions for yourself. Then close your eyes and listen to the guided relaxation technique that you created.


Instructions


To begin, sit in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor and your hands resting comfortably, either on the arms of the chair or in your lap. Close your eyes. Take a slow, long breath in through your nose. Feel your belly expand like a balloon as you breathe in. Hold it for five seconds: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Then release it slowly through your mouth. Feel your belly collapse like a balloon losing its air. Again, take a slow, long breath in through your nose and feel your stomach expand. Hold it for five seconds: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Then exhale slowly through your mouth. One more time: take a slow, long breath in through your nose and feel your stomach expand. Hold it for five seconds: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Then exhale slowly through your mouth. Now begin to take slow, long breaths without holding them, and continue to breathe smoothly for the rest of this exercise.


Now, with your eyes still closed, imagine that a white beam of light shines down from the sky like a bright laser and lands on the very top of your head. Notice how warm and soothing the light makes you feel. This could be a light from God, the universe, or whatever power makes you feel comfortable. As you continue to breathe smoothly, taking slow, long breaths, notice how the light makes you feel more and more relaxed as it continues to shine on the top of your head. Now, slowly, the warm, white light begins to spread over the top of your head like soothing water. And as it does, the light begins to loosen any muscle tension that you’re feeling on the top of your head. Slowly the light begins to slide down your body, and as it moves across your forehead, all the muscle tension there is released. Then the white light continues down past your ears, the back of your head, your eyes, nose, mouth, and chin, and it continues to release any tension you’re holding there. Notice how pleasantly warm your forehead feels. Now, slowly, imagine that the light begins to move down your neck and over your shoulders, releasing any muscle tension. Then the light slowly proceeds down both of your arms and the front and back of your torso. Feel the muscles in your upper and lower back release. Notice the soothing sensation of the white light as it moves across your chest and stomach. Feel the muscles in your arms release as the light moves down to your forearm and then across both sides of your hands to your fingertips. Now notice the light moving down through your pelvis and buttocks and feel the tension being released. Again, feel the light move like soothing water across your upper and lower legs until it spreads across both the upper and lower surfaces of your feet. Feel all of the tension leaving the muscles of your body as the white light makes your body feel warm and relaxed.


Continue to notice how peaceful and calm you feel as you continue to take slow, long, smooth breaths. Observe how your stomach continues to expand as you inhale, and feel it deflate as you exhale. Now, as you continue breathing, silently think to yourself “breathe in” as you inhale, and then silently think your cue word as you exhale. (If your cue word is something other than “relax,” use that word in the following instructions.) Slowly inhale and think: “breathe in.” Slowly exhale and think: “relax.” As you do, notice your entire body feeling relaxed at the same time. Feel all the muscle tension in your body being released as you focus on your cue word. Again, inhale and think: “breathe in.” Exhale and think: “relax.” Notice your entire body releasing any muscle tension. Again, inhale … “breathe in.” Exhale … “relax.” Feel all the tension in your body releasing.


Continue breathing and thinking these words at your own pace for several minutes. With each breath, notice how relaxed your entire body feels. When your mind begins to wander, return your focus to the words “breathe in” and “relax.”

Practice the cue-controlled relaxation technique twice a day, and record how long it takes you to feel relaxed. With daily practice, this technique should help you relax more quickly each time. Again, remember that the ultimate goal of this technique is to train your entire body to relax simply when you think of your cue word, such as “relax.” This will only come with regular practice. Initially, you might also have to think of the white-light imagery and engage in slow, deep breathing to help yourself relax. But with practice this technique can help you relax in many distressing situations. You can also combine this exercise with the previous safe-place visualization. Engaging in cue-controlled relaxation first will help you feel even more safe and calm in that visualization process.


Rediscover Your Values


The word “values” can be defined as your ethics, principles, ideals, standards, or morals. These are literally the ideas, concepts, and actions that fill your life with worth and importance. Remembering what you value in life can be a very powerful way to help you tolerate a stressful situation. It can also be particularly helpful when you find yourself upset over and over again in the same situation or with the same person. Sometimes we forget why we’re doing something that’s hard, and this makes it difficult for us to continue. Maybe you have a job that you don’t like and you wonder why you keep going to work. Perhaps you’re going to school, and you don’t remember what your goals are. Or maybe you’re in a relationship that isn’t fulfilling, and you wonder why you keep maintaining that relationship. In cases like these, remembering what you value can help you tolerate stressful situations and also help you create a more fulfilling life for yourself. Use the following exercises to explore what you value in life.


Exercise: Valued Living Questionnaire


This first exercise will ask you to identify how you value ten different components of your life using the Valued Living Questionnaire (Wilson, 2002; Wilson & Murrell, 2004). As you read each component, ask yourself how important each of these areas is to your life—regardless of how much time or effort you now put into fulfilling the needs of that area. For example, maybe you highly value “self-care” regardless of the fact that you devote little time to it. Rate the importance of each component on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being not important at all and 10 being extremely important.

Do your best to rate them honestly, according to your own true feelings, not to what you think you should rate them. You’ll then use your responses to the Valued Living Questionnaire in the following exercise, which will help you move toward engaging in what you value.


Exercise: Committed Action


This next exercise will help you create a more fulfilling life for yourself by formulating intentions and committed actions based on your values (Olerud & Wilson, 2002). Maybe you already dedicate a lot of time to the components of your life that you value, or maybe you don’t. Either way, this exercise will help you think about ways to make your life feel more fulfilling based on what you think is important.


First, using the Valued Living Questionnaire, identify the components of your life that you rated between 5 and 10, from moderately important to extremely important. Then fill in the names of those areas on the Committed Action Worksheet that follows the questionnaire. (Make additional photocopies of this worksheet if you need more space.)

Next, identify one intention for each of those valued components, which will help make your life feel more fulfilling. For example, if you rated education highly, maybe your intention would be “to go back to school.” Or if you rated romantic relationships highly, maybe your intention would be “to spend more time with my spouse or partner.”

Then, finally, identify several actions you are willing to commit to doing that will move you toward your intention. Also, note when you’re willing to begin that commitment. For example, if your intention is to go back to school, the actions you list might include “getting a catalog of classes next week” and “signing up for a class within the next three weeks.” If your intention is to spend more time with your spouse, your committed actions might include “not working overtime for the next month” and “spending less time with friends for the next two weeks.”


Again, the purpose of these exercises is to fill your life with activities that are important to you. Creating a life that you value can often help you deal with other situations that are distressing and less desirable. Having a fulfilling life can give you something to look forward to when you’re doing something you don’t like, and it can make you feel stronger during times of distress.


Identify Your Higher Power … and Make Yourself Feel More Powerful


Whether you believe in one God, many gods, a divine universe, or the goodness that exists within each human being, having faith in something bigger and more powerful than yourself can often make you feel empowered, safe, and calm. This is what people mean when they talk about believing in a “higher power” or seeing “the big picture” in life. Believing in something divine, holy, or special can help you endure stressful situations as well as help you soothe yourself.


At some point in life, we all feel hopeless or powerless. We’ve all experienced unfortunate situations during which we felt alone and needed strength. Sometimes unexpected circumstances hurt us or the people we care about. These situations often include being the victim of a crime, getting into an accident, having someone close to us die, or being diagnosed with a serious illness. Having faith in something special during times like these can often help you feel connected to a bigger purpose in life. And remember, your faith doesn’t have to involve God if that’s not what you believe in. Some people only put their faith in the goodness of the people they love. Yet basic beliefs like these are often powerful enough to help people find the strength and comfort to lead happy, healthy lives.


While you’re exploring your spirituality, remember that your spiritual beliefs can change over time. Sometimes a person is raised in a spiritual tradition that no longer makes sense or feels helpful. Yet, despite these feelings, a person will sometimes continue to attend the services of that tradition because he or she thinks “it’s the right thing to do.” The truth is, if your spiritual tradition is no longer giving you peace and strength, it’s okay to reexamine that faith and to change traditions if necessary.


Connect to Your Higher Power


Use the following questions to help you identify your beliefs and to identify some ways in which you can strengthen and use your beliefs on a regular basis:


·               What are some of your beliefs about a higher power or a big picture that give you strength and comfort? ___________

·               Why are these beliefs important to you? ___________

·               How do these beliefs make you feel? ___________

·               How do these beliefs make you think about others? ___________

·               How do these beliefs make you think about life in general? ___________

·               How do you acknowledge your beliefs throughout your daily life? For example, do you go to church, synagogue, or temple? Do you pray? Do you talk to other people about your beliefs? Do you read books about your beliefs? Do you help other people? ___________

·               What else would you be willing to do in order to strengthen your beliefs? ___________

·               What can you do to remind yourself of your beliefs on a regular basis? ___________

·               What can you say or do to remind yourself of your beliefs the next time you’re feeling distressed? ___________


Exercise: Higher-Power Activities


Here are some additional activities to help you feel more connected to your higher power, the universe, and the big picture. Check () the ones that you’re willing to do:


·               _____If you do believe in the teachings of a particular religion or faith, find related activities that make you feel more empowered and calm. Go to your church, synagogue, or temple for services. Talk to the man or woman who runs your services. Talk to other members of your faith about how they’ve handled difficult experiences. Join discussion groups formed at your place of worship. Read the books that are important to your faith. Find passages that give you strength, and mark them or copy them to keep with you in your wallet or purse so you can read them no matter where you are.


·               _____Remember that your higher power can also be something other than God. Your higher power can be a person who makes you feel stronger and more confident to deal with the challenges that you face. Think of someone you admire who can be your higher power. Describe that person. What makes that person special? Then, the next time you’re in a difficult or distressing situation, act as if you are that person, and notice how you handle the situation differently.


·               _____Look up at the stars. The light you’re seeing is millions of years old, and it has traveled from stars that are billions of miles away. In fact, each time you look up at the stars, you’re looking through a time machine and seeing the universe as it looked billions of years ago. Strangely, many of the stars you’re looking at have already died, but their light is just reaching your eyes on the Earth. Look up at the stars and recognize that whatever created them also created you, whether it was God or a cosmic accident. You are connected to the stars. Imagine yourself connecting with the universe. Sit in a comfortable chair, close your eyes, and imagine a white beam of light shining down from the universe. Like a laser beam, the white light shines on the top of your head and fills you with a feeling of peace. Now imagine the white light spreading all over your body, relaxing every muscle. Now imagine your legs stretching down through the floor like giant tree trunks, going all the way down into the center of the Earth. Imagine these roots tapping into the energy that drives the planet. Feel your body fill with confidence

as your legs absorb the golden energy flowing up from the Earth.


·               _____Think about our planet Earth. Water is the most important substance for sustaining life on our planet. Yet if we were much closer to the sun, all the water on our planet would evaporate because the temperature would be too hot, and if we were much farther away, all the water would freeze because the temperature would be too cold. Somehow, we’ve been lucky enough to be in just the right place for life to form. Even if you don’t believe in a religious purpose, ask yourself what it means that you live on a planet with just the right climate and elements for life to exist. How did this happen, and what does it mean about your life?


·               _____Go to the beach. Try to count the grains in a handful of sand. Now try to imagine how many handfuls of sand there are in the world, on all the beaches and in all the deserts. Try to imagine how many billions of years must have passed to create so many grains of sand. And again, recognize that the chemical elements that make up the sand also exist in you. Stand with your feet in the sand and imagine feeling connected to the planet.

·               _____Go to a park or to a field and observe the trees, the grass, and the animals. Again, recognize that whatever created all of that also created you. Remember that all living things are made of the same chemical elements. On a subatomic scale, there isn’t much difference between you and many other life forms. Yet you are still different and special. What is it that makes you unique from other life?


·               _____Think about the human body, especially your own. Each human being is more wonderful than a piece of artwork and more complex than any computer ever invented. Everything about you is largely determined by your DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid), the instructions that are found in every cell of your body. Yet amazingly, each set of instructions that creates every part of your body is composed of just four chemical elements that are repeated in different combinations. These different combinations are called genes, and these are the instructions you inherit from your parents that determine everything from your eye color to the structure of your heart. Incredibly, it only takes an estimated thirty to forty thousand genes to design a human being. Imagine trying to write so few instructions in order to create a body that thinks, breathes, eats, moves, and does everything else you do. Plus, remember that this same number of instructions is also responsible for creating approximately 100 billion neurons in your brain, 60,000 miles (!) of blood vessels throughout your body, 600 skeletal muscles, 206 bones, 32 teeth, and 11 pints of blood.


Ttake a Time-Out