We all have different ways of copingComparing ourselves to others often leads to despair when we only see the positive aspects of our peers and view ourselves negatively against them. When we do this, we may put ourselves down or blame ourselves for things that are not our responsibility. In reality, everybody copes with stress differently and the ways we cope with stress are not our fault.
Compassion through mindfulness and safe space imageryWhen our threat detection system (red in the diagram above) is triggered, our bodies prepare to fight, flee, or freeze. I like to imagine this system as being controlled by a little security guard who presses an alarm button when a threat is detected. When this alarm button is ‘pressed’, our breathing becomes shallow, our chest becomes tight, and even our digestive system slows down! In order to calm the security guard down, we need to activate our soothing system that is affiliated with feelings of reassurance and safety. To do this, Paul Gilbert emphasised the importance of feeling compassion for ourselves that can be cultivated through deep breathing and mindfulness.
MindfulnessIt is helpful to start by sitting comfortably in a chair with your feet flat against the floor.
- You can start deepening your breath using the technique above (four in, four hold, six out).
- Start to bring your awareness to the space around you, noticing any sounds or smells that can help you to ground yourself in the present moment
- Bring to mind a place that feels safe and welcoming, this place could be a cabin in a forest, a beachfront chalet or a mountain lodge.
- Bring your awareness to the details of this place, what do you see? Are there any smells? What are some sounds you may experience?
- Now imagine that the place itself takes joy in you being there. Allow yourself to feel how this place takes pleasure in you being there.
- Explore the feelings arising when you imagine this place, and whenever you are ready you can open your eyes.