You will have picked up from my web site that taking action is a necessary part of making change. Safe experiments are a form of action. That said, the action does not have to be a 4-minute mile; it can be an ordinary thing such as time preparing a meal.
Actions can be small – not insignificant – and might last just a few seconds.
Even for ‘small’ actions, there can be a problem. Action is sometimes the last thing we want to take. When I feel depressed, I often lack the energy to direct effort to recommended strategies, e.g. exercise and engaging with other people. Our ‘head’ knows its the right thing to do, and the rest of our body couldn’t give a monkeys.
I am writing at the time of the public health crisis (April 2020) and the ‘lockdown’ makes some actions undesirable, e.g. getting out and about and meeting people. Fortunately, there are a number of practical steps you can take even in enforced isolation:
EXPERIMENT: One way to talk directly to your body, and the sensations it creates, is a process often referred to as ‘tapping’.
Tapping emerged from the Emotional Freedom Therapies (EFT) and the Meridian Therapies usually included under the general term Energy Psychology. There is some scepticism about Energy Psychology in the world of therapy but my view is: if it works, don’t knock it! If it seems not to work, don’t pack it in immediately as it can take an amount of time before we feel able to move on to something new.
A leading light in the UK, in this field, is Dr Phil Mollon, a practitioner who has interesting things to say about tapping. this approach is worth researching as it produces some visible results, for some people. This inclusion is not intended to be an advert or an endorsement. It is another avenue to explore; a way to seek knowledge and skills – to help ourselves develop your own technique in safe experimentation.
Keep in mind that small victories are easily missed and they may come from any quarter.
You can use tapping as a development of the Body Scan and the ‘just noticing’ experiments. The difference is that once you become aware of a negative thought, you can do something in addition to the affirmation work I have mentioned already.
Observation shows this experiment can reduce the symptoms of anxiety.
What you do is to tap the back of one hand with one or two fingers on the other hand. At the same time, he can AFFIRM yourself with a message in your head. Thus:
Copy this position approximately and then tapping gently and rhythmically just below the back of the (ring) finger, as illustrated. Repeat the affirmation:
“although I am feeling [name the feeling], I can still deeply and completely accept myself”
Bear in mind this may be difficult to take seriously at first. It may feel silly and embarrassing. Remember that ’embarrassed’ is a feeling and name THAT reaction. Continue, despite any discomfort, for a short period. There is an interesting saying coined by Dan Siegel: name it to tame it!! That is, some feelings are hidden and are best brought out into the open. Then they can look different!
Stop and engage the controlled breathing and use the body scan to notice your thoughts, feelings and sensations.
It is likely, with practice, that you will notice a reduction in negative feelings when you use the Subjective Unit of Discomfort (SUD) to measure changes, over time.
From this experience, you may find an the opportunity to revisit your characteristic feelings as well as some of your negative thoughts and to consider what steps need to be taken to change those beliefs.
A FURTHER EXPERIMENT
Design a chart to monitor some information about anxiety experiences.
|LIKELY SYMPTOMS||TIME/PLACE/DAY.WHO ARE YOU WITH?||WHAT IS THE SUD 0-10 AT THE TIME. WHAT SEEMS TO ALTER IT?||FACED WITH THE EXPERIENCE, WHAT IS YOUR NEG. BELIEF AT TIME and the VOC 1 – 7|
Use the columns to note who you were with, where you were and what was said or done. Use the Subjective Unit of Discomfort ( SUD) to measure the intensity of your feeling.
Then scan your thoughts and look for any negative belief associated with this experience, e.g. I’ll never get away from this horrid experience. Record that belief and note how strongly you believe it where 1 is not believing it hardly at all, and 7 where it appears to be an absolute certainty.
The scale you are now using below is another Validity of Cognition (VoC). As stated, it can help to identify just how large an obstacle the belief appears to be. Safe experiments will have to be designed differently according to the strength and character of those beliefs.
As you do the experiments, consider:
- in what way is my belief helping or hindering my behaviour and, as ever,
- what might I do differently?
- By the way, you can change some beliefs: some sit at the root of your opinions and all of us are entitled to change our minds as far as opinions are concerned. These root beliefs are called CORE BELIEFS in the cognitive behavioural model (CBT).
A further step you might wish to consider has come from my friend, the coaching specialist, Priya Rana Kapoor. She offers just such an activity that can be used in enforced isolation and in finding ways to structure our time. Take a look at:https://prkcoaching.com/blog/f/how-to-make-a-vision-board.
Her course may be relevant and help you identify some of the changes you want to identify.