How I Help Myself Now to Handle What’s Next

If I can become aware, in the moment, of what I am giving my attention to, what I am feeling, what I am thinking, and what physical sensations I am experiencing, and do so without judgment, I can use this information to help myself decide what would be most helpful for me to say or do next – or not say or not do.

ATTENTION

Self-hug“To what am I giving my attention right now?”

Here are ways to help myself become more aware of to what I am giving my attention:

FEELINGS

“What am I feeling right now?”
“On a scale of 1 to 10, what is the intensity of that feeling?”

Here are ways to help myself become more aware of what I am feeling, and to adjust the intensity of my feelings to a range that feels stable to me:

  • Identify and name my feelings using the Feelings Wheel or other online source.
  • Imagine an inner volume control on my feelings. Imagine myself matter-of-factly dialing down the volume if my feelings are ramped up too high for me to feel stable, or dialing up the volume if my feelings get so low that I feel unmotivated.

THOUGHTS

What am I thinking right now?

Here are ways to help myself become more aware of what I am thinking:

  • State my thoughts to myself in simple sentences: “I am thinking ___________.”
  • Imagine two piles for my thoughts, one pile for “helpful” and one pile for “unhelpful.” As I become aware of my thoughts, I name them “helpful” and “unhelpful” and mentally place them into one of the two piles.
  • While I might want to label my thoughts “good” or “bad,” “right or wrong,” “sensible” or “crazy” – and I might be right that they are one or the other! – I simply shift my attention to one question: “Is this thought ‘helpful’ or ‘unhelpful’?”
  • I acknowledge that my attention will be drawn to both piles. When my attention shifts to the “unhelpful” pile, I simply disengage my attention, shift it, and re-engage it with the “helpful” thoughts. No harm, no foul, no judgment, just disengage and shift.
  • I shift and re-shift my attention to the pile of helpful thoughts, rank order them in importance, and give my attention to the most important thoughts.

PHYSICAL SENSATIONS

What physical sensations am I experiencing right now?

Here are ways I can help myself become aware of the physical sensations I am experiencing, and separate them from what I am feeling, from what I am thinking, and from who I am:

  • I say to myself, “I am not what I am sensing.”
  • I do a quick body scan. I start with the top of my head, move through my body to my toes, and become aware of what is going on within my body.
  • I identify which parts of my body are feeling comfortable and which are feeling uncomfortable.
  • To help myself feel more comfortable and more stable, I consciously move or breathe.

Regardless of what is going on in my life, or what kind of distress or stress I might be experiencing, I can pause, become aware, and collect specific information about what’s going on with me. I can practice a few skills to kindly steady myself, then I can continue to take helpful, skillful action on my own behalf.

Photo: “Self-hug” of Casey Sapienza by Mia Sapienza

How I Help Myself Now to Handle What’s Next as a handout  (.pdf opens in new window)

Awareness Check-in

This post is part of a series.

The table of contents for the series is here and posts are published in the category entitled Guide.

The views expressed are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the positions of my employers, co-workers, clients, family members or friends. This content is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or professional advice. Consult a qualified health care professional for personalized medical and professional advice.

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