Keep calm and

carry on caring

2

Five more exercises that can support colleagues dealing with the stress and strain of the coronavirus crisis.

6.Space to Listen

 

The big challenge with listening is that we are usually so full of our own needs and thoughts that we don't have space inside us to truly listen. It helps to notice the ways we naturally avoid simply listening. We try to move away from another person's distress, to make things better or to fix or resolve things, to agree or share our own similar experiences. None of these things are wrong but they aren't listening. The exercise below will help you to create the inner space you need to listen deeply to another person. 

Exercise 6 - Create space to listen

Imagine yourself in an open space where you feel relaxed and safe - a hillside, a beach or even a cathedral. Take in every aspect of this space. Is it bright or dark? Is it still or is there a breeze? Can you hear anything, can you smell anything - the sound and smell of the sea perhaps? Make it as real as you can in your imagination.

 

Now bring to mind something that is difficult for you to hear or be with. Perhaps you don't like people who get angry or you prefer people not to be emotional and cry. Imagine one of these things in your open space.  Notice the impact that this has on how you feel. If it feels too uncomfortable imagine the space getting bigger until there is enough space for you to feel comfortable again. 

Remember what this space feels like and you can bring it to mind when you need to just listen to someone who needs to talk.

 

Exercise 7 - Arms and legs

Our fear and sadness are held in the core of our body. The arms and legs tend to be freer, more in the present moment. Try this. Feel the physical sensation of  your arms and legs, feet and hands.  If it helps, wiggle your fingers and toes. Notice whether your hands and feet are warm or cold, rough or soft, heavy or light. The key thing is to be in touch with the physical sensation of your hands and feet. Carry on feeling into your hands and feet, arms and legs for a few minutes whilst you breathe deeply. You will start to feel calmer and clearer. 

7. Sense your body

8. Find your Balance

 

We can hold tension in many parts of the body. When we are stiff we can feel off balance mentally and physically. This exercise helps us to check in with our whole body, releasing tension and helping us find stability. It is a great exercise to start the day with. You can do this alone or as a group.

Exercise 8 - Finding your balance

  • Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. 

  • Spend a few moments simply breathing, deeply and slowly into the belly.

  • As you breathe let your weight shift very slightly from one foot to the other in time with your breath

  • Slowly let the shift in weight grow until you are swaying gently from one side to the other in time with your breath.

  • Include your knees and hips in the movement in a way that is comfortable and stable for you.

  • Let your arms move freely with your movement

  • Now let your head and neck relax so that your whole body is included in the movement

  • Include the face, eyes, ears, mouth, tongue, forehead, chin so that they move with the rest of your body

  • Make a sound if you want to - groan or yodel.

  • Move freely as you feel comfortable for a minute or so

  • Slowly reduce the movement until you find yourself still and in balance.

  • Breathe for a few more moments.

9. It's OK to feel

Exercise 9 - Normalisation

When people are going through unusually tough times they need to know that their reaction is OK.  Sometimes when people share how they are feeling or what they are thinking they are really asking - "I'm an OK person to think/feel this aren't I?"  Don't be afraid to tell them - "Yes, it's perfectly normal to feel like this. Yes, any sane person would feel the way you do."

 

10. Process feelings

 

Sometimes we feel overwhelmed with emotion. We might feel sad or angry or afraid. The natural tendency is to want the emotion to go away and most of us are very good at suppressing our emotions, but suppression doesn't make an emotion go away. Suppressed emotions usually turn into physical symptoms or they erupt onto other people so that our bad day becomes their bad day too. Emotions need to be digested and the way we digest them is by really feeling their impact in a safe setting. If you are with someone who is struggling with a strong emotion the exercise below can help them digest it and move on. This exercise takes a lot of presence to be with another's strong emotion so make sure you are in a good place yourself before trying this. First attend to your own breathing and sense of inner space.​

Exercise 10 - Process feelings.

  • Start with deep slow breathing for a few minutes

  • Let the person talk - ask them to describe how they feel.

  • Most people will tell you a story that justifies why they feel the way they do. 

  • Ask, and how does that make you feel?

  • Listen for the main emotion - anger, fear, sadness etc. and check that you have understood what they are feeling.

  • Ask them to sense into their body to experience how the emotion feels.

  • Where is it in the body?, Does it feel hot or cold, large or small, sharp or blunt, dynamic or still etc?

  • Ask them to allow the feeling - there is no need to resist it or suppress it - just let yourself really feel it

  • Give them time to feel into their emotion.

  • If they cry or scream just be with them - don't try to change what they are feeling. Stay with your own breathing.

  • After a few minutes ask if there is anything else they want to say

  • People will often feel calmer and fresher with a sense of their own inner space

This page was compiled by Dave Corbet of Greengage Consulting Ltd based on advice from dozens of friends and colleagues (most of them therapists, counsellors or coaches)  including: Lin Brown, Jenny Bonada, John Farrer, Hilary Samson-Barry, James Hodgkinson, Linda Downey, Mo Ross, Candace Harris, Lisa Barrett, Sue Martin, Paul Hancock, Maya Vati Roberts, Jane Dallas Ross, Charles Forsythe, Angie Searle, Murray Corke, Jim Platts, Ruth Corbet and many, many others. The idea of the wallow room is based on Paul McGee's idea of Hippo time. Please feel free to use or distribute the material for any non commercial use and attribute the source in any way that helps. All images are from Unsplash.com

For more information or to give feedback contact Dave through the Greengage website.

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