Blowing Anxiety Away - Distress Acceptance

Last week, we discovered Distress Intolerance and through your feedback we can again highlight that mental health is more of a spectrum. Many of you said that you use the different types of avoidance and numbing to deal with difficult or ‘distressing’ situations and emotions. The last time you suffered grief from the loss of a loved one or an end in a relationship, did you use avoidance and numbing techniques? Got Drunk? Watched a favourite film?
More proof that we all have mental health, just different levels at different times. It is a spectrum.

This week, we look at how to accept distress and pain. Kind of…

Also, Red bull Tropical is the best thing since sliced bread. I am not being paid to say that but if they would like to send me a free tray or two, I wouldn’t say no… :P #worthatry

Before me move on to this week’s group therapy I wanted to explore some politics. I’ve been rather light on Politics since the General Election but I wanted to explore an article by Jon Henley in The Guardian newspaper. In the article he reports on a survey carried out by the newspaper
A Guardian website survey received more than 1,200 responses from European citizens, a large majority of whom were in the process of changing nationality or citizenship, or considering doing so. Many expressed concern that without dual nationality, an “out” vote in Britain’s membership referendum could make life as an EU citizen in the UK, or as a UK citizen in the EU, far more problematic. 
 My maternal heritage is English/British but my paternal side is Swiss. At this time I only hold a Swiss Passport and ID card despite the fact I have only ever lived and worked in the UK – just like my Father. My Father, I believe, is not entitled to a UK passport as his parents were Swiss, but I do have dual nationality. Is it worth me going through the forms and interviews to get a UK passport? As we head towards our referendum on this topic, I would ask you read his article and look at what we (the UK) will lose by leaving the EU.
 “It doesn’t feel great, to be honest,” she (a Danish national resident in the UK for many years) said. “Paying all that money to join a club you’re already a member of, that you enjoy all the benefits of, and that feels like it’s not super-keen to have you. I thought I’d already done all I had to do, but no.” 
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This week we looked at Distress Acceptance. I am sceptical person. I’m normally the pessimist but every step of my mental health journey I’ve try to enter with a “what have I got to lose” and “I’ll try anything once” level of optimism. Each week I’ve left learning or discovering something and with something tangible to apply to myself or my programming or just to life. This week I feel frustrated at what feels a bit ‘arty farty’ and hippy. This week, we learnt that we have to accept how we feel. This week, we need to work on observing how we feel and letting it pass into mindfulness.

Imagine a sky and each cloud is that emotion or distressing feeling. Mindfulness, with practise and patience, does work. I have used it the past week to help separate myself from the pit of emotions I fester in. For instance, when something at work angers or frustrates me that could trigger my plunge into the pit of my emotions where it festers into all those self-loathing emotions I’ve written about before. Yet with mindfulness, I disconnect from that pit and lock myself into the here and now before slowing coming back to reality. It works. The bit I feel wound up about is adding in observing our emotions. Our homework is to write a script and so I will share it with you. Imagine it as a To-Do list or ‘Yellow Alert’ programme for when something triggers or starts to distress you. Imagine looking from the top of a hill. The blue sky and the white clouds. Each cloud is an emotion. As the cloud passes we follow our scripts.

 Name the cloud; what do we feel?. ¬ Angry  
Shape the cloud: What does it feel like? My shoulders are tense. I feel pressure . 
Blow; watch the cloud go. 
Focus on that breath… come back to the present.

Next Cloud…
A different emotion or one that is linked or caused by the first?

It's Worry and Anxiety, my head hurts and my leg shakes or bounces.
Blow… watch the cloud and the emotion go.

Yep. Hippy arty farty.

 I understand that in the moment, observing and understanding the emotion and detaching it from us can be quite therapeutic. It feels quite releasing and relaxing and certainly does prevent the plunge in my cycle back to the bottom of my depressive pit which triggers all the avoidance, numbing and self-harming we discussed in the last post. BUT, when you open your eyes and go back to the real world, the problem is still there. That is my problem. It is not solving the problem that triggered the emotions so you’ve actually just postponed the dealing of the problem. When I go back to work, the stress or the email is still there. When I go home the mess of a lonely life I lead is still there.

Perhaps I am being too harsh. Perhaps I should try it.

 The worst triggers for me feel like the unexpected incidents or confrontations and not the planned events – if anything the more warning the more I am prepared and the happier I am. That is the different between worry and panic. I worry about things that may or may not happen that are out of my control. I also panic when the unexpected happens. But I am not too worried about the expected – even if it is a battle with someone– because I can be prepared.

Why don’t you try it? Next time you feel angry, anxious or annoyed just Name the Cloud, Shape the Cloud and blow it away. Then focus on that breath to bring you back to today.

I’ll try it. But I’m already would up that when I open my eyes, after making my puffy white clouds, the shit will still be all over the fan. This doesn’t prevent the feelings nor does it solve or prevent the problem. Get on with it.

I worry a lot; rather than naming clouds isn’t it a better use of my time to try and solve my worries before the shit hits the fan?

Generally group sessions do help but its like doing Sex Ed at school…
 the theory in class is OK but in the real world its kinda different. :)

 xx My last post had over 220 views in less than a week.
 Thank you for your support and please keep sharing my blog and retweeting xxx

A photo posted by Matthew E Streuli (@matthewstreuli) on

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