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DOING WHAT MATTERS IN TIMES OF STRESS: An Illustrated guide, by the World Health Organization


This is a wonderful, illustrated guide to help you or your children learn to deal with anxiety, distressing emotions and stress.  It is written and illustrated in a simple way and teaches proven techniques for dealing with emotional difficulties.  The link to the full document is at the bottom of this article.  The five tools listed below are pictured and explained fully in the link.


GROUND YOURSELF during emotional storms by NOTICING your thoughts and feelings, SLOWING DOWN and CONNECTING with your body, by slowly pushing your feet into the floor, stretching and breathing, and then REFOCUSING and ENGAGING with the world around you.  What can you see, hear, touch, taste and smell? Pay attention with curiosity to what is in front of you. Notice where you are, who is with you and what you are doing.

Practice tip:  Grounding is especially useful during stressful situations or emotional storms. You can also practice grounding when you simply have one or two minutes available, like when you’re waiting for something, or before or after an activity you do every day, like washing, eating, cooking or sleeping. If you practice during these times, you may find that boring activities become more enjoyable, and it will be easier to use grounding later in more difficult situations. 


UNHOOK YOURSELF with these three steps:  

1)  NOTICE that a difficult thought or feeling has hooked you. Realize that you are distracted by a difficult thought or feeling, and notice it with curiosity.
2)  Then silently NAME the difficult thought or feeling; for example: “Here is a difficult feeling”
“Here is tightness in my chest”
“Here is a feeling of anger”
“Here is a difficult thought about the past” “I notice here is a difficult thought”
“I notice here are fears about the future”
3)  Then, REFOCUS on what you are doing. Pay full attention to whoever is with you and whatever you are doing.


Choose the values that are most important to you.  For example:

*being kind and caring
*being helpful
*being brave
*being hardworking

You get to decide which values are most important to you!

Then pick one small way that you can act according to your values in the next week.  What will you do?  What will you say?  Even tiny actions matter.

Remember that there are three approaches to any difficult situation.

  1.  Leave
  2. Change what can be changed, accept the pain that cannot be changed, and live your values.
  3. Give up and move away from your values.


BE KIND: Notice pain in yourself and others and respond with kindness.  Unhook from unkind thoughts by NOTICING and NAMING them.  Then, try speaking to yourself kindly.  If you are kind to yourself you will have more energy to help others and more motivation to be kind to others, so everyone benefits.

You can also take one of your hands and imagine filling it with kindness.  Place this hand gently somewhere on your body where you feel pain.  Feel the warmth flowing from your hand into your body.  See if you can be kind to yourself though this hand.


Trying to push away difficult thoughts and feelings often does not work very well.  So instead, MAKE ROOM for them:

  1.  NOTICE the difficult thought or feeling with curiosity.  Focus your attention on it.  Imagine the painful feeling as an object, and notice its size, shape color and temperature.
  2. NAME the difficult thought or feeling.  For example: 

“Here is a difficult feeling”
“Here is a difficult thought about the past”
“I notice here is sadness”
“I notice here is a thought that I am weak”

  1. Allow the painful feeling or thought to come and go like the weather.  As you breathe, imagine your breath flowing into and around your pain to make room for it.  Instead of fighting with the thought or feeling, allow it to move through you, just like the weather moves through the sky.  If you are not fighting with the weather, then you will have more time and energy to engage with the world around you and do things that are important to you.

pdfIllustrated guide in dealing with stress WHO.pdf