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Put a ring around it: a tool to help you cope.

A week before the birth of my little one, my Father suffered a breathing failure, beginning a long battle with what was posthumously diagnosed as a rare form of motor neurone disease. He survived another 15 months, spending over 7 months in intensive care. Whether it was grief, stress, sleep deprivation or postnatal depression, or a combination of all, I really struggled. The piece of advice that really stands out in my mind was to “put a ring around it”…

Putting a ring around it means to circle this time as an extraordinary period and to acknowledge it as such. It reminded me that this was a finite period, even if I couldn’t be certain of its duration, and I could find solace and safety in the knowledge that it wasn’t going to last forever.

In action this allowed me to create a little space to do what I needed to do to deal with the current circumstances. It helped me to give myself permission to do more of some things and less of other things, to refine my priorities, to cast aside other burdens until I had greater capacity to offer, and very importantly, to ask others for help.

On a practical level I can remember feeling overwhelmed by the task of getting a load of washing done when I thought of all the other thousands of loads of washing I had ahead of me. By putting a ring around that task on that occasion, I was able to remind myself that in this moment I have just one load of washing to plough through, not a thousand today, and I could manage this one.

What I found most useful about this concept was that it facilitated a sense of psychological flexibility – I could be more open to different behaviour, difference choices, different thoughts and feelings because this was an exceptional time. This is significant because I think psychological flexibility lies at the heart of flourishing, at the heart of living in a state of wellbeing.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and any experiences you’d like to share with me. Are there any tools that have helped you endure periods of loss, grief, change or acute stress? If I can provide you with any nurturing or support please get in touch.

About the author

Suzy is a Chartered Coaching Psychologist specialising in stress management, healthy lifestyle change and private yoga. She is passionate about helping parents navigate the changes and challenges that come with the joys of parenthood. She is available for private sessions over skype. For more details, check out www.suzyreading.co.uk.


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