In therapy on Friday I was fiddling with a metal hand puzzle to help manage my anxiety throughout the session. Because I struggle with Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviours, swapping these automatic motions to instead playing with fiddly toys can be really effective for me. With these metal puzzles, you have to try and separate the two parts of a unit. The metal puzzles look like this, to give you more of an idea:
After about 20 minutes, I finally managed to work out how to separate the last and most challenging unit. Regardless of what we were speaking about in my session, I felt a real sense of accomplishment having worked it out, to the extent that I exclaimed a rather out-of-context “YESSSSSS!”, and smiled – much to my therapist’s delight.
Having seen the contrast between my demeanor prior to this “achievement” compared to after it, my therapist observed a marked difference which she deemed to be significant and worth replicating. She therefore asked me to compile a list of similar activities which evoke the same “I did it!” experience; the aim being for me to implement these into my life in an attempt to find enjoyment and meaning, whilst building mastery and a sense of accomplishment, on a daily basis. (Click here to learn more about the relevant ABC skill of DBT.)
Here is my list:
- Completing puzzles: crosswords, sudoku, other brain games, jigsaw puzzles.
- Playing/ winning Scrabble, Boggle, Snatch, etc.
- Reading lots of books within a short time.
- Writing a blog post I am proud of.
- Swimming further and further distances underwater.
- Swimming against the clock and beating old times.
- Reaching the top of a rock climbing wall.
- Flips/ other moves on the trampoline (and landing correctly!)
- Getting an answer right in lectures/ classes.
- Skiing down tough slopes!
- Finishing cleaning something out, making tidiness out of a mess.
- Doing well on assignments.
- Finding great blackberries when we go blackberry picking!
- Completing DIY tasks without reading the instruction booklet.
- Successfully cooking/ baking something for others.
- Climbing up a lot of stairs, especially if it’s the hardest of multiple options (escalators, lift).
- Successfully playing something on the piano.
- Making arty things I’m proud of: scrapbooks, albums, personalised cards, videos, etc.
- Cracking a joke that actually makes people laugh.
- Completing a colouring page I like.
- Go Ape!
- Resolving a conflict.
- Winning prizes at funfair stalls.
- Winning bets e.g the horse racing.
- Climbing trees.
- Ice skating smoothly.
- Winning table tennis.
- Doing well in a sport.
- Writing a poem I’m proud of.
- Reading other’s emotions correctly, being “insightful” and receiving positive feedback for it.
- Growing my nails, counting the days.
- Finding a piece of clothing I like.
- Defying people’s expectations and impressing them.
- (One day I will sky-dive.)
Especially during periods of low mood and high vulnerability, putting even the smallest mastery-building activities into my day can make a world of difference.
Today I took my sister to Go Ape – a tree-top adventure obstacle course – and it REALLY did help me feel a sense of achievement, pride and joy (amongst other things) which I have not experienced enough of lately.
I go back to work tomorrow, and I am nervous for it to say the least. I am going to try and apply this concept to my role at work; to help me find ways I can replicate the feelings above in as many ways as possible. A sense of accomplishment and purpose is invaluable to my sense of self, stability and overall wellness. Fingers crossed for tomorrow!