Struggling with life? - Helium balloons and breezeblocks

Struggling with life? - Helium balloons and breezeblocks

By Karen Harris.

Struggling with life? Low moods, sad and frustrated? It may well be because we are behaving in a way that is impacting on our mental and emotional health, and it is probably time to find out why that might be.

A simple and effective way in which to start the process of understanding what is going on in our lives and the impact that some of our behaviours have on our physical and mental health is by doing the helium balloons and breeze blocks exercise.

We can have some fun with the colouring pencils and a large sheet of paper here. By creating a pictorial diagram of your life, you will be able to consider where your current stress levels are (this is the water level), what your current life challenges are (these are the breeze blocks dragging you down into the water) and then consider the strategies that you are currently using to manage the stress (helium balloons). Here is how Helen’s current reality and stress levels looks like:

A key benefit of going through this process is that you will identify the helpful and unhelpful strategies that you are using to deal with your stress and distress.

In our case study, Helen is self-soothing with food, alcohol, and social withdrawal. She does this most often when her stress and anxiety are triggered. These are really helpful activities for her short term as they reduce her stress levels, but long term they are really unhelpful as they maintain the high anxiety and stress levels and create further problems for the future.

Cognitive Behavioural therapists (CBT) use techniques such as this to help work with those suffering from anxiety and emotional health issues. We will work to identify the goals required from therapy, that will always be aligned with your values and help you identify what your best life would look like. Once those goals are established, therapists can then help create an individual treatment programme where you can begin your journey to creating the life you were meant to live.

Throughout your treatment, the therapists will identify triggers to low mood and unhelpful behaviours that can sabotage progress and work to find more productive ways of elevating your mood so progress can be achieved. You will learn to change your way of behaving to support long term, sustained progress and elevate your mood.

What can help reduce stress and start the road to progress?

Some people enjoy exercise, music, hobbies, pets, talking to friends and dancing. Fresh air or a change of scenery can really help, getting out into parks, woodlands or by the sea can free us from low moods. Running, or simply walking can also help us detach from our stressful environment and dramatically reduce stress.

It’s important that you choose to do something you like doing and do it regularly to make a real difference. Short breaks and holidays can help, but only if you leave your work and laptops behind and limit access to mobile phones. Mindfulness, relaxation and deep breathing are also excellent tools to start to help deal with reducing stress and anxiety.

You can start this journey by undertaking the helium balloons exercise and consider what strategy you will put in place that will helpful – maybe just a 20 minute walk a day may help to make a difference. You could ask our LifeBuddy community for advice or thoughts on what has worked for them. Alternatively, if you feel that specialist help is the best route, a CBT therapist can work with you to find helpful tools, specific to you, that you can use to reduce stress and maximise the opportunities to find happiness and contentment and work towards achieving your life goals.

If you are interested in knowing more or accessing CBT as a really helpful strategy for gaining support and improving your mental health, the counselling directory is a good place to start looking for a local therapist.

Karen Harris
Karen is a fully qualified, BACP accredited cognitive behavioural therapist, with extensive experience dealing with mild-complex psychological issues. To contact Karen email