*Hi, I’m Cathy. I’m a champion on the U-turn phase 3 work-readiness programme. My passion is communication and I’m part of the U-turn communication team. Every week I will be writing a blog post sharing my personal experience on this programme, to give you a window into the experience of being a champion on the U-turn programme.

Last week I shared my journey about healing from the past, you can read about it here https://homeless.org.za/…/finding-healing-from-the-past/. This week I will share the different coping skills I learned. During my counseling session and our group sessions, we were taught Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (otherwise called DBT) distress tolerance and mindfulness.

During my counseling for the fear of heights, my counselor would guide me to apply DBT self-soothing techniques, which allows me to focus on my senses while in a stressful situation. During one of the sessions, my counselor guided me to take one of the lavender flowers growing in the garden at Church House. As I was walking up the stairs to the balcony, I reflected on the feeling of the lavender on my fingers. The smell of lavender had a calming effect on me. The lavender also reminded me of my granny and the lavender that I planted at our house. I reminisced  on how the small lavender grew into a large bush. Because I was reflecting on fond memories, my focus was removed from my fears.

I was also taught to be present in the moment. Mindfulness is acknowledging my thoughts, feelings and experiences. I should not judge myself for having the fear of heights. As I walked up the stairs, I reminded myself to look at the beauty of the surrounding trees and while focused on their beauty, I was able to put distance between myself and my fear, and remind myself of the truth that I would not fall when I got to the balcony.

I had to practice again what I learned when my church changed locations and it was held on the second floor. I had to use the outside stairs to the 2nd floor balcony to enter the church. The first week I had severe anxiety attacks while climbing the stairs. I had shortness of breath, sweaty palms, my heart beat was faster and my legs felt wobbly. 

The consecutive weeks, I would listen to music while climbing the stairs. I would also remind myself of the truth, that nothing will happen to me. I would recite a scripture that pertains to fighting fear. As I practiced those methods, my anxiety became less.

As I journey through life’s challenges, I have planted these coping skills as seedlings in my life. I trust that as I apply them, they will become trees of life that will shade me against the scorching heat of life.