I first learned about the PIES check-in through a training I did over two decades ago with an organization called Woman Within, International. I facilitate the Woman Within Weekend and I’ve learned so much from the women who created the PIES model.
You can do a PIES check in with yourself or another person. In this blog, I’m going to focus on the benefits of using this check-in with yourself. I often use this tool when I write in my journal, just to understand more of where I am that day.
Or if I am getting upset, I’ll grab a piece of paper, or even the back of an envelope, and jot down a few words relating to each part of the PIES model.
Go to womanwithin.org for more details about a weekend close to you!
To do a PIES check in with yourself, first consider where you are physically. You might take a moment to close your eyes and get in touch with where your body is, noticing where your arms and legs are. It sounds funny but just noticing if your body is in contact with a chair or a car seat, or whatever, can help you to get grounded and present. Or you might take a few minutes to do a full body scan, tuning in to each part of your body and going from your toes all the way up through the top of your scull.
Often we talk about sensations when describing our physical selves. I know for me when I started this awareness work, it was difficult to even know what a sensation actually felt like. I was in my head a lot of the time and I didn’t really consider or understand the signals and information my body is constantly giving me.
You might notice, for instance, that your muscles feel tired, or that your left knee hurts, or that your jaw feels rigid or tight. Often I find myself bracing, in my lips and my legs, and I have to remind myself to relax.
My husband always asks how I am when he sees my mouth in a certain position. He knows almost before I do if I am feeling upset or angry by the way I hold my body.
Physical sensations can also be described using metaphors. You may have heard someone say for instance, “I have butterflies in my stomach,” or “I felt like I’d been knocked over the head!”
The "I" in PIES stands for the Intellect or the thinking self. A lot of people tend to overthink things so this is often an easy part of the PIES for people to access. The Intellectual self includes thoughts, interpretations, perceptions, beliefs, and judgments.
Sometimes it is hard to admit when I have a judgment about myself or another person. I encourage you to be honest with yourself so you can begin to accept what is true for you. Be compassionate, gentle, and curious about your thought process, instead of shaming or blaming. It rarely helps to judge your judgments!
Some thoughts I might be having could include worrying about how to bring back a feeling of closeness to a relationship in which I’ve felt hurt. Or I could be wondering how to tackle a problem at work. Sometimes too thoughts come from our memories or we go into the future, anticipating how things could go wrong.
To check in with your thoughts, write or speak a few words about what you are thinking, noticing where you are putting your attention. It’s quite powerful to know what your thoughts and beliefs are, and even more powerful to know that you are the person who decides what and how you think.
The "E" of PIES stands for Emotion. If you google “Emotions Wheel” in images, several graphics will come up. I like to have one of these images to hand when I journal so I can expand my emotional range. Below is my favorite graphic of an Emotions Wheel.
Google "emotions wheel" in Google images to see other images of this type of wheel to help you know your emotions better.
I used to say, for instance, that I was overwhelmed. By tracing where overwhelm comes from, I began to understand that overwhelm is actually another word for fear. I then got to ask myself what I was afraid of.
If you don’t want to print out an emotions wheel, you can also simply stick with those emotions known as The Big Five. They are: Mad, Sad, Glad, Bad, and Fear. Bad is really shame but most people tend not to say they are feeling shame, they just say, “I feel bad.”
Often the body gives us big clues as to what emotions we are feeling. Often, when I cry, I am feeling sad for instance, but not always. I might also cry when I feel fear or joy. Become familiar with how you respond. You will start to see your own patterns as you use the PIES check-in.
Lastly, we come to the S of PIES. This stands for the Spiritual self, or the inner self. This is the part of you that is beyond the physical, the intellectual and the emotional. It is up to you how you define this part of the check in for yourself.
I usually use the "S" of PIES to check in with how I feel in terms of belonging. I ask myself how connected am I to my friends and family, to my community. Do I feel in synch or aligned, or out-of-sorts and alone?
For others spirituality can be related to the sacred, or to well-being, or to religion. I know when I was teaching high school girls about using the PIES model, they always thought about their relationships, of where they were socially, so the "S" can also be for social. Or, in work situations, I have also thought of the "S" for solution. What do I want to have happen?
You define what spirituality and the "S" represents for you, and then check in with yourself as to what has meaning for you.
Check out womanwithin.org for details on weekends close to you!
I recommend that you use the PIES Check in once or twice a day, going through the acronmy in a few minutes each time, so that you can notice your go-to sensations, thoughts, and emotions.
Knowing what is true for you can help you to trust yourself, to know what you want, and to take action on your own behalf.