Originally posted on Celi-chan In Wonderland Blog, December 5th, 2017
When we were young and got upset, often times the people in our lives would try to distract us or make us laugh in an attempt to make us feel better. Since then we’ve learned the value of distractions and have even come to depend on them. With the holiday season upon us, it can be a trying time for many. When life gets you down, we know distractions are a great and easy way to keep yourself from falling lower and to help in the process of picking yourself back up.
However, distractions aren’t always the best coping strategy to use when trying to overcome personal issues or ongoing hardships. In fact over-use (or abuse) of distractions can be detrimental to one’s mental health and well being. Before delving into some alternative coping methods, lets first understand the purpose of coping strategies.
What Are Coping Strategies?
Coping strategies/skills/mechanisms are methods that people use to avoid or resolve stress in an effort to lessen feelings like anger, sadness, fear, or anxiety and prevent being overwhelmed. There are many different ways to cope with all the things life throws at you, some more appropriate for certain situations than others, or it may be a matter of preference. Also knowing when to use which methods may take some practice.
Coping Strategies & Practices
Distraction or Relaxation: As stated above, these methods are relatively easy to do to get one’s mind off of certain difficulties, so that one can approach the problem with clarity and renewed energy. But as time goes on, their effectiveness for coping with a long term issues starts to wane.
- Largely consists of entertainment consumption, like watching movies, TV, YouTube (cat videos), Netflix, etc; playing video games, reading, or listening to music
- Doing creative activities like drawing, painting, sculpting, writing or journaling, gardening, playing music, and cooking/baking
- Getting out of the house for day tripping or shopping (in store or online), seeing a play or touring your town/city
- Cleaning or organizing your collection of books or even your entire home
Tension Relievers: These methods help to ease emotions and some physical manifestations of stress, like muscle tension. Similar to the distraction/relaxation methods, these help to express emotions, calm ones mind, and refocus.
- Take a shower, a bath or spa day,
- Do some light exercise or stretches, practice art or movement therapy, do PMR (progressive muscle relaxation)
- Catharsis (laugh/cry, yell, scream, punch a pillow, dance or sing). Beware using cathartic strategies as these can become part of a learned process of emotional imbalance and may normalize aggressive or vulnerable/victim behavior.
- Sit in silence or take a nap
Physical Well-being: These practices are meant to be done regularly to best prepare one’s body to cope with all the chemical signals or imbalances due to experiencing stress.
- Get into a routine
- Get good sleep (7-8 hours is best)
- Eating healthy/well balanced diet, or an appropriate amount of calories per day
- Limit caffeine, sugars, and processed foods
- Do breathing exercises
- Maybe treat yo’self sometimes
Spiritual or Philosophical: These methods are similar to both distractions and tension relievers in that they tend to clear one’s thoughts, calm and refocus the mind, and help to refocus or reinvigorate one’s efforts.
- Prayer, meditation, or other spiritual/ritual practices
- Apply different perspectives to a situation
- Get involved in a worthy cause
- Recite positive affirmations or mantras
Social (Interpersonal & Intrapersonal): Humans are social creatures, and practicing social methods of coping can help in dealing with many of life’s struggles. Doing any of the methods from any of the categories listed with another person serves as a reminder that you are never alone, and whatever you are going through, you will get through it.
- Talk with someone, anyone, in person or online
- Research and read up on notable people who have experience similar difficulties as you and how they managed to overcome.
- Write a note someone you care about
- Spend time with friends and family, or whoever you get along with
- Play a game, role-play or improv with friends
- Encourage others, serve those in need, and participate in a community
- Have a positive attitude
- Accept yourself
- Don’t judge yourself so harshly or even at all
- Be assertive and confront personal issues or maybe talk it out with a therapist
Intellectual: These methods help to not only ease your stress, clear your thoughts, and focus your mind, but may actually resolve some of the difficulties you’re facing.
- Practice time management
- Brain storming solutions
- Lower expectations, or be flexible
- Act the opposite of negative feelings
- Take a class and learn something, and reward yourself when successful
- Making a bunch of lists: gratitude list, a list of inspirational quotes, write a pros and cons list, list your strengths (or faults/weaknesses)
- Goal setting: set some short and long term goals or think about where you see yourself in five years
- Rise to the challenges that life gives you and see what you are capable of
- Change your thinking
- Limit setting: drop some involvement, prioritize important tasks, remember to take regular breaks, use assertive communication, make time for yourself/self care, and set personal boundaries for all the things or people in your life
So Remember . . .
The next time life gets you down, before you put on that movie or series to watch, remember that you have many other options to consider when coping with your hardships. As with many other activities, moderation is best with any coping method. Try applying different methods to different situations and see which ones work best for you. Make use of strategies that build resiliency to difficulties as they come, like making use of physical, intellectual, or social methods. Recognize, challenge, and change irrational and negative thoughts or emotions. You can take control of how you deal with and process your life troubles before they control you.
Sometimes though, it’s seems that everyone is so busy these days and that it can be hard to tell how we’re all actually feeling, let alone what methods to take to cope with life’s difficulties. For next week I plan on covering just that, in Feeling Overwhelmed? A Stress Factors & Reactions Checklist. Until then, I hoped you found this post helpful. If you enjoyed this article, check out some similar ones below. Thanks for reading!