When you are trying to cope, you do things to relieve an unwanted feeling. These coping techniques can be positive or negative; healthy or unhealthy.
It would be great if we could avoid the ups and downs of life but that’s not possible. It’s a fact of life. So when things get rough, having healthy coping tools can really help. If you don’t have positive ways to cope with negative feelings, it can impact your mental health and well-being. And in some cases, it can make things worse.
If you are coping in unhealthy ways, you’ll find yourself escaping, avoiding, or numbing what you are feeling. It looks like…
Substance use and addictions: alcohol, drugs, gambling, etc
Self-harm: cutting, pulling out hair, hitting etc.
Self-isolation: pushing people away, closing off, etc.
Social isolation, evading uncomfortable conversations, etc.
Procrastination: putting off work or task you need to accomplish
Choosing these coping options can end up impacting all aspects of your life; relationships, work, well-being and health.
If you develop healthier coping skills which we know should include calming your nervous system; you can deal with your negative feelings more effectively and improve your quality of life - which can help prevent mental health problems and build resiliency. Having - and using - these skills can also increase self-confidence and self-reliance.
Here’s what healthy coping looks like:
Slowing down, commit to less and allow some downtime in your day. Reduce stimulation, take breaks from your phone
Hobbies: painting, reading, gardening, etc.
Physical activity: walking, running, biking etc.
Connecting to other people and nature: spending time with friends, going for a hike etc.
Mindfulness: starting a meditation practice, taking moments throughout the day to focus on your senses etc.
Self-awareness: knowing your emotional triggers, setting boundaries etc.
So, are the coping tools you’re using healthy or unhealthy? If you use a coping tool and it doesn’t give you the outcome you wanted, it’s a good sign that it probably isn’t helpful for you. How do you feel after using a coping skill – are your unwanted feelings alleviated or not? Look at short-term and long-term consequences. Is the coping tool sustainable and does it increase your well-being?
No one said it was easy. Changing your behaviour, including trying to move to more healthy coping tools can be hard work.
Try adding one healthy coping skill first – the more you use the healthy coping skill, the easier it will be to stop the unhealthy ones. The healthier tools will provide better outcomes and will give you a sense of empowerment because you’re choosing something that’s healthy for you, rather than feeling controlled by something that isn’t.
Try taking small steps to slowly introduce healthy ways to cope that will both alleviate what you’re feeling and give you a sense of accomplishment.
Some coping skills will work for you and there are things that won’t. If you try something and it doesn’t work, don’t get discouraged. Just try something else until you find the right coping tool.
If you need help, give us a call. A therapist can help you through this process and can identify the healthy coping skills that will work for you.
We're here if you want to talk :) Take the first step and call us for an appointment ...(506) 651-1239