We all have coping strategies that get us through the day. You might not realize they’re coping strategies. Biting your nails, online shopping, lashing out at others, or hunkering down in front of the TV with snacks are all ways of coping with stress, albeit negatively. They might help you feel better briefly, but they can potentially cause other problems.
Healthy coping strategies, on the other hand, improve your wellbeing, whereas the poor strategies never do. That’s an important difference!
Many of our negative ways of coping are about denying or numbing what’s really going on. There are many things we can do to cope in a healthier way. There are so many, in fact, I’ve broken them down into three groups: 1) Strategies you can use immediately, 2) Self-care practices to do regularly and 3) Ways of being to make life easier.
Your emotions are a good barometer of what’s going on with you. Pay attention. Ideally you can snuff the fire out at the first sign of smoke. Keep this list handy so you can choose what to do, when you need it most.
1) Strategies you can use immediately
Deep breathing – The easiest and most available strategy of all is to use your breath. This takes you from fight or flight into rest and digest mode. In other words, you invoke the relaxation response. It only takes a minute to feel differently. Read how here.
Change your perspective – Catch yourself imagining worst-case scenarios or beating yourself up. STOP it. Turn it around. See problems as opportunities for growth.
EFT Tapping – A form of energy psychology, EFT is a highly effective stress-reduction strategy that often provides rapid relief. It’s a process that includes tapping on acupressure points.
EFT fits into all three categories. It’s a self-help tool that you can use immediately, as well as be guided by a practitioner. Read more here.
2) Self-care practices to do regularly
Exercise – Anything that involves moving or using your body is helpful when the stress mounts. Getting your cardiovascular system involved through aerobic exercise is ideal and is important as a regular practice for health. It’s guaranteed you will feel better afterwards. Chop wood, climb stairs, swim, jog – the opportunities are endless.
Massage – As we hold tension in our bodies, massage is an important practice to address the muscles directly, inducing relaxation and reducing stress-induced aches and pains.
Yoga – A regular yoga practice does wonders for increasing flexibility in the body and mind, as well as balancing the energy in the body.
Meditation – There is a long list of benefits here too: physiological, mental, emotional and spiritual. Don’t expect immediate results. Practice. Practice. Practice. It’s worth it.
Rest and sleep – Rest means not scheduling every minute of the day. Try to relax sometimes. When you’re overwhelmed you might be tempted to skimp on sleep, but sleep is basic to performance and all aspects of health. Get more sleep to get more done.
Nature – Get out of the house, off the pavement and away from technology. Nature is healing. Go to the park, walk in a forest, sit by a river, watch the sunset, or hug a tree.
Consumption – The energy from whole foods helps you to stand up to stress. Avoid processed food, overeating, excess alcohol or other drugs that drag you down.
3) Ways of being to make life easier
Act – Deal with what comes up versus denying you have a problem, or procrastinating.
Know yourself – Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Access support – Friends, family, professionals, who do you need or have in your camp? Lean on your team to move through stress. There are no benefits to flying solo.
Say no and set boundaries – Protect yourself by saying no when you need to. Teach others how to treat you. Drawing a line in the sand about what others cannot do to you, or around you, will help you minimize stress.
Have fun – Break things up by doing something just for fun: play an instrument, dance, practice a hobby, socialize, or read real books, even if only 15 minutes at a time. Finding joy amidst the difficulties will help you be your best self.
This is not an all-inclusive list by any means. Maybe you have some helpful strategies you can add. I’d love to hear about them.
Pick a strategy from each group that you commit to practice as required. Notice what changes when you do.