A difficulty with coping, especially after a loss or trauma, is that most of us have a limited supply of ways to cope. If our tried and true ones don’t do the trick, we are in trouble and often don’t know where to turn. Let’s say we cope by exercising and our recent loss is a medical illness or injury that doesn’t allow us to exercise. What do we do instead? We “bark,” keeping ourselves, our family and the neighbors awake. Let’s find a way to fill our coping tool box so this never happens again. If things are going well now, there will be times ahead when we will need coping so now it the time to prepare.
It may seem obvious to breathe as a part of coping but the truth is we forget sometimes. Think of the phrase “it took my breath away.” At times of stress – caused by anything from being with someone very special and having an intense moment of intimacy to almost being hit by a bus – we stop breathing for a moment. We also breathe more shallowly or less often when under pressure and can sometimes hyperventilate, breathing faster and more deeply as well. Any of these ways of breathing can cause stress on our bodies and make it difficult to cope well and relax. So focusing on our breath is great coping. We breathe, trying to be aware of the breath coming in and going out. It is also good to breathe with a relaxed rhythm and into our abdomens so that we can see them expand as we breathe in and contract as we breathe out. This is portable coping we can take with us and do anywhere and has the added benefit of being good for our health.
We all deal with anger and it creates stress. Learning how to cope with it is essential. Sometimes our anger results from an accumulation of stressors that build up to the point that we feel we can’t handle them any longer and sometimes it is set off by a specific event that we can’t believe happened. Either way, the anger can be dangerous – to us and others – and needs to be dealt with. Here is a video of one person’s journey coping with anger:
What are some ways you can cope with anger? Try experimenting with ways to cope before you get really angry, such as when frustrated or annoyed. It is easier to cope before you get angry and are overwhelmed. If you get good at coping when you are moving towards anger, it helps in two ways. 1) You avoid getting angry and 2) If you do get angry, you are better at coping and continuing to cope avoids the worst effects of the anger.
When stressed or vulnerable, there are loving acts we can do to protect ourselves. Imagining that we put a shield around ourselves as we shower in the morning is one example of this. Think of the shield as both protective and open so positive energy can come in but negative is filtered. Make it a loving shield that has our best interests at heart. There is no magic when we do this, we are simply setting an intention we carry with us throughout the day. As we set the intention repetitively, it becomes a habit and the protection is strengthened.
At night we can set out intention in a different way, letting go of negative energy collected from the day as we undress, drive home, shower, or wash dishes. Negativity is tossed in the dirty clothes bin, by the side of the road as we drive, or down the drain as we shower or rinse the dishes. This gives us a clean slate each day and allows us to let go of anything we do not need or want.
Both intentions are loving acts. Here is a guided imagery that also involves a loving act. Try it to reduce your stress and increase coping:
Coping can be difficult during the holidays especially when there’s been loss. We may be alone or feel alone even when we are with others. Taking care of ourselves and coping through feelings of aloneness doesn’t mean we can’t be sad – sometimes we need to be sad. It does mean that we find ways to be comfortable with ourselves just as we are. Here are some ideas for coping:
– Spending time with friends we like
– Cuddling with animals
– Listening to music that inspires us
– Cooking something special and tasty
– Watering the plants and taking care to prune them
– Doing something that makes us laugh like watch a funny movie
– Reading something spiritual and uplifting that makes us think
– Walking in nature
– Reaching out and helping someone else in need
This video – a interactive poem about being alone – also offers ways to cope. Enjoy it and have a great holiday!
- It’s a crapshoot – we never know when or how a strategy will work so its important to have many coping strategies to fall back on
- No matter how well a strategy worked once, it may never work again or not when we need it most, so its important to have many to fall back on
- We need to have a backup plan, depending on one strategy can cause us to lose
- Winning requires an investment – it takes time and energy to build a tool box of coping strategies but without the initial investment we’re not in the game
- We need to keep our eye on the game – without close awareness of our stress level, need for coping, and coping effectiveness, its impossible to win
- When we win, we win BIG! Nothing creates more happiness than a toolbox full of well used coping strategies
We think the time we need coping is when the going is rough and that’s true, but the best time to develop good coping habits is when we feel good. When things are crazy, busy, or difficult, it can be hard to remember to cope or to know what to do to cope. When we are overwhelmed, there is not much space to think about coping. On the other hand, when we feel good, it is easier to cope. If we cope when we feel good, trying new things and building a collection of tools to choose from, our coping will become automatic over time. Then when the going gets rough we won’t have to worry about coping, it will come naturally. What coping can you practice today in preparation for the rough days? If it is a rough day, think of somethings simple you can do to cope like having a quiet cup of tea or calling a friend. If its a good day, try something new to cope that you can add to your toolbox.