We all cope as a natural way of adjusting to life. The only problem is that some of the coping does not work so well. When we smoke cigarettes, for instance, or eat something for comfort, we are attempting to cope but also potentially harming ourselves. We can maximize our coping and get the most benefit from it by becoming aware of our attempts to cope and monitoring how well they work. As we monitor, it is important to notice long and short term pros and cons of our attempts to cope. If the cons outweigh the pros, we need a new way to cope. Our goal is the most bang for the buck with our coping and that means minimizing the cons. Watch how you cope today, looking for ways to get more bang for the buck with your coping.
With coping its important never to give up. We tend to have our tried and true day-to-day coping we do automatically and when that doesn’t work, we can be at a loss. I know this happened to me living in NYC and working with survivors and family member on September 11th. I had to really work at coping to keep myself going and available to those I was helping. When our normal coping is not enough, there is much more we can try if we work at it and don’t give up. What can you do to cope when it seems nothing is working? If you’re not sure, ask some friends and collect a long list of things to turn to if you need to.
There are simple ways to cope, some of which we do regularly but do not think about: dressing in ways that are comfortable and make us feel good, eating tasty and nourishing food, relaxing with a cup of tea, talking with friends, and sitting or walking in nature. Noticing what we do to cope increases its effectiveness just as appreciating what we have in life makes it feel even more precious. What have you done to cope today without thinking about it? Remember the little things as you review.
In order to cope effectively, we need many ways to cope so if one doesn’t work there are always more to choose from. We tend to use a few tried and true ways of coping and are not sure what to do when they fail. Adding new coping can help. What can you do to cope today that you don’t normally do? Ask around for ideas if you are not sure what to try. Keep trying until you find something new that works for you.
One way to measure stress is with the 0 to 10 scale, similar to a pain scale, with 0 meaning no stress and 10 when we are ready to blow. If this scale does not work for us, we can try measuring our stress by rating it as high/medium/low, pleasant/neutral/unpleasant, or red flag/green flag. We can play with this until we find a a way to measure that works for us. We measure our coping in the same way by checking our stress levels before and after we cope. How aware are you of your stress and coping? What would be a good way for you to measure them?
Good times to cope are when we know we will be in a stressful situation such as a meeting with our boss, a talk with our lover about how disconnected we have been, a medical test/procedure, or even a particularly busy day. We can cope before and/or after the event to ensure our stress stays the way we want it. Is there an even coming up that might stress you? What can you do to prepare?
One way we can check our need to cope is to check our stress level. Use a scale from 0 to 10 to rate your stress, remembering that in order to have 0 stress we would probably need to be dead. Its also important to note that some of us like a higher stress level than others. If we like to be at a 5, it is not an indication we need to cope but it does mean there is less time before we get to a 10 so awareness is important. When our stress number grows, we need to cope to lower it. What is your stress level? Is it where you want it to be or could you use some coping?