BUILDING BETTER COPING SKILLS
Positive coping strategies are any actions you take to manage and reduce stress in your life, in a way that isn’t going to be harmful or detrimental in the long term.
People who use positive strategies are not only better able to tackle challenges and bounce back from tough times, but they are also much happier.
Pretty much any coping strategy which isn’t going to be harmful or ineffective in the long term is worth a try. However, you will probably find that some strategies work better for you than others in terms of how well they reduce stress and help you manage. It’s also worth noting that some strategies will work better or worse depending on the particular event/situation.
Building Better Coping Skills
Turn to someone you trust. It can be a relief to share your thoughts with someone else, and it can be good to work through problems with the help of another person.
Write it all down. Keeping a notebook handy for you to scribble your thoughts in whenever you feel like it can be a great way of expressing yourself. You may find it helpful to write about what is worrying you, or express yourself in a more creative way.
Set aside regular time for yourself. Even if it’s just ten minutes of ‘you’ time, taking some space for yourself where you turn off your phone, spend time alone, exercise, meditate, or listen to music can really prepare you for tackling stress or challenges.
Walk away. Work out which situations you are likely to get most stressed out by. If you feel like you’re getting too angry, end the conversation, take some space, and don’t resume talking until you are calm and ready.
Overcome negative patterns of thinking through self-talk. Self-talk can help you see things from a more positive perspective and give a huge boost to your confidence.
Reduce your load. Sometimes you just have to accept that you can’t do everything. Keep track of your schedule and how you feel each day, and working out your optimal level of activity. You should be busy, entertained, and challenged, without feeling overwhelmed.
Consider the big picture. When you’re going through a stressful situation, ask yourself these two questions. ‘How important is this?’ and ‘will it matter in the long run?’ If you realise it doesn’t, it’s probably not worth getting too stressed out by.
Learn to forgive. Move on from hurt, regret and anger. Whether you are angry at yourself or someone else, it doesn’t help you to hold on to negative feelings like resentment.
Hone your communication skills. If you know how to communicate a problem well, it will help prevent conflict from escalating, and could help solve the cause of the stress in the first place.
Build your optimism. Optimism involves learning to think positively about the future - even when things go wrong. That’s not to say you pretend that everything is fine when it isn’t. Instead, it’s about looking objectively at a situation, making a conscious decision to focus on the good. It can be hard to do, but if you practice, you’re likely to get better.
Relax, man. Relaxation is a great way to refocus your thoughts, particularly when things are becoming a bit overwhelming.
Build your gratitude. Take some of your focus away from the negative things, and take 5 minutes each day to identify 3 things which you are thankful about.
Anxiety: Get a straw, preferably a bit thicker of one like a milkshake straw and take deep breaths through it. This will help focus your thoughts away from anxieties, engage your diaphragm and open your lungs to help stop chest tightening sensations. Additionally, wearing a wristwatch and counting seconds up to a minute can also help to center yourself. Always remember your deep breathing!
Dissociation: You need to encourage communication between your logical and emotional cognition. A neat way of doing this is if you can catch it as it's coming on, stand on one foot, squeeze or fidget with something like a stress ball, and begin venting to yourself. Even just whisper quietly, talk about what you're feeling and thinking. Engaging yourself physically like this as well as emotionally will help keep you grounded.
Depression: Remember that while it's okay and totally necessary to take a day off sometimes and let yourself mentally recoup, you do need to continue a routine. Even if it's uncomfortable get out and run errands, clean your house, phone someone. By pushing yourself to be proactive it can help to correct your brain. Additionally, about 20 minutes of exercise each day can help heaps as well.
Hallucinations: Call someone. Text someone, Facebook someone, Skype, phone. Let someone know what's happening and allow them the liberty also to be able to contact ambulatory services if it goes too far. There's also many many helplines available that can assist you with this.
OCD: Exposure therapy, although in some areas a bit controversial, can be incredibly effective. It's often recommended though to have a counselor or worker with you while this happens if your OCD is quite severe. An interesting thing my counselor recently told me is to make yourself OCD-free zones. Draw out boundaries in your home and town where within certain areas you won't allow yourself and will stop as many compulsive behaviors as you can, and outside the boundaries you're free to do as you please. This can help teach management of negative symptoms as well as show that a little bit of compulsion is perfectly fine.
Borderline Personality: Thought challenging. Before you fly off with your emotions because someone says something that you take as invalidating, try and stop yourself for just a moment and force logic into the situation. Try and show yourself how this comment wasn't meant to make you feel bad, and while your emotions are always valid and you as a person are valid, this comment wasn't meant to be invalidating. Additionally, it's good to have communication about this but REMAIN CALM (as hard as it can be). By calmly sorting out your emotions and opinions you can shed a lot of relief onto a situation.
Bipolar Disorder: Mood tracking. eMoods, Optimism, and a couple other apps for this stuff is out there and can be incredibly useful. Being able to map out your mood cycles and see them graphed makes it much easier to predict, manage and prevent negative self talk and other symptoms.