As human beings, we have to find coping mechanisms otherwise life becomes all too much to bear. I wanted to talk about these coping mechanisms in this piece but also to highlight that there is a difference between a coping mechanism and a coping strategy.
When it comes to coping mechanisms, there are many. I would define a coping mechanism as any automatic behaviour that occurs as a response to a stressful situation. And there are many at our disposal. Some people will comfort eat when they’re stressed. Some people bite their nails. Some people reach for a drink or a smoke. Some people slam the door and walk out of the room.
There are different ways that we use to shut down our emotions. If you think about how difficult you find it to sit in silence. Just you being with you and what that does to you. After a while, you’ll want to reach for something. For some people, it’s music, noise or just being around people. The biggest one is the phone and that continuous scrolling.
I’m not knocking any of these things but what I am saying is that these coping strategies are UNconscious and automatic. We barely give it a thought. Let’s take scrolling. It’s therapeutic and it means that you don’t have to really focus on anything for more than a couple of seconds. The brain likes this because it serves as a distraction. Before you know it, half an hour has been lost in the phone and you’re not getting that time back.
I teach people coping strategies and the starting point is to identify what mechanisms they are currently using as a distraction. If you just sit and have a think, this can tell you a lot about what’s happening, what you’re avoiding and how you choose to avoid it.
A coping strategy is more conscious and deliberate and once you’ve worked out what’s automatic, you can still do those things but do them consciously. There’s so many tools that can help you. The first one is journalling because when we write what we observe about ourselves, it starts to become real. When it starts to become real, it starts to really bug and when it bugs is when you’re more likely to want to do something about it.
As well as journalling, learning how to breathe can be a massive coping strategy. You’ll notice that when you’re stressed, breathing gets shallow. The breath is the life force and at times of stress, the more breath we can bring in to our body, the more we are able to control that stress level.
It’s funny because proper breathing isn’t really taught. I remember my lovely Yoga teacher Sue (God rest her soul) who taught me how to properly breathe and goodness me what a difference that made. If you’re interested, start with searching for the “Yoga 3 Part Breath.” It’s pretty amazing and you’ll notice how different you feel when you are full of life force.
Recognising stress is one thing. Managing it is another. I think it’s important to learn these tools and it’s something that I’ve been learning and teaching for many years.
Maintenance is the key as is having a plan for what you do when you start feeling the stress tremors. My strategy is to get my journal out, have extra meditation time and plan a trip out in nature. It’s good to have a plan!
If you’re finding yourself reaching for things that give you a temporary salve and you’d like to learn more, why not give me a call and let’s see if we can find a way to help you with it.
I offer everyone a free consultation call and you can book this here.