Weathering storms: how to cope
We’re nearly there!
It has been a long old year but it seems that we’re now, hopefully, approaching the final period of the pandemic. Many of us have found this lockdown the hardest to deal with, and if you feel like you could use some guidance in getting you through the next few months, we’ve got some information on coping strategies.
It’s hard to talk about anything at the moment without referencing Covid-19, but we should remember that challenging times existed before 2020 and, sadly, they’re going to exist after 2021 as well.
Therefore think of these coping strategies not as ‘pandemic specials’ but ways in which we can support ourselves whenever we’re feeling stressed or not quite ourselves. We’ve included common approaches that should be avoided and why, as well as some more helpful alternatives.
Coping strategies to avoid
Referred to as ‘maladaptive coping strategies’, the following may be useful for a short amount of time, but are ultimately detrimental to our mental health. You’re not expected to do what’s ideal for your mental health 100% of the time, but keep an eye on these things, or life can end up getting harder.
Unhealthy self-soothing: When going through a difficult period it’s easy to turn to short-term comforts - unhealthy eating, drink/drugs, spending more hours than usual playing video games etc.
If you’ve gone through a tricky break up and you decide to have a few more drinks than you probably should, that’s completely normal. Just be aware that these behaviours are addictive and adding addiction to what you’re already going through will undoubtedly make it 10 times worse.
Escape: For some people the most natural way to deal with a challenging period is to withdraw themselves from social situations. Again, whilst this is not particularly harmful in moderation, it can lead to a pattern in which social activities become daunting, and you begin to miss out on aspects of life that you used to enjoy.
Risk-taking: Others will seek an adrenaline rush through compulsive behaviours such as gambling, unsafe sex, theft and reckless driving. There are obvious physical, financial and even legal risks to this type of activity, but it can also alienate you from those you care about.
Getting through difficulty will most often require some support from loved ones - the last thing you want to do is push them away.
Positive coping strategies
Certain coping strategies, known as ‘adaptive coping strategies’, are more helpful to us when it comes to getting through a difficult time. Some provide that distraction/relief seen in the examples above, but without negative consequences. Others can actively speed up the healing process.
Support: No matter what the problem, talking to someone about it is always a good first step. Even if it’s something that you feel others can’t possibly help with, having someone there to listen whilst you think out loud is hugely beneficial.
A doctor or mental health professional will be best placed to help you if you’re really struggling, but you’ll still receive great benefits from talking to a friend or family member.
Exercise: As well as all the endorphins that are released from physical activity which boost our mood, exercise can also act as a positive distraction. If you’re focused on a game of tennis or taking in your surroundings on a long walk, you’re automatically less absorbed by what’s troubling you.
When we’re not feeling our best it can be difficult to motivate ourselves to be active. Try starting with something small like a walk. When you’ve done a few of them, maybe a run, or some kind of sport. If you have any sporty friends you can reach out to, they can make the whole experience even more enjoyable.
Relaxation/mindfulness: When it comes to things like mindfulness there is often an assumption from many people that it’s just ‘not for them’. People see it as something that’s based in spirituality as opposed to science - and that there might be humming and ‘chakras’ involved.
In reality, mindfulness is just about focusing on the here and now. When you do this, all the other things flitting around your brain start to quiet down, and your stress and anxiety starts to subside as well. In this blog we offer some mindfulness techniques. Why not give them a try? There’s nothing to be lost.
Tough times are a part of life and we’ll never be able to avoid them completely. However, the actions we take when we’re in moments of difficulty can impact how long and how arduous these periods are.
Don’t be too hard on yourself, there are no perfect ways to get by, but if things aren’t getting any easier, have a look at what you’re doing and see if there are changes you can make.
As always, HelloSelf can match you to a therapist that specialises in your needs, should you want to speak to a professional.