Leading on from my article anxiety, I felt it befitting to explore and unpack coping strategies, which assist us to navigate and manage stressful situations as they pop up across daily life.

As we are all uniquely different, all of us will have differing ways in which we cope with stressful situations.

However it becomes problematic when we become avoidant as we are applying maladaptive coping strategies to the presenting problem often unintentionally but overtime this becomes counterproductive resulting in ineffective coping strategies such as:

  • Alcohol and other drugs will only provide temporary relief dulling our distress. Long term use can lead to dependency in turn creating more problems than one at hand
  • Avoidance: guilty as charged here and learnt that avoidance is another quick fix which doesn’t address the problem instead intensifying it
  • Complaining: it is okay to vent and get it off your chest but complaining about the issue is not going to resolve it, you need to apply action, or the problem remains unaddressed and builds over time

So, the key message here is temporary fixes do not resolve issues and the only way to through the stress is literally working through it applying relevant strategies allowing us to cope so we can navigate our way towards a solution.

Achieving this requires you to become aware of your stressors as they arise and at this point: I am smiling, why?

Well again guilty as charged, as being human we all at some point attempt to avoid our problems. Often this is done through the application of one or many maladaptive coping mechanisms which complicates and cause us harm both short and long term.

  • Instead, become aware of your stress: pause and breathe to step back from emotions attached to the stressor. Once your rationale thinking kicks in its time to apply healthy coping strategies.

There are two types of coping strategies you can apply alone or together dependent on the stressor, these are problem focused and emotion focused.

  • Problem focused: viewing problems with a solution-focused lens to decrease and resolve presenting problem. But it will likely be a work in progress, so be kind to yourself recognising and accepting resolution takes time, but at least you’re not in avoidance mode. Instead, you’re taking small steps to lower your stress levels each step of the way eventually resulting in resolution.
  • Emotional Focused: views your feelings that have arisen from the presenting problem providing you the opportunity to balance your emotions and decrease reactivity. Such as breathing exercises or listening to some music, this allows us to sit with the discomfort more comfortably allowing us to begin unpacking the problem.

Remember, when day to day stressors become too much hit your internal pause button giving yourself the time to decompress.

It will give you the space you need to before exploring coping strategy that best fits the problem you are facing.

As when we don’t we often self-impose complications whereby “Problems are not the Problem; Coping is the Problem” – Virginia Satir

  • 13YARN 13 92 76
  • Kym Marsden is a  Queensland-based Indigenous forensic mental health coordinator

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