5 October 2021
We all have those mornings. We get out of bed and… well, it’s just not our morning. We spill the coffee, it’s raining when we leave the house, and then we’re stuck in traffic. Or maybe everything is tagging along alright, but we’re just not feeling it.
We all have those days. We are rushing from one thing to the next, never stopping to take a break, to have a breather, or even to reflect on how we’re doing. We’re running on the hamster wheel without having the time to take in our surroundings.
We all know those evenings. We get home after the tough morning, the tiring day, and we sit down and turn on the TV. Or we get ourselves a drink or a cigarette. We try to ‘unwind’ or find relief in overeating, undereating, self-harming or numbing ourselves in some other way. And it’s common practice… but really it shouldn’t be.
When we distract ourselves from our feelings, when we run away or ignore our thoughts and needs and when we suppress our struggles, we are adding tiny droplets to a bucket that is, gradually but steadily, filling to the point of overflowing. And when it does overflow we’re at crisis-point, so why not stop filling this bucket before we get there?
Let’s have a look at some more adaptive strategies to deal with the setbacks and bumps along the road! Take your pick from each of these categories, and compile a list that is unique to you!
Sensory: This includes grounding techniques, intended to help you get in touch with your body's sensations. Sometimes, becoming aware of your body’s sensations is enough to calm your nervous system and help you regain your footing before returning to a chaotic day or a busy schedule. Some suggestions:
- Listening to music
- Walking in nature
- Playing with sensory toys
- Cuddling up in a soft blankets
- Carrying out a body scan (or other guided meditation)
Active: 'Active' activities require mental and/or physical exertion. They generate a sense of purpose, enabling you to get in the flow and to momentarily forget (and subsequently better deal with!) any issues that beforehand may have appeared insurmountable. Active activities are often energising, which is definitely a plus when we’re feeling low and may lack motivation. Bear in mind, not everyone may be able to engage in the physically active activities, so check with your doctor if you think this rings true for you, and opt for some of the mentally active activities instead. Some examples:
- Playing team sports
- Stretching/gentle movement
- Learning a new language /skill
- Watching a documentary
- Playing brain games
Connection: Connection is one of the pillars to mental wellbeing, and it's an important one for a reason! Connecting with others provides an outlet for frustrations, a way to relate, and a chance to build your self-worth. Try:
- Cuddling a pet
- Talking to a friend
- Meeting someone for lunch
- Opening up in therapy
Distraction: In moments of crisis, when you just need to deal in the here and now, distraction may be your best bet. Taking your mind off the issue at hand and allowing yourself to get lost in another activity allows you to take a step back before coming back to tackle your emotions at a later time. Some good activities to lose yourself in:
- Watching TV
- Listening to audiobook
- Watching YouTube videos
After engaging in these activities, ask yourself: does it make me feel good right now? Will it help keep my mood raised in the future? Can I incorporate it into my day-to-day routine? Then continue doing the things that work for YOU, and ditch the ones that prove unhelpful. Distraction, for example, is seldom a long-term solution. However, you may find that it provides short-term relief and, in combination with some of the other strategies, enables you to tackle your struggles in a much more adaptive way overall!
As the title mentions 25 coping strategies and only 22 are actually listed above, don’t forget to add onto the list with some of your own strategies. What would you add, and what have you found most helpful in lifting your mood in the past?
Remember: there cannot be a rainbow without rain, and sometimes we just have to get through the rough patches to come out stronger and more resilient on the other side.