Friday, July 29, 2016

Coping Skills


We hear a lot about learning coping skills when we’re dealing with mental illness. There has always been sort of an “industry standard” list that many doctors and therapists will give you to help get you through panic attacks, social anxiety, and depression. It has been my opinion for quite some time that you can’t expect something that would work for person A to work for person B.  Not to mention, you may have a go to coping skill that regularly works for you, but a day may come when it just isn’t working.

I think it’s important for all of us to keep a list nearby of what usually works for us, with a few back-ups included. I’m going to talk about a few of the things that work for me. Just in case I use something you’ve never tried. By no means am I trying to tell you what to do, but keep an open mind. You never know!

Writing
This one is pretty obvious. I’m an author and a blogger so of course writing is one of my coping skills. I wouldn’t be able to do it if it didn’t help me in some way. Keep in mind that your writing doesn’t have to be perfect. Right now, all you’re doing is attempting to get your thoughts together. Even if you just jot down a list of words that describe how you’re feeling or random sentences, it may help.

Music
Music can be a double-edged sword when used as a coping skill, so tread lightly. The right music may put you in a better mood, but the wrong music can make you feel ten times worse. Be sure you’re using the best choice for you at the moment.

Coloring
This is something relatively new for me. I re-discovered it earlier this year, and I can’t say enough about it. When you’re putting all of your energy into making the picture in front of you beautiful, it’s hard to think about anything negative. And when you’re done, the feeling of accomplishment sets in, so you’re feeling better on two levels. I use both coloring books and colored pencils and an app on my iPad. They’re both a lot of fun and help when I’m anxious.
 
Photography
I love taking pictures. If I was better at it, I might’ve made a go of it professionally. I have a good eye for detail, and I’m pretty creative, so even pictures I take with my phone are important to me. Nothing is better than a good camera and being able to put all of your focus into getting the perfect shot. Not to mention, when the weather is nice, it feels fantastic to get out of the house out into the fresh air to get some great shots.

Cleaning
I know this sounds a little strange to use as a coping skill, but I do have my reasons. My panic or anxiety attacks are often the result of feeling a loss of control. However, when I clean, I am in control. I can put all of my effort into making a room clean, and it gets my mind off the negative thoughts. Not to mention, this skill also lends itself to a feeling of accomplishment. When you struggle with the guilt of not accomplishing enough on any given day, this can be exactly what you need.

Pets
Cats have always been a huge part of my life. We had them the entire time I was growing up, and I got one as soon as I moved out on my own. We have five and they are a constant source of entertainment. Our oldest cat, Hayley seems to have a sense of when I’m feeling down and barely leaves my side. There have been many a lonely day that our cats were the only thing keeping me going.

Movies
Movies are a lot like music in that you need to be selective about what you watch when you’re feeling down. When I’m feeling sad, I have a few go to films.  I often find myself craving historical films like Memoirs of a Geisha. I also love 80’s movies like The Breakfast Club or action like The Avengers. I stay away from anything that will most likely make me cry. However, from time to time I will just turn on the Lifetime network and immerse myself in all of its cheesy and ridiculous splendor.

Punching bag
This is also new to me, and I haven’t been able to get as much use out of it as I would like. I’ve pictured many a face on that bag while I punch and kick it! It’s a workout and a half, but it is also a lot of fun.

On a side note, certain scents can also be helpful during sad times. I have a variety of wax warmers and scents that I find comforting. This usually goes hand in hand with the other tasks.

So, that’s my list currently. Did anything surprise you or give you an idea of your own? I hope so. I think it’s incredibly important for us to take time for ourselves, especially when we’re struggling. You may even learn something about yourself or develop a new skill.

I get it, these types of things can often seem annoying when you’re feeling bad. I know for me, there are times when I don’t want to do any of them. I want to stay in bed and hide under the covers, and that’s OK too! I’m just saying, think about it. Just try one out and see if it gives you any relief. If not, come back to your list another time and try something else. Isn’t it worth it to get you feeling better?