Coping Strategies Made Simple
Often times when we offer people coping strategies we tell them to try things they do not have . “Try working out” - “well I don’t have a gym membership.” “Try going to see a counselor”- “well I cannot afford it.” “Use a stress ball”- “well I lost the only one I had.” There are a million and one things that most likely will help you that exist outside of yourself and a million and one barriers to why you may not be able to access those resources. But what about all the wisdom, power and resource within yourself?
The following coping strategies are about using your internal coping strategies and the genius of your body.
Filter through the ones that make most sense to you. You can’t knock it unless you try it.
Take slow, deep breathes (Breathe in from your belly, allow the breathe to slowly rise up, gently hold, and slowly breathe out allowing the breathe to fall back down into your belly).
Try the 5-4-3-2-1 mindfulness technique. Find five things you can see. Pay attention to their unique features, their size and color. Try to notice something you have not noticed before. Find four things you can touch around you. Notice the textures and feel the difference between each item. Find three things you can hear. Make some noise if need be. Open the door to hear the cars outside or turn on the music and pay attention to the instruments and words. Find two things you can smell. If need be, move to a different environment or pick up an item around you. Find one thing you can taste. Whether it be food, a drink or a piece of gum, try to notice the flavor. This technique is especially useful when you're experiencing negative thoughts or feel dissociative. It will help ground you in your present environment.
Practice affirming yourself. Think about all the wonderful things that make you who you are or positive words, phrases that have been said to you. Repeat the words and phrases, imagining all the words/phrases are true for you. Key word is “imagine." It may be hard to believe in the words but what would it be like if you did believe in the affirmations.
Imagine yourself in a safe place. Using all your five senses, enter into this space. If you are in need of additional safety, imagine a safe person here in the space with you. Think about the comforting words they would say to you. Allow your mind and body to just rest with these images.
Journal your feelings. It doesn’t have to be a “Dear Diary, today I…” it can be listing your hopes, dreams, fears, insecurities, struggles, and/or accomplishments. Think about your journal as a safe place to just be you and to be real. Allow the words to also be reminders for you that you can look back and read or allow the words to serve as evidence or clues for you to make connections and develop more insight into your own inner world.
Take a mindful walk or jog. Experience the cool breeze kissing your face and notice all the sights, sounds and smells around you. Try to also notice your breathing. Allow your worries and struggles, to dissipate with each step forward.
Make a list of all the things you need to accomplish today. Beginning with what would be most easy to accomplish, ending with what would be more challenging. Start by completing the first task on your list and once completed, cross it off.
Imagine there were no barriers, fears or anything limiting you. Think about all the things you want to accomplish in your life. Remember what has brought you joy and excitement. Begin researching what it would take to accomplish those goals.
Look at old photos of you smiling. Notice the people in the photos and the joy that was present during this time. Try to imagine yourself back in the photo and relive what you notice in the photo. Keep in mind it may be tempting to begin feeling resentful, angry, and/or frustrated because you’re not in this picture presently. Keep in mind, that although many things may have changed since the date of the photo, you were once suspended in a happy moment and like all moments, the feelings you currently have will pass. You will experience happiness again, it will just take the form of a new picture.
Talk to someone whom you trust. Only share the information that feels safe enough to share. If self-expression is difficult, try admitting the difficulty and begin sharing whatever feels most easiest to share first. This can also look like praying or talking to someone trustworthy who has passed away.
Watch an uplifting movie or listen to an uplifting song. Allow the words and images to touch your heart. If listening to music, close your eyes and allow the melody to bring feelings of peace and hope. If you do not have access to a TV or MP3/audio player, try humming or singing a song that stirs positive feelings for you.
Write down every negative thought that is in your mind. Begin practicing put the thought on trial. Ask yourself is the thought true, if so, what evidence do I have to support this thought. Are there any counter-arguments to this thought? What could be more reasonable and true?
Connect to your inner child. Play a game. Curl up with your baby blanket. Watch a favorite childhood tv show and/or movie. Whatever you choose, allow nostalgia to set in and allow your inner childhood self to have some fun.
Get active with high-intensity movements. Quick jumping, jumping jacks, sit ups, push ups, and lunges are always an easy way to get the heart rate pumping and your mind more focused on the present. It’s also a great way to relieve some of the anger that may built up. Try releasing whatever you’re holding with each movement. It may be also helpful to use something safe to punch (pillows usually make the best punching bags).
Ask for a hug or hug yourself (try the butterfly technique). It may sound silly and way too vulnerable but think about what calmed you down and provided relief when you were a baby. It was your mother’s nurture and warmth. She picked you up when you would cry and rocked you back and forth. In the same way, we need nurture and warmth to remind us we are safe and despite everything we may experience, we are loved.
Similar to the coping skill above, when you were a baby you also were most likely patted. The pat was essential to get your heart beat to slow down and provided a visceral reminder that you were going to be okay. In a similar way, it may be helpful to pat or tap yourself. The video above also shows how you can best administer this.
The tapping method using your pressure points. Begin with tapping the first pressure point on the fleshy part on your hand and affirm yourself. “Even though I am going through _____ I love and accept myself.” Then continue tapping with the other eight pressure points and repeat the previous affirmation. (The pressure points include, the top of the eyebrow, the side of the eye, underneath the eye, underneath the nose, the chin, the collar bone, underneath the armpit, and on the top of your head). You can modify the self-affirming words but try to stay consistent with your previous affirmation to reinforce it. This strategy is about acknowledging your current feelings and practicing affirming yourself, allowing yourself to experience positive thoughts even in the midst of many negative thoughts. The tapping points are natural pressure points we all have that provide physical relief and communicate to the brain along with the verbal response that you’re okay and it
CRY. Contrary to popular belief, there is nothing wrong with crying. It does not make you weak nor powerless. Nor does it mean you are no longer in control or victimizing yourself. Crying is completely natural and healthy. It’s a great way to let out all the sadness that gets built up over time. Interestingly water has always been a vital natural resource that supports our physical health and well-being, and keeps us alive. The water from our tears is no exception. We are most well and most alive when we allow ourselves to cry.