I have found that my own personal coping strategy has many different stages, much like grief, sometimes grief is one of them, and I work through the stages as often and as well as I can.
Acknowledging – A big part of coping in situations where I feel out of my depth is acknowledging that I feel out of my depth. I always used to stall this stage because I thought I wasn’t good enough, or I was weak by admitting that I felt out of be depth or not coping (another big factor is my childhood, I wasn’t allowed NOT to cope or my feelings were not considered). As an adult I have come to realise that life is generally harder on us because we tend to MAKE it harder by not acknowledging that it is normal to feel out of our depth and outside our comfort zone.
Communication – It is such an essential tool that I really don’t know how I have missed this for so much of my life. Probably because I didn’t know any better. “When we know better we do better… [Maya Angelou]” So I have given myself permission to say firstly to myself “I am not coping with [this situation] and its OK. I need help and that’s OK too. I don’t have to be perfect all the time. I am not required to know all the answers. I am not helping myself by being hard on myself in a time of need. Then I need to turn that into a conversation with anyone else involved in my life/care. Same thoughts, but this time with a request “Anything you can do to help me would be very much appreciated. Thank you.”
Give in to the process – When I am faced with a time that I am not coping with, or a situation I am not coping with, I have to be prepared to ‘give in to the process’, let go of the reigns, believe that although I am not sure how each step is going to look like, that it is OK to take it slow and just breathe. None of these things are easy if you have a ‘controlling personality’ like yours truly here. But I have had to realise that control is an illusion and life will always remind us of that. We are not in control of what happens, simply how we react. I am getting better at this stage but I must say that I do prefer it when people consult with me from time to time about what my options are and be respectful that its not an easy experience or time for me. I think that if we find ourselves in places or with people who are NOT respectful of these things we have the right to find another process / assistance / support etc.
Pep talks – Self talk is important in times when our coping is tested. Is it your nature to be down on yourself? This is when it comes out! My default setting for self talk is echoing the words that were said in my youth and not believing in myself or being down on myself. Its been a life long battle to change this and I suspect that it might also be the same for many other people. Remembering to tell myself that I am so proud of myself for even trying something new, or encouraging myself to continue to learn from the situation. I can remember sitting in my GP’s office and bursting into tears after battling for almost 7 years. I said to her “I don’t think I can cope with all this! All the symptoms. All the pain. All the guilt. All the confusion. All the frustration. Juggling all this every minute of the day! Its too much!! I broke down and cried. I cried hard. She looked at me and said “If you were not coping Trish, you wouldn’t be here today. You wouldn’t be dressed and sitting in my office with your husband. You would be institutionalized somewhere, probably without your husband. You need to give yourself some credit sometimes. She was right. Coping doesn’t have to look any particular way… it is simply doing your best. And I do. Everyday of my life. I am sure you do too.
Don’t compare! – Someone else will cope differently and react differently to situations, that’s OK, that’s their life, not yours. This is another really hard thing to remember especially if we have convinced ourselves that we ‘should’ be able to cope or do better, or as well as someone else. All the comparing under the sun changes nothing. All the wishing changes nothing. Only the ‘trying’ changes something. You are trying and that’s all that counts.
Rewarding yourself – If the ‘situation’ is a short or long, you really need to remember to reward yourself along the way. For example, I like flowers, classical music, books and girly things. I know what helps cheer me up. So does my support team (Hubby, friends) so if I need to cope with something or do something I am not finding easy, I remember to treat myself along the way. Listening to music, scented candles … you get the picture… just because you are dealing with a difficult or challenging situation doesn’t mean you cant break it up into smaller pieces with a little bit of something calming or nice thrown in along the way.
Emotional release – If you feel it, show it. Just don’t let it consume you. A partner, friend, relative someone who knows you might be helpful to just be there while you release, or you can do it alone, which ever makes you feel more comfortable and can be aware of if you might be becoming consumed in by it. When my mother died I thought I was going to cry myself to death. Out of compassion my husband said “I don’t want you to stop grieving or crying, I just want you to take rest breaks too.” I did. He was right. It helped.
… to be continued