Coping Strategies: This is such an important thing to have. I often emphasise on the necessity of it to my clients, yet somehow I fall short of doing what I preach at times.
However, these two words are very general. Let’s break it down. Coping strategies to what? Stress? Boredom? Loneliness? In this article, we will be looking at coping strategies to manage stress.
Experiencing stress is inevitable. It’s part and parcel of life. Making friends, taking exams, going for interviews, public speaking, going on your first date, starting a family, taking care of your dependants, etc. It never ends. The way we respond though, can be changed.
Make no mistake, coping strategies aren’t long-term solutions- they shouldn’t be. It is simply something you do immediately to cope with situations you can’t handle at that point in time.
Sometimes, we can get so emotional it’s hard to tell ourselves to “just calm down and smile.” In the heat of a situation, you’re probably feeling such intense emotions (e.g. anger, sadness, fear) you can’t properly engage your brain and think properly (Healthy Thinking). What you might have energy to do though, is to use one of your coping strategies to get you away from that state you are in (tired, stressed, drained).
A good coping strategy is something that becomes intuitive. It’s like getting your hand burnt when you touch a hot stove – lifting your hand away immediately from the hot stove is very innate. When you see something you fear, such as a ghost, or a cockroach, you instinctively run away from it. All these are very easy to execute- it’s so natural.
However, even though all these seems natural- you actually had a lot of practice. You probably ran away from a cockroach or other fears more than a couple of times. It only seems innate to you because you have already mastered the art of it through practice and made it a habit.
Similarly, coping strategies can be practised, and it can become intuitive to you over time. I used to react to stress by eating junk food. Chips, chocolates, fries. Yum yum. Buying a McDonald’s meal was the default choice for dinner when I felt stressed. It was an easy decision to make- I had no more energy to think healthily, and the accessibility of it made it very tempting. It was such a relief- I felt good, happy, worry-free in that moment. Of course, I also grew horizontally- I remember gaining a couple of kilograms in just one month.
How can we then form good coping strategies? That can only be answered by YOU. There are a thousand coping strategies, but only you can know if it is a good one for you, by trying it out yourself.
Back to that McDonald’s situation- If I was feeling very tired and stressed, reminding myself that I have a goal of 51kg to aim for could help me- but if you’re already less than that, using this strategy would probably not work. Coping strategies could also change over time. Running may be your go-to in the past, but today you might be slowly turning towards meditation. It really depends on you.
The fact remains though: We all need coping strategies- because if we don’t cope, we can’t get to the next level: the root problem aka stress and conflict, will never be resolved.
[Part 1 of 2: To be continued…]