Coping Skills – Some Healthy, Some Not

This week I thought about coping skills many times. At one time or another during life, you’ll need to employ some coping skills. These usually come into play when one is under stress or during a crisis situation. The last year has held both for me.

My parents are showing many signs of aging. Memory loss, loss of function, loss of a sense of value, and loss of support systems have impinged their lives. Doctor visits are hard to cope with as diagnoses, instructions, and even follow-up times and dates are missed due to hearing loss. The overuse of technology adds to the stress. When the phone rang this week at my folk’s house to arrange a follow-up for my Dad with a specialist’s office, reportedly he went ballistic. He started yelling and claiming no one was listening when they tried to give him an appointment on a day he had previously told them he was not available. My dad was under stress. His reaction to stress is to lose his temper. He was better by the next day after my sister told him he cannot yell at the very people trying to help him and he had time to calm down. For my sister and me, maintaining a high quality of life for both of our parents and their remaining life together is paramount.

Coping Mechanisms

  • anger
  • exploding at others

I react to stress in a couple of different ways. If it’s an acute stressor, like conflict in a meeting or a sense of not being heard or valued, I usually retreat and become quiet. If I push myself and speak up, I usually end up in tears. This is not a reaction to not getting my way but rather a frustration with myself for not being able to articulate well because of my emotions. I’ve had many experiences where my emotions got in the way of being able to accurately articulate my point of view – which usually has been thoroughly thought through and researched – but is all for naught if I cannot speak my mind well enough to be understood. Writing has definitely helped me through some of those situations. And, I’m sure it will continue to do so.

Coping Mechanisms

  • retreat – become silent
  • cry
  • gather information and research
  • speak up
  • write your point of view or thoughts out
  • send a letter (I’ve written a few)

But, if I have a longer-term stressor, like our pending move, I have a different way of coping. And, it is sleep! I’ve long known that sleep for me is an escape. I’m not naturally a great sleeper. I suffer from insomnia (also caused by stress) and when I get a full night’s sleep, it’s like I’ve been given a gift.

Today, I got up early to be around when several large pieces of furniture were taken from our house to our cabin. We are moving three hours away for a temporary, yet unknown, amount of time. Our cabin is a four-season house and we do love being there but still – a move is a move. After the furniture was gone, I became tired. I was up two hours earlier than my normal time of rising, but this was a different tired. It was an emotional release from what was happening. I read for a short time and was sound asleep by 9:30 on the couch. I must have needed it – my simple but comforting short period of sleep – because I slept hard. If only for an hour, I escaped the stress of our move.

Coping Mechanisms

  • Sleep
  • Having a pet

And, then there is Molly. We have a lovable large, purebred yellow labrador dog. She is a sweetheart and thinks everyone is there to love her and be her friend. She gets more love than any animal I know – mostly from my husband, but also from me! I love petting her, playing with her, talking to her, and she gives so much in return. She keeps us real. She lets us know when she needs simple things like dinner or water or a walk or when to go do her “duty” outside. Beyond that, she loves us back. And, I know having a pet – especially one we love so much – is a great way to reduce stress and cope with life.

We all have BOTH healthy and unhealthy coping skills. We all use BOTH healthy and unhealthy skills to cope but as long as we learn how to best cope with life as it rolls out in front of us, we will be okay. Right?!

In what ways do you cope with stress? Leave a note in the comments.

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