It was probably a year or more ago I authored a post on coping skills, titled, “Stop Coping,” (that post can be found here) urging you to look for areas you were settling in or becoming avoidant with overused coping skills. I suggested you discard what wasn’t functional anymore in your life, in order to push yourself forward. Today, in a very different world than the stage set for that advice, we are going to reexamine coping skills, look at their function, and help you help yourself to know when they are needed (and give yourself the permission to use them!)
Coping skills are to create emotional, psychological and even physical boundaries around something in order to survive it. In other words, a coping does not fix anything, it just allows us to survive that thing. By definition, coping skills are best applied to things that we cannot fix, or at least, not right now, or definitely not all at once. They are a tool to allow us to continue on until we can mindfully accept what we cannot change, and change what we can.
The key principle, erring on the side of giving you cliche advice, is knowing the difference between these two. What can you change? If you can change it, don’t forever cope with it (see article from 1 year or so ago). If you can’t change it, do what you can to cope with it- ultimately with the goal of not emotionally resisting your experience to it (because in the resistance lies the suffering).
In a globally gridlocked situation, such as a pandemic, we are falling into category 2 in many ways. Give yourself permission please, to cope. Release yourself from high expectations, perfectionism, overly goal oriented behavior, knowing you can return to that and that your ability and skills to achieve will be there waiting for you when you need them. Allow yourself to maintain what is important (read: self care, structure, routine, support system) and do what is otherwise healthy to cope.
Unsure what coping skills mean for you? I recommend to all my clients to have a written list of these prepared for themselves at all times. They can be wide and varied from distraction techniques, to self soothing, to personal development, to (of course) creative practices and more- this is something that time in counseling can be used to build- personalized for your use.
(C) 2020 Creatively, LLC
The information provided in this blog is from my own clinical experiences and training. It is intended to supplement your clinical care. Never make major life changes before consulting with your treatment team. If you are unsure of your safety or wellbeing, do not hesitate to get help immediately.