Coping: Is there a “right” way and a “wrong” way?

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What am I talking about when I say “coping”? It’s the things you do to take care of yourself when you are stressed or feeling down. There are many activities and techniques I like to do when I’m feeling stressed or upset. It varies widely for everyone and what works for me may not necessarily work for you and that’s okay. We are all unique and have different interests. It’s important to try different things if you aren’t sure what would make you feel better.

There isn’t a right or wrong way to cope but there are methods that are healthier for us and some that aren’t so healthy. We’ll talk about both and what they look like.

What is unhealthy coping? It’s a negative or potentially harmful way of overcoming stress. This type of coping is pretty common in our society. We are living in a world where mass media is accessible anywhere at any time to anyone. The media can become a sort of model for us when it comes to what activities we should be doing when we’re stressed. How many times on a TV show or movie do we see the actors drink, do drugs, or harm themselves or others to either cope with stress or a problem they may be having? Humans are social creatures so if we know someone that is engaging in certain behaviours, we might try to mimic that behaviour to help ourselves.

Unhealthy coping isn’t the “be all end all”– if you’ve harmed yourself before to cope, it doesn’t mean you will continue to do so for the rest of your life.

There are so many options out there to help you if you feel like you’re stuck or like that’s the only way you can deal with the craziness of life. We have all felt overwhelmed with our situation at one point or another. We just have to remember it’s normal to want to get rid of the pain, but we must recognize there’s a difference between tolerating your emotions and trying to get rid of them. Tolerating your emotions means trying to work through your feelings and realizing they must be dealt with. We can do this by engaging in healthy coping mechanisms.

Healthy coping means engaging in positive methods to ease your pain/stress. We don’t mean eating a whole tub of ice cream by yourself –although that does help sometimes. It’s about coping with stress in a positive manner. It can be easier to deal with things positively when we are aware that we’re feeling overwhelmed. We can learn to regulate our emotions by calming our body down and being mindful of our behaviour. Sometimes when we’re going through a lot, we may act in ways that we regret later.

We want to make sure we’re engaging in activities that make us feel good about ourselves and that don’t diminish our self-respect or confidence.

How many times have you heard the phrase “be mindful” or “do something with mindfulness” and you thought “what the heck does mindfulness even mean?!”We’re definitely not yogi’s here at ConnecTeen- (I for one, can barely touch my toes :/) but we know mindfulness is something anyone can practice. It means paying attention to and being aware in the present moment without judgement. It’s a difficult technique to learn and practice but the more self-aware you become in those moments of fury, sadness, depression or distress, the better able you can practice healthy coping mechanisms versus unhealthy coping.

Some healthy ways of coping you can try:

  • Listen to music you enjoy – whether the music matches your mood or not, find something that makes you feel better
  • Spend time in nature- go for a walk outside and get some fresh air
  • Exercise – hit the gym, try a new exercise class
  • Talk about it- call a friend or contact ConnecTeen @ 403-264-8336, or by texting 587-333-2724 or chatting at CalgaryConnecTeen.com. Find our Peer Support hours here. It can be such a relief to share what’s on your mind rather than keep it to yourself
  • Express yourself artistically- paint a picture, write a poem, dance around your room, keep a journal

At times, It may seem like your emotions are uncontrollable but if you take some time to practice being in the moment- being mindful- then you can better recognize what you need to feel better and move towards living a more positive and healthy lifestyle. We tend to think that we are burdening others with our problems when we ask for help, but that’s simply not the case.

There is nothing more courageous than reaching out for support when you need it. You deserve to feel heard.