Coping mechanisms can be healthy and unhealthy. Having a big night out with a few too many drinks and bad moves on the dance floor can be good to let off some steam, drinking by yourself every night not healthy… Eating a bowl of ice-cream after hard day not too bad occasionally; eating the tub, a large pizza and a packet of cookies (in one sitting), not so good.
Exercising is a healthy option, often under utilised and under estimated. Studies have shown that even a simple 30 min walk each day can help in improving mood and decreasing some of the symptoms of depression. I wrote recently about not being able to run (which is my personal preferred coping mechanism now). When this was off the table, I slipped into some unhealthy coping strategies and ate more than I usually would, in particular foods that I attempt to limit.
Part of the reason that I believe that I went back to older patterns quicker was that I hadn’t re-established my exercise routine after surgery in February. I wasn’t back to training until April, the routine wasn’t solid yet, the routine didn’t have enough time to solidify prior to the confluence of life situations that lead to me feeling overwhelmed. Here is the key… Pattern and Routine.
Pattern and Routine are essential for us to be able to navigate through each day and keep our emotions, thoughts and feelings in a state of relative order. To be in a space of emotional safety and allow us to move through life and cope with what the world flings at us. When our pattern and routines are not established, take a hit or become disrupted we can fall back into easier or older coping mechanisms.
Recently, when my “Perfect Storm” of stressors rose up it wiped me, my running and my exercise out. This lead to falling back into old thinking and patterns – Honestly, this scared the crap out of me. I have worked hard over the past 4 years to move the weight and change my patterns of coping. While I didn’t completely fall off the wagon or relapse – I felt a little out of control and that I was trying to hold onto water with it only to run straight through my fingers.
This got me thinking – There will likely come a time when I am faced with another “Perfect Storm” of stressors. That is just the way of the world; we cannot (despite trying) control all the factors of our lives. This has pushed me to think about extending my coping mechanisms and routines to include other healthy coping mechanisms on a regular basis. This will allow me to build into my routine new coping mechanisms and use them on a regular basis, so, that if the day comes that I am not able to run or walk, or move as I would like, I will have another healthy way of working through the stress, thoughts, feelings and emotions. It is a bit like exercising a muscle, the more you train and work that muscle the stronger it becomes. I need to exercise new coping strategies, make them strong and build them into my life.
So my question to myself and one that you can ask yourself is this; What do I enjoy that can become a solid practice in my life (part of my routine) that will allow me to cope and deal with the stressors of life in a healthy way?
Some ideas for me to explore are having focusing methods and projects, understanding meditative practice better, and incorporating reading and writing as reflective practice.
I would be interested in reading your ideas or thoughts about this so feel free to leave a comment.
Till next time, Lin.