What To Do When Your Coping Skills Stop Working
Big life changes, stress, and trauma can throw us for a loop and make it harder to cope. It's important to know what you can do, and where to seek help.
Coping skills, like grounding techniques, are useful when you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed. In a perfect world, we would be able to use these techniques with ease and 100% effectiveness. In reality, there are times in life when our regular coping skills fall short and aren’t as effective as they once were. This can happen all at once due to a specific event (like COVID-19 lockdown or a big life change), or over time you might recognize that your anxiety and depressive symptoms are harder to manage.
If you feel a sudden shift in your ability to mange your emotions and cope, it may be due to a specific reason. Did you recently change jobs, move, go through a break up, or experience something traumatic? Identifying your triggers can help you understand where to start in the healing process.
Practice, Even When You Feel “Fine”
If you find yourself only reaching for your coping skills (like deep breathing, mindfulness, exercise) only when you are in crisis, it can be harder to follow through or remember what to do. Taking up a daily practice of mindfulness or movement creates a routine that you become familiar with. Over time, it will be easier to reach for these tools when you need them the most. You can start small, with just a few minutes of stretching or breathing in the morning.
Exercise Self Compassion
It is easy to default to negative thinking about ourselves when we feel unable to cope. If thoughts like "just get it together" or "I should know better than to get this overwhelmed", try showing yourself some compassion through writing, meditation, or positive self-talk. We love these exercises from Dr. Kristin Neff.
Reach Out for Help
Everyone experiences times in their lives when they feel overwhelmed and unable to cope on their own. Reaching out for help is the bravest and kindest thing you can do for yourself. Sharing your experiences with a trusted person like a therapist can help you feel less alone and bring relief from the stress you’re experiencing. Therapy can help you find coping skills that are going to be effective for you, as well as allow you to explore your triggers in a nonjudgemental, welcoming space.
A version of this article was originally published on peacefulminds.ca by the same author