INSIDE: This post is a guest post by Miranda from The Reluctant Cowgirl. In it, she’s sharing how developing positive coping skills can help you to deal with the ups and downs of life. If you want to cope better with the things life throws at you, these strategies are a great place to start. Let’s dive in!
Life is full of stressors…
The pang of seeing the ‘For-Sale‘ sign in front of your house, the frustration of dealing with mounting bills and the sorrow of witnessing your kid rejected all cause stress. We may dream of a stress-free life, one where we have only good days. But life isn’t quite like that. Developing positive coping skills to deal with anxiety and stress isn’t just smart, it is a necessity. Let’s examine healthy ways to cope with the ups and downs of life.
What is a coping mechanism?
First, let’s briefly discuss what a coping strategy is. A coping mechanism is what you reach for to comfort yourself when you have uncomfortable emotions due to your circumstances. Tough emotions may include feelings of anger, fear, jealousy, anxiety, frustration, sadness, or grief.
Coping strategies can be in one of three categories:
We’ll often cope in a variety of ways. Sometimes we reach for unhealthy, negative coping skills that either hurt ourselves or those for whom we care. Other times we pick neutral coping strategies that don’t really hurt us or anyone, but they are typically draining if done too often. And lastly, we hopefully have positive coping skills.
Examples of negative coping strategies:
- Over or under-eating.
- Excessive shopping.
- Using high-risk behaviours (stealing, meeting strangers for sex, etc…).
- Drinking excessively.
- Using drugs.
- Working way more than necessary.
- Controlling behaviour, often leading to emotional, verbal or physical abuse.
- Choosing unhealthy relationships.
Examples of neutral coping skills:
- Scrolling through social media.
- Watching TV.
- Wasting time doing nothing.
Positive coping skills…
Ideally, we limit our negative and mindless coping skills and instead reach for healthy coping strategies. Developing positive coping skills should be about creating a healthy way of life as well as some daily self-care stress busters.
Here are a few positive coping skills you can try to deal with the stresses that come your way.
#1. | Ensure you have a healthy support team around you
We all need healthy friends – a healthy support team is key to healthy coping. Sometimes we want to talk to someone who understands what we are dealing with. Other times, we need the wisdom of a mentor who is further along the path we are travelling that can give us helpful, honest advice.
When we take the time to cultivate a healthy support team, we accomplish several goals. We’ll have someone to call when we need some encouragement. We’ll have someone to laugh with. And we’ll have wise advice to avoid unnecessary stress!
#2. | Create an organisational system that works for you
There’s nothing more stressful than feeling like you’re so disorganised that people and tasks fall through the cracks. You don’t have to be the most organised person in the world. But discover a basic organising system that works to keep you on track. For instance:
- Do you prefer to keep things on your phone? Look for an app or use Google calendar and have reminders sent to your phone.
- Are you a paper and pen girl? Me too! Buy a big wall calendar so everyone can see what is coming up that week. Or invest in a beautiful planner and some cute pens to write down appointments and your goals for the week.
#3. | Plan ahead to avoid unnecessary stress
My husband farms and we also own cattle. There are a lot of breakdowns of equipment, bad weather that hits and animals that get hurt. I don’t know when any of it is going to happen. But I try to build cushions into my schedule knowing that I’m going to be needed at some unknown time that week.
You will have emergencies. You will have unplanned events. But one thing about emergencies is that even though you don’t know when an emergency is going to happen, we ALL KNOW that they are coming in some form or another.
You may not know that your car will break down in 4 days time. But chances are you realise that your car will require repairs at some time in the next six months.
#4. | Cultivate hobbies
My recipe box is a mess. And I don’t have an instant pot anywhere in my kitchen. But that’s okay. I just LOVE to be in the kitchen. And it doesn’t matter too much to me if I’m not cooking exactly like everyone else.
When you find a hobby you truly love, you’ll feel comfortable and happy all at the same time! Discover what brings you joy. And whether you have hours to devote to your hobby or just a few minutes a day, do it!
#5. | Develop positive self-care coping habits
Develop a habit of doing small things to care for yourself daily to de-stress. Do those things that delight you, re-energize you and give you time to reflect. Some may be hobbies and others may be things you know you need to do to care for yourself.
Examples of healthy self-care coping habits:
- Praying or meditating.
- Exercising or walking.
- Calling a friend.
- Taking time for coffee or tea.
- Listening to uplifting music.
- Colouring or drawing.
- Sewing or crafting.
- Baking or cooking.
- Listening to a podcast.
- Getting together with a friend.
- Playing music.
- Going shopping.
- Sitting outside.
- Taking a bath.
- Playing with your children.
- Planning out your week.
- Limiting sugar and caffeine.
- Drinking plenty of water.
To truly develop a life that is less stressful, one has to be aware of their emotions. Are you aware of what causes you the most stress? Which tasks on your to-do list wear you down? What people interactions cause you to feel anxious?
When you start feeling anxious or stressed, stop and think! Take note of your current circumstances, things you’ve just gone through and events or tasks that are coming soon. This little habit of checking in with your emotions and reactions will give you feedback.
You can then make better choices for your future. You may decide to drop or delegate tasks to others. Perhaps you wish to limit your time around certain people and need to create better boundaries.
ACTION STEP: Need some help when it comes to boundaries? This is THE book on boundaries I recommend the most! It’s life changing!
Sometimes we can’t get away from some people or our to-do items. But if we’re more aware of the stress it causes us, we can give ourselves grace or time to decompress. For instance, I hate paying bills and working on our budget! But because I’m aware of this, I try to give myself plenty of time to get the task done and pick a time of day when I know I’ll have energy to face the task.
#7. | Release unhealthy relationships
Unhealthy relationships in our life can be a real drain. Do you have any relationships in your life that you give and give with little to no return? Are you always on edge with a certain co-worker or friend as they tend to be up and down, leaving you uncertain how they will be on any given day?
If you can, cut or severely limit your time with this person. If you still have to be around them, make sure to move them emotionally out of your inner circle, realising it is healthy to be distrusting of those who have proven themselves to be untrustworthy.
#8. | Develop positive coping thoughts
Lastly, be careful about what you are telling yourself. Often, we send ourselves negative, stress-inducing messages! Next time you find yourself doing this, try to reframe those thoughts. For instance:
- Instead of saying, “it’s ALL up to me” try, “I’ll do my best with my part“.
- Stop telling yourself, “I’m such a failure” and instead say, “I’m so brave to keep trying“.
- Keep to the truth by saying, “it’s not my responsibility to keep everyone happy” and not, “I have to make people around me happy“.
Changing how we speak to ourselves can greatly lower our stress and create more realistic, healthy expectations for ourselves and for others!
The Reluctant Cowgirl’s mission is to help moms of tweens and teens, create an emotionally healthy home that is vibrant, full of respect and laughter. Miranda Lamb is a city girl living in the country. She is a wife, mom to a blended family and vibrant life mentor at The Reluctant Cowgirl. She has worked with hundreds of families as a group facilitator for court-ordered groups.
How to develop positive coping habits…
Thank you so much for this post, Miranda! No matter how much we might like it to be, life is never going to be 100% stress-free. So, it’s crucial we develop healthy coping strategies and habits so that we’re able to deal with everything that life throws us. And these positive coping skills are a great place to start. Here they are again:
- Ensure you have a healthy support team around you.
- Create an organisational system that works for you.
- Plan ahead to avoid unnecessary stress.
- Cultivate hobbies.
- Develop positive self-care coping habits.
- Be aware of your emotions and develop healthy boundaries.
- Release unhealthy relationships.
- Develop positive coping thoughts.
That’s it for this post! Which positive coping skills do you already have in place? Which do you need to work on? Let me know in the comments!
Until next time…
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