Cool as a Cucumber: How to Develop Coping Skills
Posted on December 20, 2012 in Fulfillment, Gratitude, Happiness, Self Improvement by Sandra Bienkowski
“Sometimes life knocks you on your ass—get up, get up, get up! Happiness is not the absence of problems; it’s the ability to deal with them.” – Steve Maraboli
I was reading an article in a parenting magazine that said there are two types of parents—frenzied/stressed or calm. I immediately thought, “That can’t be true. People are complex and don’t fall into such concrete categories.” (I also thought that statement might infuriate a lot of moms … particularly of the stressed out variety.) So I quickly thought about a handful of moms I know, and was surprised to discover I could immediately categorize them into one of the two camps—frazzled or serene. And then it made sense to me, whether you are a stress monster or the queen of tranquility is really a matter of choice. It’s a choice for everyone—regardless of whether you have kids.
When I was in my early twenties, I was in the stressed category, but I wanted out. I was an expert at creating drama in my life. I was depressed. If you named an aspect of my life—money, love, work, health, family, friendships—I could tell you what was wrong with it. When you are in depression’s grip, each aspect of your life has a tendency to spiral downward. Toss in a little denial and you don’t connect the dots that you are the common denominator of your problems. Fortunately, I knew I needed help. Talk therapy with a blunt (and funny) psychologist helped me transition to a more peaceful state of existence. He said I needed to learn some coping skills. (I didn’t even know the term … coping skills.) Some of the fundamentals he taught me, I still rely on today. Here are a few …
Set boundaries. This was a big one. Setting boundaries is about curing the disease to please. It’s about standing up for yourself, letting people know your limits and teaching people how to treat you. It’s about saying No or telling people when they have crossed a line.
I realized through counseling, that every time you cross a boundary, blur a boundary or fail to set any, life goes downhill—fast. I entered therapy not even being able to recognize boundaries, and came out seeing where they were needed left and right. Setting boundaries is about expressing your needs, preventing others from exploiting you, protecting your time and energy, and honoring how you really feel by being genuine.
Recognizing boundaries is about paying attention to those times and events that give you a sinking feeling because it’s a sign that your self-respect or personal power is being compromised. Your boundaries define and draw an invisible line around what’s acceptable to you and what’s not.
Best-selling author and personal development expert Cheryl Richardson has a great quote on boundaries … “Too often women neglect to stand up for themselves by avoiding confrontation and end up weakening their internal shield, making it harder to set boundaries at all. So, if someone offends you, it may be necessary to let them know in order to protect and strengthen your internal boundaries.”
Shatter your mirrors. Stop looking to other people to determine how you should feel about yourself. Shattering your mirrors means you go internal to determine your self-worth instead of letting it be determined or shaped by other people and experiences. Other ways to shatter your mirrors …
See yourself through your own eyes, not someone else’s.
Own your own thoughts and trust your perceptions.
Make decisions for yourself and not to simply please others so they will like you.
Realize you have as many answers as anyone else.
Know you are resilient. Effectively coping with life’s ups and downs is at the heart of resilience. Living with gratitude fosters resilience because you stay focused on the positives even through adversity. Resilience is about how you respond to situations. You don’t define your existence by fleeting experiences or temporary emotions. Resilience begins by telling yourself you are strong and reminding yourself of it when you need to hear it.
Resilience is so important because it builds a barrier from anxiety and depression because you have built up your internal and external resources to cope and you walk around with that strength.
Internally resilience is built by taking care of your needs and not neglecting them for the sake of others. It’s about facing experiences head on instead of burying your head in the sand. When you choose hope over helplessness or have faith in yourself to handle all situations you are being resilient.
Externally, being able to reach out to others for support or help when you need it is actually a form of resilience.
Discover the art of comforting yourself. When it comes to managing stress, being able to comfort yourself is crucial. Comforting yourself is actually a skill you can practice. Be on your own side. Show compassion to yourself when you make mistakes. Realize no one is perfect. Build up your internal support system with a stream of positive internal thoughts. Sounds cliché, but comforting yourself is really about treating yourself just as you would treat a best friend.
I share some of these coping essentials because they changed my life. Implementing them can slowly shift your life from chaos to fulfillment. While a certain amount of stress is a normal occurrence in life and can’t be avoided, being a living embodiment of stress is not healthy. With the right coping skills, you can choose to live in a state of calmness, instead of in a state of continual stress.