"I just can't take it anymore!"
When you are under a lot of stress and it seems to be never-ending, with no relief in sight, it can be extremely overwhelming, frustrating, and it can leave you feeling hopeless and helpless.
You need a break but it seems impossible given the demands and responsibilities in your life and there are a lot of things that are outside of your control.
In times like this, it can be really helpful to focus on what you can control and what you can improve and it starts with you. You can find new ways to manage your stress so you can take better care of yourself and feel more grounded and stable as you move through challenges. You can improve your coping strategies and find ways to unwind, give yourself a break, and feel more at peace, even if it is temporary, rather than continuing down the path toward burnout, exhaustion, and dissatisfaction.
Understanding coping strategies
We all have our different ways of dealing with stress and other difficult situations, some of which we’ve been using for so long that we don’t even recognize when we’re doing it. These are our coping strategies, and chances are, you are using more coping strategies on a regular basis than you realize. You might not see your way of dealing with what's happening as a coping strategy, but whatever it is you're doing, however you are responding to stress, is an effort to cope and what I would consider a coping strategy.
Some of these strategies are helpful for soothing yourself, like listening to your favorite song when you’re feeling stressed.
Or maybe you find a way to distract yourself from the issue by browsing through social media.
Or perhaps you decide to simply remove yourself from the difficult situation by walking away from a conflict.
Or you avoid the situation all together.
These are all ways of coping. They may not solve the problem and they may not be the best choice in some cases, but they are an attempt to manage your stress.
Of course, not all coping is effective and not all coping is safe or healthy either. There are some coping strategies that may be useful for offering immediate relief but can turn out to be more harmful in the long run. For instance, having a drink to help unwind is one thing, but depending on how much you drink, how often, and how it’s impacting your life and your health, it can turn out to be more of a problem than a solution.
There are also those coping strategies which aren’t necessarily harmful, but you may find yourself turning to them more often than you’d like. How about binge-watching Netflix to turn your brain off at the end of the day? Anyone?
How are YOU coping?
Now let’s be clear, I’m not here to place judgment on your coping strategies and tell you what is healthy or unhealthy for you because each person is different, with different needs and reasons for coping the way that they do. We’ve all developed our coping strategies for a reason, and that reason is most likely because they were effective for easing your struggle at some point. And they may still be working. You can determine that for yourself by taking the time to look at your ways of coping and seeing which strategies work for you and which ones don’t.
Start by asking yourself: “What do I do to unwind? How do I deal with stress or difficult situations?” Or think back to a specific situation and recall how you dealt with it, both during and after it occurred.
Try to think of specific instances when you handled things well and when you could have handled things better. What worked? What didn’t work?
You may have already recognized that some of your strategies are not really working or they’re not working as well as you'd like, or you may feel like you don’t have any coping skills at all. Fortunately, you can learn new coping strategies and start putting them into use today.
Benefits of improving your coping strategies
Taking the time to build and improve your coping strategies can help provide you with some relief and be beneficial to your overall mental health and well-being. If you are always under stress it can really start to wear you down. You feel tired, irritable, on edge, overwhelmed and you start to have a negative outlook, you can’t think straight, and your relationships may feel strained. Prolonged stress can even have an impact on your physical health as well. But even the smallest improvement in how you deal with your stress can have a profound impact.
You can experience a sense of relief, even if it's just for a moment, but it gives you a necessary break to recharge and refocus, regain clarity and perspective, and hopefully relax a little. Over time, with commitment and consistency you can improve the way you feel, improve your outlook, and improve your quality of life and your relationships.
All you have to do is start by trying out a new coping strategy or try something that you know has worked in the past.
Start with something small and simple and notice how it feels.
Be realistic and don’t expect a miracle cure.
Just see if you can start to incorporate new ways of coping that are effective and support your well-being. If you need some suggestions for new strategies to try, below is a list to get you started. You may find that you do some of these already, there may be others you would like to start doing, and there may be some that you’re not interested in doing at all. No problem! Do what works for you.
Sometimes it can be hard to make a change on your own and it can be helpful to have some support and guidance to help you along. If you are interested in more support, feel free to contact me and we can set up an appointment. I’m happy to help.
Call Melanie Lopes, MFT at 415-295-2940 or send me an email.