A few weeks ago I posted a video about coping skills on my instagram, a sort of “crash course” on coping if you will. In a season where I find myself the busiest I have ever been but unable to escape the constant, daily grind, I’ve realized a few key things are helping me and I wanted to share them with you.
Right now I am working full time on top of having 20 hours a week of my counseling internship. Its crazy, stressful and filled with challenging moments that force me out of my comfort zone.
And I’m so thankful for it.
I recently saw a post on instagram that said, “I feel like I’m constantly worrying about the next part of my life without realizing that I’m right in the middle of what I used to look forward to.” It’s so real.
I don’t want to miss out on the lessons and gifts of this season.
I’ve been waiting for this internship for the past 3 years of consistent, never ending grad school. This is the part that matters most. This is where I receive my training. Where I can learn how to practically put all the mental health, counseling knowledge, and personal life experience into practice.
It’s been terrifying and exhilarating. I also don’t want to rush through it. I don’t want to cheat myself of the opportunity to learn and grow.
What I am realizing though is one of the greatest gifts I am being given (at first unwillingly lol) is the gift of not being able to use the same coping skills.
The same old, not quite good enough coping skills that have only really gotten me by, barely.
They just weren’t working anymore.
Me binge-watching shows to check out of life because it was easier.
Me being hot and cold (more cold if we’re being complete honest..) with exercise.
Me being lazy.
Have you taken an honest look at what you do to deal with stress? When you do, and please be honest here, do the things you do actually help you to feel better when you’re done?
I’ve been forced to level up or die, so I’d thought I’d share what has been, to my surprise, helping me more than just keep my head above water, but to actually be okay. I’m doing good y’all.
Tips You Didn’t Know You Needed About Coping and Thriving
First things first, lay a solid foundation.
Have you ever had multiple tabs open on your computer, all loading something and when you go and try and do another task it takes forever? That’s because you are using all the processing and loading power on your computer by having your other tabs open, all trying to do something.
The same can be said of us humans.
Various “tabs” that can remain open in our brains + feelings: (I know, I said the “f” word)
- The COVID Pandemic
- How the pandemic is still going on
- The repercussions of the pandemic
- Isolation – from community and support
- Community trauma
- Higher reported levels of depression
- Being cooped up at home 24/7 – less exercise, less time in nature, more time not getting needs met.
- The hard conversation you had with your person last week
- Repeated, unresolved personal conflict with loved-ones
- Unresolved childhood trauma
- Trying to figure out what to do with the election that happened
- Dealing with the persistent social unrest + your resulting feelings
- That negative interaction you had a work
The list literally could go on.
The thing is, there is this common misperception that “time heals all wounds.” It’s not real fam.
Time can heal some things, but in my professional, clinical experience and own personal growth journey, it is more so the case that healing happens because we lead ourselves to it.
Now, healing childhood trauma and the wounds caused by those in our adult life isn’t going to happen overnight. It’s a process and it’s a messy one. Our brains are wired to be interconnected in memories and build off our personal stories and beliefs about ourself and our lives, so it takes time.
However, there is hope and I am going to humbly put it out there that you consider going to counseling. Once you find a good therapist, you can start unpacking these experiences in a safe place with a trained mental health professional. As someone who has personally done this, I can’t recommend it enough.
Second, understand the science behind stress.
I’ve been reading this book called Burnout by Emily and Amelia Nagoski. The research they share about the physiological aspects of stress in the body has literally changed the way I look at stress for the better.
One important take away I have from the book is that stress and emotions are literally felt in the body and need to be processed physically. Emotions and stress have a cycle that need to be completed or they get stuck.
What this means for my over-thinkers (myself included) is that you cannot think yourself through every problem. Sometimes you need to just simply need to move your body.
When you can’t remove the stressor, work + life, you need to make sure you are dealing with the stress. In simplified terms, stress is a series of chemical reactions that prompt the autonomic nervous system that tells your body to go into fight, flight or freeze mode.
Since we don’t live in a time where you actually need to run away from a roaring lion trying to eat us and its more of, your boss chews you out, we have to adapt.
That feeling of your heart pounding, your hands start shaking and you start getting antsy and want to fight or run away, that is part of the “protect yourself” autonomic response your body has to a perceived threat and it needs a physical outlet. If it doesn’t have an outlet, it gets stuck and causes all the negative side effects we hear about stress.
The best way to get rid of stress in the body is, you probably guessed it, exercise.
(groans and reluctantly starts looking into at home workout apps)
Third, healthy things you can do to help yourself cope.
- Journal your feelings
- Doing things that “fill your cup”
What they have been finding is that you don’t always need to work out daily for an hour straight. Sometimes all it takes is a 10-15 high intensity workout that causes you to work really hard a few times a week.
This intensity helps the body process pent-up stress and release it so it’s not hanging around causing unnecessary negative repercussions – like sleeplessness, irritability, depression, and anxiousness, among others.
Other things you can do are:
- One minute plank a day or after a really stressful interaction
- Jumping jacks
- Daily walks
- Physical activity of your choice
Now, some people have visceral, negative reactions to journaling, so, hear me out.
Going back to the science behind stress, the same can be said of emotions.
Just like if you get a headache or pain in your body, it’s a signal that something is wrong. If you have a migraine, you start asking yourself what might possibly be the cause. Then you try and give yourself what you might need. When the issue persists, you take yourself to the doctor to get the next level of care from a professional.
When you have an emotion, its your body saying something about what is happening in your environment. It points to a need you have and is a signal for you to listen to.
Most people are good with feeling happy, excited or even angry. The other ones like sadness, anxiousness, and depressed tend to get a bad rap.
A lot of this has to do with societal conditioning regarding emotions – rewarding emotions historically seen as “strong” vs “weak.” This can also be because of childhood and adult trauma. If emotions weren’t safe growing up, it would make sense why we have a hard time expressing and dealing with them in a healthy way.
What is important to remember is that your emotions also need an outlet. If you are uncomfortable talking to someone about them, journaling is a great option.
Simple journal prompts to help with processing:
- What happened in my day/week?
- How did I feel about that event?
- What do I need in this moment?
If you’re not used to journaling, start small and try once a week and see how you feel.
It’s important to remember that we are literally made to experience emotions as humans. It is perfectly normal to have moments where you have a meltdown. Crying, laughing, screaming, etc. are ways our body is trying to process and release stress and emotions.
Instead of shaming yourself and your body for how its made, let it do its thing. When you don’t ruminate (continually think of the triggering event) an emotion really only lasts a few minutes.
Be kind to yourself. If you feel like crying or screaming, find an appropriate place and then just do it.
Fill Your Cup
What makes you come alive? A.ka. make you feel lighter, make you smile, make you feel like you again.
For me, I love being outside. I’ve found that when I carve out space to take even just a 5-10 minute walk in the middle of my day, my mental outlook improves immensely.
We as humans need breaks, we aren’t machines.
I have to literally schedule in times that I can get rest and fill my cup.
It’s not enough to just veg out and watch a movie or tv show. That is good and of course I am going to do that. However, if I only do that, I just feel like a loser who is lazy.
Getting rest doesn’t only mean not doing anything. It also means filling your time with some things that you can go and do something that you love.
In a typical week I am:
- Reading a book
- Taking at least one bath
- Taking space every day with no noise or screens to connect back in with myself and God (even if its just 5-15 minutes)
- Taking at least one short walk a day and one longer walk a week
- Doing at least one HIIT workout (usually just 10-15 minutes at a time at home)
- Connecting with a good friend
- Making sure I take my daily vitamins, eat healthy and drink enough water with electrolytes
- Listening to music I love
- Doing a guided meditation
Once a month I am:
- Having a counseling session with my therapist
- Doing a deep clean
- Going for a hike/getting out of the city
- Getting a massage and chiropractic adjustment
When in a negative head space, you’d be amazed what getting out of your house/room/situation for a few minutes can do.
So, what fills your cup? What do you need? If you are unsure, try things out and then see how you feel. Even if you just do 2-3 healthy things a week, you are making healthy progress in the right direction.
You got this fam ❤