I have had many readers share their struggles over the years. However, I would say that there was an increase during COVID 19. If you write to ask about specific topics, I’m more than happy to oblige. In the last few weeks, I’ve gathered a lot of information about general, general struggles, so I decided to do a basic column on how to cope with these pressures.
While some of us treat it better than others, no one is immune to stress and its side effects. In addition, avoiding stress is futile because not only are negative stressful situations; for example, being promoted or having a baby also leads to stress. This means that the key to living a good life is not to avoid stress but to learn how to deal with it healthily.
First, let’s talk about what stress is. I feel it’s a word that many people use every day, but would have a hard time defining it.
Stress is any mental or physical stress or tension. Unfortunately, it can come from any angle – family, work, school, relationships and financial condition – to name a few.
The strategies we use to deal with our stress are called coping skills. Here are the steps we choose to take when we are stressed, angry, sad, ashamed etc; and these are very individualistic and can be healthy and unhealthy. Guyana is flooded with unhealthy coping skills such as drinking alcohol, smoking cigarettes / marijuana or aggression.
Well, what if I told you that there are healthy and productive ways to deal with this large amount of stress? It’s not hard to change unhealthy coping skills into healthy ones — it’s simply boring. Studies show that it takes 40 to 60 days for the average person to develop a new habit. So if you’re used to calling someone for a drink when you’ve had a bad day, it would take so long of compulsive behavior that it becomes natural for you to call them for an exercise or a movie instead. The problem is that people usually give up before 60 days because of the mild discomfort that may result.
Stress in itself severely affects our mental and physical health, so we only increase our distress if we deal with it unhealthily – ultimately only adding additional issues in the long run. On the other hand, healthy coping allows us to overcome obstacles, accept and deal with obstacles, be adaptable to any changes around us and be happier in general. We cannot control what other people say or do to upset us or what general situations arise. However, we have complete control over their effects on us and how we deal with it.
Developing coping mechanisms is quite difficult, as emotions that arise when we are upset are very powerful. They tend to cloud our judgment, decisions and even our creative abilities – all that is needed to deal with a stressful situation. Although, of course, it is best to start developing healthy coping strategies early, it is never too late to learn them. There are two main types of coping strategies — whichever one is used depends on the individual. The first is a problem-focused strategy in which the individual focuses on the problem itself which may cause stress. For example, if a person has to relocate when they do not want to, they can focus on the problem itself – moving, what exactly needs to be done and how to cope with it.
The second is an emotion-focused strategy, in which the individual focuses on his or her emotions that the problem / stress has provoked. For example, if the person above is sad, angry and angry about this relocation, they may focus on strategies that treat these feelings of distress.
I have always been partial to an emotion-focused strategy because I am an emotional person. This means I sometimes let my emotions guide me and get the best of me (which is not always a good thing). I also firmly believe in the saying, “Life is 90 percent what happens to us and 10 percent how we react to it.” However, this does not work for everyone and many people find the problem-focused strategy very beneficial.
So, what are some examples of good coping skills? These of course depend on the individual. You may not work for many others who are relaxed, calm or agitated. If you’ve never thought of things that might work for you, here’s a list to get you started. Try one or try them all! Important tip: don’t wait until you feel negative emotions to put these into practice in your life. If something is already part of your routine, it will make it easier to remember to get involved when you really need it.
-Exercise – any form – dancing, team sports, punching bags, bikes. This is not about losing weight, but about releasing positive endorphins.
– Keep a feelings journal. Writing is so therapeutic.
– Educate yourself – read about everything! For fun, even.
– Become artistic – drawing, painting, coloring, creating or just listening to music.
-See light TV movies / shows – we get plenty of real life drama.
– Be social with the right people. Keep good and positive people around.
– Spend quality time by yourself. Get to know and love who you really are!
– Good self-care practice. This means taking the time to do things that make you feel good about yourself. This can be anything from reading to doing your nails / hair. When we are confident and feeling good outside, we tend to internalize these feelings as well.
– Try to delegate – you don’t (and shouldn’t) do everything
– Create and adhere to daily budget. Money matters cause a lot of stress.
– Build confidence, gratitude, positivity and optimism.
– Set yourself new and realistic goals.
– Volunteering! Gain a sense of purpose and satisfaction by helping others.
– Practice forgiveness. This is for you, not anyone else.
– Focus on your religious / spiritual practices (if you have any)
– Learn to walk away. When you’re too stressed or angry – take some personal space. Unfortunately for us, problems don’t just disappear. They will be there for us to address when we are ready to do so.
– Find someone you can trust and trust. It’s okay if you feel you can’t cope on your own. Seeking professional help also counts as healthy coping. This helps you become stronger (not weaker) when dealing with future stress and challenging situations.
For whomever you decide to try, make a note that worked for you or not. If it didn’t, that’s fine – just try something else. If it works, remember that it takes a lot of practice to make it a regular exercise – don’t give up!
Thanks for reading. Please continue to send any topics you would like to talk about to [email protected] If you would like personal counseling sessions, please contact me on +592 623 0433
Suicide Prevention helpline numbers: 223-0001, 223-0009, 623-4444, 600-7896
Say Yes to Life and No to Drugs! Everytime