Let’s face it. Difficult things are going to happen. Life can never be perfect, and struggle is inevitable. In reality, struggle is necessary so that we can improve! The important thing is how we deal with the struggle. This is known as COPING. There are many different meanings to the word coping, also knows as managing. I like to say this is how we manage the shit in our lives.
The first idea I’d like to present related to coping is: Responding vs. Reacting. These two terms have slightly different meanings from a psychological standpoint. A reaction is considered to be something more emotional and automatic, done without thinking. A response comes from more of a thoughtful and conscious place, where we are engaging in an internal dialogue and using our critical thinking skills. Some situations (such as crossing a street and almost getting hit by a car) require an automatic reaction that we don’t think about. Our brains are designed to react to dangerous situations or stimuli so that we can protect ourselves and be safe. But that’s not really what we’re addressing here. For the purposes of this conversation, our goal is to learn how to respond instead of react.
Part of our ability to respond is first being aware of how we respond to stressors (everyone is different).
Secondly, we want to make sure our responses are helpful for us and are in-line with who we are and what we need. A key to the responding process is being intentional and mindful, and listening to yourself and your body (a form of self-care!). You always have a choice in how you respond to situations and other people, and you always have a choice in how to cope with a situation.
Part of coping means admitting to yourself (and others, if necessary) when you’ve screwed up or when you’ve failed. Accept the fact here and now that failure is a part of life. It’s a part of being human. You will fail. And you will pick yourself up and learn from it and keep on going. The more you are able to accept this fact, the more you’ll move forward. It is when we are unwilling to acknowledge our mistakes that we continue to make the same mistakes over and over.
Before I wrap up this post I’m going to throw out another term which is EXTREMELY relevant to managing and coping: RESILIENCY, which is essentially our ability to "bounce back” from a difficult situation. This involves our ability to RESPOND (not avoid or react), utilize whatever coping strategies necessary to manage our emotions and the situation (coping and self-care), make sense of what we can with the situation (learn), change the things we have control over, and then LET GO. Yes, we must learn how to LET GO of situations once we’ve dealt with them (for additional thoughts on letting go, click here). It’s possible that similar situations will come up again, and I say bring it on! You’ll know how to RESPOND and deal with it, because you already have!
If you're looking for additional support in learning coping strategies, click here to schedule an introductory session with me.