Everyone experiences stress, adversity, and heartache in life – it is just a part of being human. Some people live with more difficulties and it is true that those challenged with mental illness are especially impacted by the stressors of everyday life. Nonetheless, we can all support our own mental health by developing effective and positive coping strategies that allow us not just to survive, but thrive.
According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, “coping is what people do to alleviate the hurt, stress, or suffering caused by a negative event or situation.” In her book, The How of Happiness, Dr. Lyubomirsky describes two types of coping: problem-focused, and emotion-focused. One strategy is not superior to the other, but, while problem-focused takes an analytical, logical “fix it” approach, emotion-focused recognizes that not everything is managed through a concrete list of steps. For example, when a loved one dies, emotion-focused strategies such as talking to a friend and remembering the positives of the relationship in the face of the loss can facilitate acceptance and even support post-traumatic growth and transformation.
I appreciate the challenge of developing coping positive strategies. I have enlisted more than my fair share of negative approaches, including self-medicating with alcohol, when faced with what felt like overwhelming situations. I now know that my ability to develop and use solid coping practices has allowed me to become more resilient to the difficulties that life inevitably presents me. Over time, I have experienced the benefits of building my positive coping muscles including better physical health, reduced stress, and the meaning a purpose that comes from sharing this information with others; research also supports the gains experienced by those who implement positive ways of dealing with life’s difficulties.
There are no shortage of examples of positive coping practices. Below are just a few that you might like to try:
- Take a hot bath
- Listening to your favourite music and, maybe, singing and dancing to it
- Writing about your thoughts in a journal
- Going for a walk, run, or bike ride outside
- Calling a friend
- Listening to a guided meditation
- Engaging in some deep breathing
- Taking a nap
- Practicing an act of kindness for a stranger
- Having a cup of tea
- Reading a book
- Watching an uplifting movie
- Doing some gardening
- Going to a yoga class
- Eating a healthy meal
- Getting a massage
I’d love for others to add to the list: what do you do to positively cope with life’s stressors?
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