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Coping Skills

By Diane M. Berry #102219

Question: I hear a great deal about coping skills to deal with stress. What can I do to obtain these skills and how can I learn to use them?

Dear Confused,
We hear much about coping skills, but few people take the time to learn what the skills are and how to acquire them. Do not despair, because coping skills are not as mysterious as they sound and they are relatively easy to practice. Here are my suggestions:

Meditation is an excellent way to manage stress or any difficult change that may arise in your life. While many people are unsure about the process of meditation, know that it can be as easy or as complicated as you would like it. In the easiest instance, it can be as simple as following your breath.

To accomplish this method, sit with your back against a chair and close your eyes. Then, breathe in slowly, counting your breaths from one to five. Follow by reversing the process: breathing out while counting slowly from one to five. Complete this process five to 10 times.

A more sophisticated method of meditation involves focusing the mind on one center point, idea, thought or sound. For example, holding the word “peace” in your mind. Visualizing an image of a loved one surrounded by white light is another way to meditate. An ideal plan is to begin by meditating for five minutes and gradually work up to 15 or 20 minutes. Practicing these methods once a day, or even several times a week, can make a significant difference in managing stress.

Engaging in physical activity can provide a two-fold antidote to stress: physical and emotional. Simply taking a walk, especially in a beautiful space, can relax both your body and your mind. When you begin to move, your body is challenged, and this will induce relaxation. While active, your mind is likely to wander through recent events, leading to a mental relaxation. You need not do something physically challenging nor do you need special equipment. Taking a leisurely walk can lead to many positive results in stress management.

Essential Oils
Many people find relaxation by using essential oils. Most of the oils are not to be taken internally but can be rubbed on the wrists, back of the neck or bottom of your feet at bedtime. (I’ll cover more on this topic in an upcoming issue.)

Find a Friend
Talking to a supportive friend can be another terrific way to relieve stress. The key is to talk to someone you can trust with your secrets and who will be supportive rather than critical of your choices. It will not relieve your stress if you feel you must censor what you say to this person. If you do not have someone who fits the bill, you may want to sit down for a few sessions with a therapist who will likely be supportive and helpful in assisting you to navigate difficult or troubling life events.

Occasional Retail Therapy
The occasional shopping trip can be helpful in dealing with stress; however, this suggestion should be used with extreme caution. It is easy to find yourself in debt if this technique is used too frequently or if it is your “go-to” solution to any stressor. You can also couple your shopping by helping others. Make a plan to give away one item to a charitable purpose for every new item you bring into your RV.

These are only a few examples of coping skills that can vastly improve your capacity to manage stress. They are easy enough to begin on your own, and you will improve your skill level and their effectiveness through regular practice. To begin, simply choose one that appeals to you and start doing it.

Don’t expect instant results, and give yourself permission to make mistakes. Whichever method you choose, plan to keep it up for at least two weeks. This will establish a new habit and you will be more likely to continue the behavior. As it becomes a part of your routine, it will be readily available to help you manage your stress.

Diane Berry | After 18 years as a therapist in private practice, Diane and her husband moved to the mountains of Colorado so they could hike and camp to their heart’s content. When not traveling, she teaches social work and human services courses online. Her articles are meant to provide information of a general nature and are not intended to take the place of consulting a health care professional.

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