What is your coping confession?
Chances are, you probably don’t think about how you cope. You just do it. Whether it’s the workplace, personal relationships or health problems, we all have ways to deal with challenges. Coping is a part of life.
How we cope with a challenge or a crisis can define the way we live our day‐to‐day lives. Sometimes coping can help us get through difficult moments or experiences. But if we let our coping behaviors rule our lives, it can impact our happiness. Our sense of accomplishment. Our overall well‐being.
Take for example, Monica, who is coping with a chronic medical condition that has impacted her both physically and psychologically. Monica has had an overactive bladder for the past two years. This condition has left her needing to make frequent trips to the restroom, and every once in a while, she coughs or sneezes causing a small or large amount of leakage from her bladder. There have been a handful of times when Monica ended up with her pants and undergarments so wet that it was noticeable and she has had to change her clothes. Monica was so embarrassed by these occurrences that she started spending a great deal of time at home. She avoided parties where there was not close access to the restroom, she refused to go places like the beach and amusement parks and anywhere she would have to walk far to urinate. Monica used to love to travel, but she stopped that as well for fear that a train or airplane restroom would be occupied too long.
Coping is a critical strategy that helps us adjust to and face challenges. It can encompass our thoughts, our emotions and our behaviors. Coping can be productive or unproductive.
― Stacy Kaiser, psychotherapist
In Monica’s case it’s important to recognize there might be better ways to cope. Monica’s coping has become what I call unproductive and is ultimately unhealthy for her emotionally. As therapists, we want to see our patients use positive and productive coping strategies to achieve a greater sense of self and well‐being. We want you to recognize a problem. We want you to think about how you might address this problem. We want you to talk to someone about it and get the help you need.
Monica has coped for so long that over time her coping strategies have shifted, whether consciously or unconsciously, to the point where the changes she’s made in her habits and in her behaviors have impacted her daily routine and overall quality of life. She’s stayed home. She’s declined social invitations. She’s stopped doing the things she enjoys.
If Monica’s story sounds familiar to you, it’s time to do a self‐assessment and adopt an EPIC mindset (more on that below). Think about your own coping confession and take action.
Ask yourself these 5 questions to determine if your coping behaviors are limiting you.
- Have I skipped out on an activity I enjoy because I’m worried about leaving the house and being out with others?
- Do I regularly decline invitations with friends or family because I am too preoccupied with whatever I am dealing with, or fear getting into a potentially embarrassing situation?
- Do I go out of my way to reorganize my life around my condition or challenges?
- Are my thoughts often negative and focused primarily on my challenges?
- Do I avoid talking to loved ones, doctors or other trusted people about my challenges and instead just keep it to myself?
Adopt the ‘EPIC’ mindset:
E stands for Education. By educating yourself about whatever condition or situation you are facing, you can understand the facts and lessen the spiral of negative thinking that might occupy your mind. Knowledge is power!
P stands for Proactive. This means taking an active role in addressing your challenges instead of repressing them. Take the important step of seeking help from a doctor, a therapist or another trusted professional.
I stands for Inspiration. Recognizing that you’re not in this alone is critical. Find loved ones, friends, role models or support groups — whether in person or online — with whom you can speak openly and support you through whatever bumps in the road you may encounter.
C stands for Confidence. We all experience “good days’ and “bad days.’ Having the confidence to keep going and stay positive through our challenges can help us reduce insecurity and celebrate small wins.
Stacy Kaiser is a psychotherapist, coping expert, author, relationship expert and media personality in Southern California. Stacy received her B.A. in Psychology from California State University, Northridge and her M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist.