Over the years I have adopted a set of learned behaviours to help me deal with life’s stressful episodes in a constructive way. I use the word behaviours although a coping technique can be an attitude or an activity as well. I have a history of falling back on destructive coping mechanisms when times get tough so I do really have to consciously practise not to. These are the constructive coping techniques that I’ve found to work for me excluding the very obvious things like eating healthily, sleeping well, not smoking or doing drugs, and not drinking excessively.
I’m the sort of person who will stay up half the night to finish something just because I feel that I should have managed to do it in the day. I tend to put a lot of pressure on myself and hence stress myself out. Therefore I restrict how much I’m allowed to do each day. I never put more than three major tasks on my daily to-do lists and after 9pm I’m not allowed to work on anything.
I find inspiration everywhere. Since I’m usually bubbling over with ideas, I keep a creative project notebook where I sketch and write all of them down. Creating gives so much satisfaction and joy. Allowing your creative flow to run through you is the best feeling in the world.
Set monthly goals
Doing this is such a good motivator and it does in fact make them more attainable. Make sure you break bigger goals up into smaller more achievable goals. As well as sharing my monthly goals here on my blog each month I also set very personal goals that are for my eyes only.
I’m not shy of sharing my feelings and thoughts. Emotional pain is a signal that something is wrong and you often need to talk about it to be able to sort it out. All feelings are valid, even the ones you feel when someone else didn’t mean to cause you any harm. People don’t know what you’re thinking or feeling. Tell them. Most people are really bad at interpreting body language and facial expressions.
Leave negative situations and people
If I’m able to, I will walk away. There are so many things in life that are simply not worth your energy or attention. Don’t waste your time on things that only hurt you. Mind you, this is not the same thing as giving up. It’s about focusing on the things that truly matter.
It’s absolutely vital to express yourself when you’re struggling. Writing or creating art for yourself only can feel just as lovely as having an engaging conversation with someone. I habitually keep an art journal, a weekly gratitude journal, and a one line a day journal.
Nurture important relationships
The older I get the more I realise how important it is to appreciate my loved ones. To learn things from each other and help one another. This is even more important when you have friends and family who live in different countries. Seeing a friend for a film at the pictures, a trip to a second-hand bookshop, or a cup of tea and a chat really does make all the difference when you’re having a rubbish day.
Seek out new activities
I love doing things I haven’t done before. The adrenaline kick you can get from doing something slightly terrifying is amazing. Especially if you do something new on your own. It’s even in my personal mission statement to experience as many different things as possible.
Life planning and problem-solving
I’m a massive fan of discipline. Which is exactly what you need to be able to find your life purpose and make your dreams reality. You also need to be able to clarify your goals. Where do I want to be in a year? Five years? I write action plans and use them to get there. There’s nothing wrong with refining the destination over time. It will change all throughout your life. It’s also a very good thing to redefine success.
It’s all too easy to forget how important you are. The last few years I’ve spent so much time caring for others that I completely forgot about myself. Sometimes it’s surprisingly difficult to be kind to yourself. Self love is essential to live a healthy, happy life. Start treating yourself with compassion and respect, like you treat your best friend. That means no negative self-talk and no beating yourself up about things!
Ask for help when I need it
This is something that I’m still working on. I’m very independent and also very stubborn. There is something in the back of my head that tells me that I should be able to manage. It’s not always obvious that you need help and sometimes in hindsight you realise that you should have reached out to someone. I’m still learning how to know when to ask for help. There’s nothing shameful about doing it.
When I’m having a difficult time I make extra sure that I have a good laugh every day. It’s oh so important and a fairly easy thing to do. It relives stress and helps you shift your focus away from your worries. It makes you healthier and happier. Read: An incomplete, unordered list of brilliant comedy telly series.
A change of scenery inevitably changes your perspective. Being somewhere different opens up your mind to new ideas and can make you realise which things really do make sense. I highly recommend taking a day trip somewhere or going for a weekend getaway. Taking a short break when you don’t have a traditional job is even more important and I really need to do it more often.
Aim for balance between work, play, and relaxation
The ratio between these vary massively from person to person so you need to find out what works for you. You need to develop your own rules and stick to them. Striking this balance is yet another thing that’s even more difficult when you don’t have a traditional job. I find that associating certain places and times with work, play, or relaxation works for me.
If I believe that I can’t do something, I’ll do it just to prove myself wrong. I always try to push myself out of my comfort zone. Doing so helps us learn and see things from other people’s perspectives. I didn’t believe that I could move to London and create a new life for myself, so I did. I didn’t believe that I could work as an au-pair, so I did. And if it turns out that I can’t learn to do something, not even with practise, than that’s fine as well.
My favourite person to spend time with is me. It’s something I need to do to recharge my batteries and to not go completely loopy. Solitude makes you use your brain more effectively and helps you relax. My favourite activities to do when I’m on my own are writing and creating while listening to music. I also love going for long strolls on my own. Bringing a camera, a flask of tea, and a book perhaps.
Learning and self improvement
Sometimes I feel like I want to know everything. I crave knowledge and I always strive to become a better version of me. I firmly believe that you should only compare yourself to yourself, not to others. Never stop learning, growing, and being curious. One thing that has helped me tremendously is learning how to change my attitude regarding negative things that I can’t change nor walk away from. It’s sometimes unbelievably difficult to view things from a positive angle but it’s not impossible.
How about you? What constructive coping techniques do you use?