Is Your Coping Strategy Healthy?
4 Criteria to Determine if You’re Coping Right
Let’s face it, life sure isn’t easy. It is full of ups and downs and unexpected twists and turns. In every life, there are stressors that impact how we handle challenges. We can’t always avoid or prevent things going wrong for ourselves, our children, or our families. However, we can use positive coping strategies to more successfully face challenges.
Coping strategies are critical in helping each of us learn to accept situations that are often beyond our control. They are essential in helping us feel better, especially when the problem still exists. Coping strategies aid us in gaining control over our responses to tough situations or feelings, find a sense of calm, and at times, gain a better understanding of ourselves and the problem at hand.
Coping strategies are a part of our lives, whether we recognize them or not. Often, they come naturally and without conscious effort. For example, nail biting is a form of a coping strategy that one might do unconsciously in an effort to relieve anxiety in tense moments. Some coping strategies are more overt, such as taking a brisk walk to relieve tension or drinking a glass of wine to relax at the end of the day.
Coping strategies can be either positive or negative. When we cope with stressful events, even if it is a daily task, it is important that we use healthy coping strategies. Using negative coping strategies can often worsen the stress and cause harm to self and others.
Positive Coping Strategies
- Spending time alone
- Spending time with friends
- Meditation or relaxation techniques
- Exercise and/or physical activity
Negative Coping Strategies
- Drugs: Sedatives or stimulants
- Excessive alcohol use
- Ignoring or storing hurt feelings
- Excessive working
- Avoiding problems
The first step to improving your overall coping skills is to become aware of how you currently cope with stressors. What are the things that stress you out the most and how are you currently coping with them? Once identified, you will be able to determine areas of strengths and weakness in your coping strategies.
Four criteria you can use to determine whether or not your coping strategy is a healthy:
Criteria #1: Is it physically and/or mentally healthy for you?
Criteria #2: Is it easy to do?
Criteria #3: Does it make you feel better?
Criteria #4: How could it impact others? (For example: Excessive use of alcohol may impact your family in many negative ways. However, taking a walk won’t impact others negatively and it could even be done with another person.)
Important Note: Your coping strategy must meet all four of the criteria to be labeled a healthy strategy. If it does not meet even one of the criteria, you’ll need to think of another way to cope with your stressor.
Parents, listen up! Part of our roles as mom and dad are to help our children and teens identify their stressors and then aid them in identifying positive coping strategies that are right for them. Use the same four criteria to help assist your kids in finding healthy coping strategies for life’s inevitable stressors. There is no greater gift we can give our kids than helping them find the tools they need to navigate life. This vital tool will serve them well!
Stress cannot be avoided or ignored…at least not in the long run. Identifying, utilizing and maintaining good coping strategies takes conscious effort and practice. Will practice make perfect? Maybe not. However, the more you implement and practice positive coping skills in your life, the more successful you will be in tackling the challenges that will come your way.