Mental Health

Am I doing this “coping” thing right?

Picture of a plant with wine glasses, a candle and orchids over a bathtub with the text “How can I help myself, a blog series on self-care”.

There’s nothing like thinking you’re coping with your issues or situation and finding out you were SO wrong. I’ve been down that rabbit hole and it was as you expect one hell of a ride. Hellish.

Because I’m not an omniscient narrator and life isn’t fiction I don’t have all the answers and only know about how I cope (or don’t) with my own situations and issues. I’m hoping that by talking about my ways of coping will help people who are in similar situations or that they inspire you to find coping methods that work for you.

I’ve been depressed and frequently overwhelmed by anxiety for over half of my life. I’ve dealt with sensory overload, emotional breakdowns, anxiety attacks, being suicidal, intrusive thoughts, and probably more that I forget to mention. I mention these so you may see if my sharing will be useful to you or not. If you’re not sure, feel free to ask me anything. I’ll answer any question I’m comfortable answering.

What it means to cope

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, coping is how we deal with things. It’s how we make struggles bearable to us. There’s different things we can cope with and different ways that we do this, and different problems and situations can be coped with in different ways.

People cope in different ways. Some are helpful, others can be damaging. What I mean with this is that the way you deal with your emotions, stress, or whatever you’re dealing with, can either improve your health, or damage it. That doesn’t mean that the latter should never be done, it just means there are better ways of coping. In fact, sometimes these can go hand in hand, helping you with one thing while making it worse in another way. The sad thing is, sometimes you have to choose the lesser between two evils.

Unless they’re seriously destructive, learning better ways to cope need to be prioritized. Obviously. Sometimes you’re coping well for the short term, but for the long term, you’re doing a lot of damage. Try to be aware of those as well.

Ways I cope

One of the most important ways to cope is self-care. I talked about what self-care is in a previous past, so if you forgot or need a refresher, click the link. In ways self-care helps me cope is that practicing self-soothing during anxiety or otherwise stress inducing situations can make a big difference. Recognising negative thought spirals, challenging paranoid tendencies, stimming, thinking encouraging and kind thoughts, and planning after-care.

Parties, crowded grocery stores, and other busy chaotic and noisy situations are sensory hell to me. They make me physically ill. I guess I could devote a whole post to sensory hell, sensory overload, and autistic burnout. To keep things short, I cope by preparing as before I go. Earplugs, making sure there’s a place to retreat to if need, make sure someone with me is aware of the situation and my issues, emergency communication if I go non-verbal, and scheduling time to rest before hand and to recover afterwards. I can need days to even a week to recover after attending a party.

Another way I cope is by avoiding whatever is stressing me out. Not always the best way to deal, but sometimes the only way I can manage. Ideally I’ll let whoever’s involved know I’m dealing with this and need to take a step back or ask for someone to help me so I don’t have to deal with it alone.

Many people have a problem when you get yourself out of a bad situation because they don’t recognise you’re struggling and think you’re being a coward, passive aggressive, or otherwise not dealing with what you should be solving. The problem here is that sometimes you need that time to get your ducks in order. Need it to calm down so you don’t get overwhelmed. It’s okay to need space and time. Let them know what you’re doing, what you need, set boundaries, and do what you need to do. I know, it’s not always that easy and I don’t always succeed in it either. Sometimes all I can manage is get out before I have a meltdown or go non-verbal and lose the ability to do many of those important communication steps.

Venting is a great way to cope too. Talking to a trusted friend or writing it all down helps process whatever you’re feeling and why. Helps analyse your behavior and take proper action to cope as best you can. Crying, singing, or other hobbies are good self-care options to relieve stress too.

Sometimes I cope in bad ways too

It sucks, but it’s reality. Sometimes it’s all too much and I can’t deal. It can lead to self-harm, alienating people, and more. I used to bolt if I was nearing a meltdown. I tend to choose suffering over setting healthy boundaries because the anxiety is too much to confront someone. During bad mental health moments, it might be the only way to cope and as much as I wish it didn’t have to be that way, it’s okay. We’re doing what we can, right?

Just don’t give up. If you don’t eventually there’ll be a moment where you can ask and/or accept help. Maybe feelings will finally pass and you can pull yourself up again.

Important ways to learn to cope better

It’s important to be kind and patient to yourself first, and learn to ask and accept help when you need it. We can’t and shouldn’t have to do this all alone, at least not the entire journey. For moments that you feel or maybe even are truly lonely, try to hold on to the moment where you can reach out. Try to stay away from toxic people as much as possible and surround yourself with people who want and can support you.

Some key steps here are also 1) being aware and mindful of your situation, 2) reflecting on how you dealt with things and how they are affecting you, 3) analyse them and see where you can improve, 4) do the work.

For me, reaching out to a professional really helped. I recognise that I was privileged in the fact that I had the means to get one as well as find someone who was for the biggest part capable of doing their job (there’s many bad ones out there and sometimes they’re just not right for you). I’ve had my bad experiences with professionals too.

If not a professional, there are people who’ve experienced similar things and have the compassion to help you out. A good friend or family member can mean a world of difference too.

Find all mental health blog posts on self-care here.

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