Everybody copes – you, me, my cat after a vet visit. Chronic illness or not, humans will find ways to cope with those problems in order to march towards the positives. However, chronic illnesses are a special super extra shitty brand of problems.
There has been a lot of time for me to test how to cope with the chaos, sadness, pain, and everything that health issues bring. The first thing I learned it that a coping mechanism is not necessarily a way of dealing with a problem. Sometimes they are one in the same, other times they are not. The ones I immediately gravitate toward are extremely effective, but not actually quite as good for me in the long run.
If I don’t have a plan on how to cope I tend to:
- Distract with
- Completely escape
- Extra medicate (downers)
- Force Energize
It’s not that these coping strategies are completely terrible. But most of what they do is distract me from the actual issues without helping to refresh or solve.
Over the past 8 years I have made a list of positive coping mechanisisms that maximize. While my ability to actually stick to these modified better copings is mixed, when I can do these they certainly prove their worth.
- Get extra sleep with purpose
I set a time limit to my sleep so I don’t feel like I’m just a loaf, and plan something to do when I wake up.
- Eat with a purpose
Distraction eating is okay, but I must pick something healthy (or small), and fully and mindfully eat it.
- Talk to someone.
I prefer my therapist, but a significant other, friend, family member can work too. If you don’t have one available – writing is another good way to get out feelings. By addressing my problems, and giving them a name, it reduces my anxiety and helps me feel more in control or relaxed.
- Exercise & Distract
For me exercise is both difficult and essential. I have found my workout style is small bits of strength every day (5 min per legs, core, and arms), and moderate cardio (via walking or stationary biking). I combine the strength with a 20 minute episode of something, or for stationary biking a 40 minute episode, or reading/internet browsing. I also have a tracking system in my phone that helps me feel accomplished.
- Plan something
Anything. I find that I can’t get too time sensitive (due to the health issues). But long term plans, or plans that don’t depend on time are wonderful–financial planning, a Saturday adventure for my next good Saturday. If I feel in more of an imaginative mood I’ll take a different path – pinterest my future house or kids room or what I want to do in retirement. Anything that grabs my attention and makes me feel productive.
- Practice Gratitude
It doesn’t matter how small it is. Was my mom extra supportive? Did my friends send me extra funny pictures? Did I get great service at the restaurant I went to? I try to tell them (or their boss or company) the extra bit of sunshine they added to my day.
- Create & Express
For me, I like singing/playing the piano & ukulele, small sewing projects, calligraphy, pottery painting at the mall, and writing.
- Look good / Feel Good
Even if I don’t feel great, having a nightgown I feel pretty in helps boost my mood. Doing my hair, keeping a skincare routine, painting my toes, doing a face mask.
- Shop with purpose
I find something I actually do need, or am purposely using as a treat. I set a budget. I research the shit out of it. Then I spend time to fully enjoy it, or make a big deal out of the first time(s) I use it.
So these work for me. But like everything, coping mechanisms are dependant on the person using them.
To create your own tool box of coping mechanism
- List all the possible things that can help you with your issue (s)
- List all the things that you find generally helpful, relaxing, calming, and invigorating.
- Test and retest ways to mesh them together, and take notes.
- This is all new, failures are not bad, they are information
- You cannot fail at being yourself