If you’re new to the blog, you might have missed some of the ways I’ve discussed depression and anxiety in this space. Most of my posts come from one of two places: 1) statistics and data that I find or 2) my personal experience living with clinical depression and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I’ve written about managing anxiety before, as well as what to do when depression hits. But this week, I want to talk about coping strategies – namely, how to make sure we find healthy ones, and understanding our relationship with these strategies.
When it comes to coping strategies, I think it’s important to understand two things. The first is the difference between coping strategies and long-term strategies to living with mental health issues. Let’s use anxiety as an example. If my anxiety is sporadic but gets in the way of focusing or completing tasks, coping strategies are quick things you can do to try to deal with the situation at hand. In this case, the symptoms can be short-lived, and will subside (at least for a bit) after the situation has ended or resolved itself. On the other hand, long-term strategies for dealing with anxiety include therapy, medication, exercise, and other things that you can do that create a routine that help you live with your anxiety issues in the healthiest way possible.
The second thing to understand is that not all coping strategies are good. It seems obvious, but I didn’t always know about the deep connection between mental health and substance abuse (for what it’s worth, there is plenty of information available online about substance use disorders). And there are plenty of other links between mental health and other areas of life (as I’ve mentioned on the blog before), and what seem like short-term coping strategies can become long-term habits.
I don’t have the personal experience to feel comfortable reflecting on some of the more destructive coping strategies, so instead I want to focus on some of the healthier strategies you can do – in this case, dealing with anxiety in a short-term situation.
If you’re feeling anxious, some good coping strategies include:
- Deep Breathing
- Focusing on a separate task
- Acknowledging negative thought patterns
- Write down thoughts (get them out and on the page)
And there are plenty more where that came from. Knowing the difference between coping strategies and long-term self-care was a big moment for me in my mental health journey, and I hope that it’s part of yours as well. It’s hard to navigate sometimes, but doing what we can to try and take control of our situation is so important for us to grow stronger and more able to deal with whatever comes our way.