How to Master the Art of Coping

| Christine Schneider, LCSW

Life can present us with such sweet, precious moments. Sharing a laugh with a friend, embracing a loved one, accomplishing a challenging task, or taking time to relax. Life can also present us with difficult moments that can be hard to face alone. Managing a challenging life transition, losing a loved one, navigating identity shifts, or overcoming the struggles of daily life.

Then sometimes, it can feel like life has it out for us. We’re hoping to experience that next precious moment; however, it may feel like the hard moments are here to stay. As it may feel this way, our feelings are not always fact. The experience of living is never all good or all bad- it’s a mixture of both. Experiencing a difficult emotion or a stressful experience is never a permanent part of life. At some point, the emotion will pass just like watching a cloud glide softly through the sky. The stressful experience is also temporary, as at some point, we find a solution or we learn to cope with the situation. This is part of the human experience. Growing from challenges, finding opportunities to learn, and showing ourselves that we can do hard things. These experiences help us to appreciate the sweet moments as well as to find strength during the difficult moments. 

So how can we cope when life throws us a challenge or a new stressor?

Slow down.

Take a moment and figure out what you are needing right now. Do you need to be comforted or do you need to problem-solve? I will often ask my clients this question in sessions since we often don’t know what we need until we stop to think. We also may find that our support system is not supporting us in the way we need them to until we first understand how we would like to be supported.

Practice self-care.

In dealing with stress, it can be the most challenging task to redirect the focus on ourselves. Self-care is not selfish. Do something for yourself so that you can come back to the stressful situation with a clearer mindset.

Accept what you cannot control.

The acceptance that life is a mixed bag of positive and negative experiences helps to shape us into who we are today. The frustrating fact of life is that we may not always be in control of how often or when we experience positive moments versus negative moments. This is the dance of the human experience that we may not always agree with but we learn to accept. If we keep pushing back and denying the challenges of life, the pain we feel only turns to suffering. Practicing acceptance helps to reduce suffering and allows space for introspection. We cannot control each life experience; however, we do have control over which experiences we allow to define us and how we respond to these experiences. 

Take action.

After you’ve recognized what you need to do, it’s time to implement. Challenge that unhelpful thought. Advocate for yourself. Reach out for support. Validate your hardships. Set a boundary with your loved one or with your workplace. Act with intention. Whatever it is- make sure your action is helpful and not harmful to yourself and/or others (i.e. refrain from avoiding, relying on old patterns, or harming your body).

The only way we master these steps is with time, practice, and intention. Building mastery is singular for all things like learning a new instrument, practicing a hobby, and/or excelling in a sport. We build mastery in all things through time, practice, and intention. Be kind to yourself as you master the skill of coping. It’s not an easy task and we do not become experts overnight. Once you learn to cope effectively with difficult situations, you become closer to finding inner peace and you can experience a higher appreciation for the sweet, precious moments.

Today's the day to make a change.