Coping in stressful situations


Submitted by Gwen Hesson - CAC Youth and Community Engagement Coordinator



In a world full of chaos, the unknown, disrupted daily lifestyle, economic pressures — we are finding ourselves overly stressed and reaching out for answers amid a plethora of negativity.

We are searching for silver linings at every turn. So where do these silver linings lay? How can we incorporate them into our daily lives? The following article will outline these very details.

What is a silver lining? According to the Free Dictionary, a silver lining is a “comforting or hopeful aspect of an otherwise desperate or unhappy situation.” Silver linings can be different things to different people. Silver linings can also be different for each life circumstance.

For example, if a child arrives to the playground with the sole desire to swing and finds that no swings are available, that child may be left in an unhappy situation. However, that same child may find a silver lining in a different activity, such as the slippery slide. The situation was not what was anticipated, yet a comforting compromise was able to be obtained leaving the child feeling satisfied.

This applies to adults too in the way of dealing with daily struggles during our present homebound isolation. Let’s say Joan has met with her book club regularly for the past two years, she now is not able to meet with them due to the COVID-19 precautionary measures. However, Joan is an innovation thinker — she realizes that she may not be able to meet her friends for book club in the traditional sense, but she still has access to social media formats that would allow her book club to meet virtually and continue their discussions on a regular basis. Another less than desirable situation met with a satisfying outcome.

Where did the silver lining lay in both situations? It was an internal adjustment to an uncomfortable situation. However, both examples were handled in positive ways. Some people might recognize this internal gift as a coping skill. That is right! A silver lining can also be described as a self-manifested coping skill.

If you use the same Free Dictionary to define a coping skill you will get this, “Any characteristic or behavioral pattern that enhances a person’s adaptation. Coping skills include a stable value or religious belief system, problem solving, social skills, health-energy and commitment to a social network.”

In both examples we found our subjects in a less than desirable situation, and they were able to adapt using problem solving skills. Way to go nameless child and Joan.

Do you feel like you have an adequate supply of coping skills on hand? If not, let’s examine some different types of positive coping skills and how you might be able to incorporate them into your daily life. Keep in mind that not all coping skills will work for everyone, coping skills can take time to develop, coping skills may not be 100 percent effective for your situation but you may find that by using coping skills your rates of resiliency to any negative situation can increase.

Let’s begin with the basics:

First — Sleep. That is correct, proper sleep can be a wonderful way for us to cope. Getting enough sleep can increase our Brain Power! Our brains process and store memory while we are sleeping. Having enough sleep allows us to focus more and take in more details.

How much sleep does the National Institute of Health recommend? The following guidelines are based on age:

-Infants aged 4-12 months: 12-16 hours a day (including naps)

-Children aged 1-2 years: 11-14 hours a day (including naps)

-Children aged 3-5 years: 10-13 hours a day (including naps)

-Children aged 6-12 years: 9-12 hours a day

-Teens 13-18 years: 8-10 hours a day

-Adults aged 18 or older: 7-8 hours a day

Sleep also increases our moods. Our brains are busy while we are asleep processing our emotions. We are friendlier and more empathetic to others when we are well-rested. Studies show that we are five times more likely to develop depression if we do not get adequate sleep and the odds of developing anxiety or panic disorders increase as well. So, be sure to schedule plenty of sleep time into your daily schedule as a priority and monitor this coping skill’s effects on your life.

Second — Limit your news. According to SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), limiting the amount of news, including radio and television broadcasts, newspapers and social media, can actually be beneficial to our mental health and therefore is a positive coping skill for dealing with stress. We want to be informed however, it is not necessary to be inundated by the negative and possibly traumatic events that don the headlines. So, find your balance and choose one source that you trust. Monitor that source once a day and put your mental powers to other positive and thought-provoking activities the rest of the day.

Third — Gratitude. What, gratitude is a coping skill? Yes, hear me out. When faced with difficult situations we can opt to look at the whole picture, finding opportunities to show gratitude for what we have, what we are learning or the people/programs that assist us through the situation. We can literally rewire our brains by using gratitude. Gratitude can increase our neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s amazing ability to change and grow in response to repetitive changes in thought, behavior, environment and emotions. We have the ability to develop and grow stronger, healthier, more positive brains by focusing on and practicing compassion, gratitude and positivity. Isn’t that incredible!

Fourth — Exercise the body. We have already considered one way to exercise our minds, now let’s focus on our physical body and how daily exercise can aide us in managing our stress and anxiety that are permeating today’s society.

Have you heard of serotonin and endorphins? These are two reasons why we should make exercise a daily habit. Serotonin is the key hormone that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being and happiness. Regular exercise can boost our serotonin levels. Endorphins are chemicals produced by the body to relieve stress or pain and boost happiness. Endorphins are released during exercise in varying amounts and different types of exercise can yield different results.

Medical News Today suggests that working out at a high intensity can actually cause “some increased feelings of negativity and pain,” while a moderate work out offers “feelings of pleasure and euphoria.” So before you begin an exercise regimen keep in mind what you are aiming for and make overall well-being your goal.

If you are still on the cusp of what kind of coping skill may help you, take a look at the list below for some suggestions. Ask yourself, “What can I fit into my daily schedule” and “what am I more likely to enjoy?”

If you enjoy the new activity, chances are in your favor that you will stick with it. Maybe you need to try one or two to find the correct fit for your life.

Writing, drawing, painting, photography, gardening, reading, singing, dancing, have a conversation with someone you trust, send a note of encouragement to a loved one, help someone in need, exercise, yoga, take a walk, cook a meal, organize a closet, pray or meditate and so much more.

If you would like more information on coping skills please visit: www.SAMHSA.gov. If you are a Fayette County Youth you may also contact the Fayette County Youth Coalition for additional resources and support. Find us on Facebook at “Fayette County YOUTH Coalitions Group” or call (740) 335-7282×183.

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Submitted by Gwen Hesson

CAC Youth and Community Engagement Coordinator