03 Sep Developing Healthy Coping Skills

Change is an inevitable part of life, and the way that we handle change is called coping. We have to cope with life no matter what, but part of addiction recovery is to learn to cope in a positive way, instead of a negative way. Handling situations that are beyond our control can be particularly challenging, but as we develop positive coping skills, we’ll learn how to move forward in the face of adversity.

Negative Coping Strategies

While we were engaged in our addiction, our coping skills consisted at least partly of turning towards substance abuse in order to deal with change, fear, stress, or other high intensity emotions. Even when we’ve left substance abuse behind, there are other negative coping mechanisms that could take its place, and this could eventually lead to relapse. Some negative coping skills to avoid include :

Catastrophizing: Using words like “always” and “never” to describe situations. You may also view problems as unsolvable, and assume that you shouldn’t even try.

Projecting: Applying your negative feelings about yourself to others or to your life in general. For instance, you might assume that those closest to you don’t really care about you because you’re feeling bad about yourself.

Generalizing: Letting isolated occurrences affect your big picture view. If you have a bad morning, and automatically assume you’re going to have a bad day, week, or life too, you’re generalizing.

Positive Coping Strategies

There are stress management techniques that we can employ as positive coping mechanisms, such as staying active, eating right, getting plenty of rest, and taking the time to nourish our spirits. There are also thought patterns and mental exercises we can perform that keep negative coping mechanisms at bay, and help us to navigate life’s ups and downs in a healthy way. Positive coping mechanisms include :

Practice Moderation: You can’t solve all of your problems now, and you can’t be all things to all people. Learning to say no to others, taking time for yourself, and making sure you are focusing on living a well rounded, healthy life is a healthy way to cope.

Skip Perfectionism: You’re not perfect, and neither is anyone else. Expecting perfection out of yourself and others only leads to disappointment and frustration. So cut yourself, and everyone else some slack. Relax, and find reasons to be happy instead of reasons to criticize.

Focus on the Task at Hand: When you feel overwhelmed by everything that lies ahead of you, take a deep breath, and focus on taking one thing at a time. Recognize your little milestones and successes, and soon you’ll be reaching your bigger goals.

Laugh it Off: Humor eases tension, and a good laugh will help you to shake off stress. Watch a funny movie, spend time with lighthearted friends, and allow yourself to find humor in yourself and in your daily life.

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