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When you begin therapy, there is often a discussion, or several, about coping skills- the things we do to help ourselves manage stress or troublesome symptoms. How do you manage your anxiety, panic attacks, or depression? How do you handle stressful situations like conflicts at work or in relationships? What about major adjustments like divorce or a big move?
Most folks live life on a sort of auto-pilot. Things happen, we react, and then we realize that we feel some kind of way about it. Sometimes with anxiety and depression, we don’t even fully understand where those feelings are coming from or why they are there. Those symptoms seem to just exist and make coping with day to day stressors very difficult.
As that insight develops, it can be helpful to figure out what gaps need to be filled in.
Filling in those gaps might look like exploring what your needs are when you’re feeling a certain way. For example, if you get very anxious and you have identified that talking on the phone is a trigger, then perhaps proactively using a coping skill like deep breathing before making a needed phone call is worth trying. Keep in mind that not everyone finds comfort in the same coping skills, so some amount of trial and error may be necessary to figure out what will work best for you.
Some common coping skills to start with:
Affirmations- These are things we can repeat to ourselves in difficult moments to help keep up more helpful self-talk rather than allowing the unhelpful thought cycles to take over. I recommend identifying affirmations that are specific to you and your situations- the things that you most need to hear when distressed or anticipating a stressful situation. For example, if going for a job interview is causing overwhelming anxiety, affirmations might sound like, “I am qualified for this job and I will do my best” or “I am talented and worthy regardless of the outcome.” If you recognize that getting an interview scheduled is a trigger for your anxiety, then this is when you’d want to start repeating these affirmations.
These are just a few options to get started and many more can be explored as needed.
Or you may call 911 (sometimes it helps to ask if a mental health officer is available) or present to your local ER.
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