Depression

Coping Skills: Know Them, Use Them, Enjoy Them.

By Monique Hassan

What do drugs, exercise, deep breathing, overeating, journaling and chocolate cake all have in common?

These are all examples of coping skills, albeit they are not all healthy coping skills (I do not condone some of those), but none the less they are all utilized by people as coping skills. What are coping skills you may be thinking, I am glad you asked!

A coworker at a behavioral health hospital once told me the difference between us (the staff) and the patients was one critical element, our coping skills.

 

A coping skill is essentially a method an individual employs to affectively minimize, control and handle stressful situations (or triggers, see more information on those here). You utilize coping skills without even realizing it, but to truly hone in on our coping skills enables us to have strategies to control our behavioral and psychological reactions to events. As my Mother likes to say, “it is not what happens to you that matters, it is how you react to it”.

 

We have all seen the clique movie scene where the heartbroken person listens to sad, depressing music and eats a pint of ice cream. This my friends is not a healthy coping skill, however, there are much worse that people utilize. Many drug addicts began abusing drugs to numb their pain instead of handling it. A young girl cuts herself in an effort to try and make her chaotic emotions manifest physically and signal to the world “I need help”. A man becomes aggressive at the stranger who accidentally bumped into him and wants to fight him, all because he had a bad day at work. A woman drinks herself into a drunken stupor to cope with the fight she just had with her husband. These are all examples of people using very negative and destructive coping strategies.

Maladaptive coping skills are not only dangerous to the individual, they can be dangerous to those around them, add stress to relationships, deepen emotional pain alongside guilt and create worse situations which lead to more negative coping skills.

An affective coping skill for me may not be as beneficial for you. We must identify our unique coping skills that suit our needs. During a stressful situation or trigger, the first step is to recognize and validate your emotions. It is okay to feel sad or angry, what is not okay is to lash out at others or yourself. Remove yourself from the situation if possible, take deep breaths and feel your emotions instead of running from them.

Look at what is upsetting you and try to see the bigger picture. Sure, it is upsetting for your car to be totaled in a car accident, but if you are alive then you have something to be thankful for. It is difficult to deal with a divorce, but this may open the door to a better marriage in the future and saved you from more heartbreak. If an exam comes back with a bad grade, look at the weakest subject areas and determine a better studying plan for next time.

Do you see the pattern here, look for the positives and focus on optimistic thinking. Become a master of positive self-talk and combat those irrational, negative thoughts with positive self-affirmations (hitting on cognitive behavioral therapy here).

 

After the immediate need to stabilize emotions and essentially self soothe, a variety of coping skills can come into play. This is a list of many positive coping skills, try to find a few in this list that can be beneficial for you or come up with 2 more of your own.

  • Painting
  • Read a book
  • Walking in a park
  • Exercise
  • Journaling/poetry
  • Listening to Quranic Recitation or Biblical quotes
  • Working with one’s hands on a DIY project
  • Yoga
  • Deep breathing and/or meditation
  • Prayer
  • Looking at pictures of favorite memories
  • Drawing flowers
  • Go for a drive somewhere scenic
  • Hug a friend
  • Aromatherapy
  • Perform a random act of kindness for someone else

Let me know in the comments below what coping skills work best for you.

Suicide Prevention

By Monique Hassan

The International Association for Suicide Prevention states that over 800,000 people a day die due to suicide with 25 times more people making attempts.

For those of us touched by suicide in some form or another, we know that this voice is an important one. The people suffering in silence need to know their voice is important, support does exist for them and they deserve to have a better quality of life where they genuinely smile at the beginning of a new day.

Warning Signs

Some people have this misconception that people talking about suicide will not really go through with it and they are just seeking attention. Most people who commit suicide try to reach out for help; they give some type of clue to those around them. Although cutting and statements like “no one would miss me if I was gone” may seem like attention seeking behaviors, they are outward expressions of the person’s pain and can be warnings of their true intentions. They need to be taken seriously.

A person considering suicide often wants to find another way out, but they are so wrought with hopelessness they see no other route left. They may talk about death, what it is like to die or outright talk about suicide with people. You may notice behavioral changes in someone such as the use of drugs, neglecting their grooming habits, a drastic change in sleeping routines and a loss of interest in day-to-day activities they used to enjoy. Perhaps someone has a family history of mental illness or they were previously diagnosed and you suspect they stopped taking their medication.

Step in!

If you suspect someone is contemplating suicide, this is not the time to be shy.

  • Talk to that person in an empathetic and kind way. Ask them what they are feeling and how you can help, be sure to actively listen to understand them. Do not argue with the person or tell them they are being stupid, they are already depressed they don’t need to be insulted.
  • Contact professional help and ensure them they will not go through this alone. Work alongside their treatment professionals to provide information about their day-to-day life
  • Be a voice of positivity in their life; encourage them to engage in activities they used to enjoy such as hiking or painting.
  • Once you think they are past the moment of crisis, talk to them about what they will do in the future if they feel those emotions again. Help them to understand their crisis plan and put numbers of emergency services on their refrigerator.

Your Voice is Important

The voices of those who have been impacted by suicide need to be heard. If you survived a suicide attempt, consider speaking to those who are currently struggling with mental health. You can be a source of inspiration and hope; you have a greater level of understanding than anyone else.

If you are a family member or friend who has been impacted by suicide, know that you are not alone and support services do exist for you. You can lend advice and support to others. You may be able to prevent a tragedy by encouraging others to step in when they suspect someone is contemplating suicide. If you are the family member of a Veteran, please contact your local VA office about the caregiver program. They provide free training, resources and stipends for caregivers of Veterans.

Suicide impacts not only the person attempting it, but all those around them. It is important to come together as a community to show support for those in need. If you see a candle lit Sunday the 10thin the windowsill of a home, know that they support you and your voice.

References

International Association for Suicide Prevention. https://iasp.info/wspd2017/