Getting through life without something going dreadfully wrong is rare, if not non-existent. Everyone, it seems, faces severe challenges at some point, whether it’s losing a loved one, being fired, or running into a health problem.
The trick to doing life well is to develop healthy coping mechanisms. Instead of acting out as nature intends, we take time to step back and think about how we are going to respond to an adverse situation. It’s a crossroads in our lives, and we want to get it right.
Of course, building healthy coping mechanisms isn’t straightforward. School and even parents don’t always prepare us for the sorts of things life will throw at us. The first time most people hear about coping mechanisms is when they are in the midst of a crisis.
Arista Recovery is a drug rehabclinic that sees patients going through crises daily. It says that people often switch to unhealthy coping habits when they can’t see another path forward.
“In communities where there are drugs, it is easy for many people who are suffering to deal with their pain with illicit substances,” the clinic says. “Unfortunately, the consequences of taking up any drug habit are often considerably worse than the problem people are trying to solve. Addiction can lead to an unraveling of a person’s life, finances, and health.”
It’s this situation that rehab clinics like Arista Recovery are keen for people to avoid. While some substances can deal with the immediate pain, they are a destructive solution long-term.
“We invest considerable effort in teaching people about the cognitive skills they can use to prevent negative behavior in a crisis,” Arista Recovery says. “We want people to have the best chance possible to resist drugs if something goes wrong in their lives when they leave our care. It’s about creating the mental tools that will stop someone from doing something they know they shouldn’t, just because they feel so dreadful.”
But what are these rehab clinics suggesting people do when they find themselves in a crisis and unhealthy coping strategies seem like the only way out?
At present, there is a significant focus on emotion taming. The idea here is to get people to watch their thoughts and feelings pass by without judgment, creating healthy attachments. Buddhist meditators have been doing it for centuries, but now it is becoming more common among those going through extreme hardship. Creating some distance from one’s emotions can help in a crisis, proponents say.
We are also seeing the emergence of a technique called “cognitive framing.” The idea here is to challenge negativity and turn what seems like a bad situation into something positive.
“This technique is something that therapists believe can have a profound effect on a patient’s well-being once they leave care,” Arista Recovery explains. “People who can be a little skeptical of their emotions are more likely to get back on the right track, even after a mistake.”
The goal of this technique is to arrest mental processes where people wind up believing they are weak or failures. Instead of condemning oneself, the idea is to simply view events as mistakes and move on.
Besides taming emotions, professionals are also looking for ways to incorporate more holistic self-care into patients’ routines. Things like moving the body regularly and getting sufficient sleep can have a profound effect on how someone feels, reducing the risk of relapse. When the fundamentals are in place, healthy coping is more likely.
The average person needs to spend around seven to eight hours in bed to wake up feeling refreshed. Much less than that and performance and mood start to go downhill.
People at risk also need to nourish their bodies which will keep the brain as healthy as possible. Eating less junk and more unprocessed foods reduces inflammation and improves overall mood. It also fosters the development of healthy gut bacteria that are essential for overall well-being.
Healthy coping also requires building extensive support systems. Having a group of people to rely on can prevent relapse and avoid social pressures to continue bad behaviors, according to many professionals.
“It is always better to work with the family as a whole than a single patient,” Arista Recovery explains. “That way, you’re no longer dealing with a patient in isolation. Instead, you are addressing their social situation and home life, which is critical for relapse prevention.”
Support systems usually take the form of friends and family. When crises occur, individuals can approach the people around them for a sympathetic listening ear instead of trying to deal with all the problems themselves.
However, it can also include professional help. Therapists provide personalized support to discover individuals’ trigger points and look for inroads that will enable them to manage unwanted emotions better.
Building healthy coping mechanismscan also include various other strategies. Professionals and individual patients are experimenting with different methods to see which yields the best results.
One common tactic is to use gratitude. People who are thankful for what they have are less likely to experience negative emotions or feel unhappy about their lives.
Moreover, simply remembering to feel grateful can help in moments of crisis. While a situation might seem bad, there is usually something to appreciate.
There’s also a movement toward embracing humor. Laughing and having a good time seems to eliminate negative emotions before they can cause too much harm.
Being in nature could also help people reset. Getting out for a hike or runningthrough the mountains eliminates the distraction of society and helps people focus on the air they breathe and the beauty around them.
“Hopefully, if people can get into the habit of developing healthy coping mechanisms, the use of harmful strategies will diminish,” Arista Recovery says. “That would solve a lot of problems.”