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What's In Your Coping Toolbox?

Jun 30, 2008
Life consistently presents us with challenges and changes and at times this can lead to us feeling stressed. Planning how to manage and cope in various life situations, and finding out which coping skills work best for you, is the key to succeeding with stress rather then experiencing distress. When clients come to see me for NLP and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Edinburgh, it is a big part of therapy that they develop and become confident in employing coping skills. This article contains ideas for coping with stress and also acute emotional crises. If you are experiencing stress or emotional imbalance, CBT and hypnotherapy is available in Edinburgh.
Here are some ideas for coping with stress:

1. Understand more about stress - this involves recognising your sources of stress and how stress affects you personally. Plan for stressful periods.

2. Problem-solve - what is the problem, be specific and break it down into realistic achievable components. Then set goals on how to deal with each problem. Make sure you include how to begin your plan of action.

3. Develop new behaviour - if you take on too much or have problems saying no, learn to be assertive. There are plenty of courses at local colleges or you may prefer to see a therapist 1:1. Learn to manage your time more effectively and delegate wherever possible! Avoid procrastination; whilst you are not doing it, you'll only be spending energy worrying about it.

4. Make sure you develop a support network - deliberately develop good supportive relationships. Ask for help when needed and accept it when offered. You must also be prepared to do the same for others.

5. Make time to relax and enjoy yourself - how many of us know we should do more of this but don't make the time? Set aside time each day to relax and build this into your routine. Develop hobbies and leisure activities that help you too switch off.

Can you imagine yourself doing any of these activities when you need to cope?

Asserting yourself - Contacting one of your supports - Listening to music
Exercising- Taking a break - Going to a movie -Reading a book -Laughing/crying - Taking a walk - Taking a nice long bath - Writing a letter or a journal - Learning something new - Eating something healthy - Helping someone else.

It is important to identify and practice using coping tools if you want to be able to deal with your stress successfully. Obviously, it is not always possible to plan for stress as situations can happen that we do not expect. If you find yourself experiencing a period of crises, or intense painful emotions there are still coping strategies that you can employ in that moment.

Ideas For Coping with Acute Emotional Distress

1. Use of distraction - the aim of this is to limit the time you spend in contact with the emotional stimuli, the things that are causing you to feel emotional. The stimuli could be anything from another person to the thoughts that you are having. Distraction involves doing something else to absorb your attention.

2. Imagery - think of safe and soothing images. This involves imagining images that make you feel good, it may be a favourite place, person, pet or scenes from nature.

3. Relaxation - learn a simple technique like using peripheral vision to induce relaxation. Peripheral vision is effective at switching on the parasympathetic nervous system, which is the part of the nervous system responsible for making us feel calm. It's not possible to feel anxious or distressed whilst fully relaxed in peripheral vision.

4. One thing in the moment - as adults we tend to spend much of our time stuck contemplating what went wrong in the past or what may go wrong in the future. Try and just focus on the 'moment'. Perhaps this may involve thinking something like 'I'm in my house in my favourite chair, I'm warm and comfortable and I have a good book to read'.

5. Exercise - physical activity can help to disperse the chemicals released in your body by the stress response. It also releases feel good chemicals known as endorphins.

6. Sooth yourself - do something to nurture your 5 senses. Be kind and gentle to yourself.
About the Author
Karen Hastings is an occupational therapist who provides NLP and CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy Edinburgh) sessions in Morningside, Bruntsfield, Marchmont and Tollcross, Edinburgh. More information is available http://www.karenhastings.co.uk.
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