Coping with life has been fundamental from the beginning of time.
In evolutionary terms, humans needed to cope with their environment and potential predators in order to survive.
Anxiety often triggers a fight or flight response. This involves a range of physiological responses to prepare our body and mind for survival. For example, hundreds of years ago, fear of being eaten by a large animal may have resulted in a surge of adrenaline and various other sympathetic nervous system responses so that we could speedily avoid a dangerous situation. This type of threat is obviously unlikely if you work and live in the city, but other stressors which cause anxiety often precipitate a similar physiological response.
Coping with thoughts, feelings and responses to perceived threats and situations is important to ensure psychological and physical wellbeing. Developing successful coping techniques contributes to achieving the universal desire for happiness and health. Repeated experience of potentially threatening situations, continuing anxiety and the associated physical responses can impact upon the immune system and ultimately one’s health.
Certain situations are generally universally difficult to cope with. Examples include mental illness, grief and trauma. Such circumstances may require time, social support, professional intervention and perhaps medication to facilitate coping. Conversely, other situations may be easily resolved with only slight lifestyle adjustments.
“Coping” is a term that means different things to different people. In general though, a person is coping when they have integrated their experiences into their life, are managing taxing demands placed upon them and are functioning well despite perceived stressful situations.
Coping abilities vary widely between individuals. For example, what may seem insurmountable to some (especially while tossing and turning in bed at 4am) may be subjectively manageable for others.
Because we all want to cope, have a go at some of these suggestions.
- Work out what makes you feel more calm, more in control and happier. Endeavour to include these activities in your day.
- Problem solve. Try to identify specific issues that cause anxiety for you. Search for appropriate solutions to these problems.
- Seek social support. Turn to friends, family, colleagues or network groups for guidance, company and general support.
- Explore a variety of meditation, relaxation and breathing techniques. If your body is relaxed, it follows that your mind will be more relaxed.
- At times, distractions from stress and a focus on the fun things in life can assist with coping.
- Reduce alcohol and drugs as a means of coping.
- Assess your physical health. Good eating habits, physical wellness and exercise are important for overall coping.
- Listen carefully to your self-talk (the thoughts going around in your head). Learn to challenge these thoughts and replace irrational, anxiety provoking thoughts with more rational and calm ones.
- Make a list of “coping statements” – things you can say to yourself to make you feel better.
- Set goals to eliminate or at least reduce some of the factors that may be affecting your ability to cope. Make some meaningful changes to reduce the difficulties.
- If you continue to have difficulty coping, it may be worth accessing professional support. Speak to your doctor, local council or the Australian Psychological Society to access professional and/or medical help.