Recently, I was talking to a friend and she told me, “It’s just really difficult to have hope for the future.” I wanted to disagree but… I couldn’t. Instead, I wonder. With the reality of a global pandemic, the devastation of the war in Ukraine, and the daily struggle to make ends meet — how do we cope? I don’t have the answers to that question, but I hope to provide some tools and resources to help you along the path.
Coping is defined as a way to adjust to life events in a way that allows you to maintain equilibrium and positivity (Stressors: Coping Skills and Strategies, 2020). Coping mechanisms, or the behaviors we perform to help us deal with stress, can be healthy or unhealthy.
Some examples of healthy coping mechanisms include talking to others, asking for support, physical activity, viewing a situation objectively or through a different lens, or taking a break maybe by reading a book, playing a game, taking a bath, or some other activity that will allow you to take your mind off the issue for a moment.
Unhealthy coping can be excessive drug or alcohol use (which can lead to addiction), blaming others for a situation, problem avoidance, complaining to inappropriate people, or denying that there is a problem.
Ask For Support
Reaching out for support can be as simple as talking to a friend about your situation, or asking for help in problem-solving. Most often, I find myself reaching out in order to check myself — telling a friend or family member about a given situation and then asking if my response is reasonable, or if there’s a better course of action I could take to improve the situation.
In a worst-case scenario, friends and family may be out of contact. There are mental health services to help support you as well. If you have the resources, talk to a therapist or a counselor. They are people who have chosen their careers in order to help those who need it. If your need is more urgent, contact the crisis (for any kind of mental or emotional health crisis) text line, or the suicide prevention hotline.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Crisis Text Line: Text “DESERVE” TO 741-741
Find a Different Perspective
It’s easy to get caught up in our own point of view. Say, for example, the main stress you’re facing is a work conflict with your boss. Asking someone else how they see the situation can help you have compassion for the other person and recognize where your own bias is.
Alternatively, say your main stress is about the pandemic, or war — something larger than yourself. At that point, it may be more helpful to look at things from a religious or spiritual point of view. For many, belief in a higher power is a great source of comfort, especially in situations where it feels like what help you can give isn’t enough.
Or search for other spiritual centers near you!
Take a Break
In the never-ending bustle of life one of the most difficult things to do is take a break — not just physically, but also mentally, and emotionally. Stepping away from tasks is the easy part, the real difficulty comes in mentally and emotionally letting go of those problems to really take a break.
Breaks can look very different depending on the person. A break might be walking the dog, playing a video game, taking a nap, turning on a movie or TV show, having some time alone, meditating, coloring, or any number of other activities.
Some may protest, saying these are avoidance practices instead of a break. In all honesty, that’s not wrong. As in all things, there needs to be balance. If you have time pressing issues but you’re spending all day engaging in media, exercise, or sleep — it may be time to reevaluate.
Alternatively, if you find yourself in a position where you want to be able to accomplish things but you physically and mentally cannot then it is time to talk to a medical professional. Whether that’s a counselor or a doctor is up to you, but if your physical/mental/emotional state is interfering with your ability to accomplish normal life tasks? Then it is time to seek greater support.
One of the best ways to cope with stress is to engage in physical activity. That could be hitting the gym, going for a walk or a run, doing some at-home exercise, or cleaning. Anything that will get your blood pumping. In general, physical activity is a great way to focus your mind on the present. Exercising may also alert you to other physical needs you may have been neglecting, such as drinking water or eating a good meal.
Another way to engage in physical activity is to get involved in service. This is a great option for people who want to be more involved in their community, or who find they have a lot of free time on their hands and not a lot of ideas about what to do with it. Engaging in service is associated with lowered stress levels, increased satisfaction in life, lower depression, and even better physical health (Thoits, P. A., & Hewitt, L. N., 2001, pg. 118).
Times are hard, but there are things we can do to cope with that. Take some time this week — even if all you can get is a few minutes — and breathe. Know that you are not alone, we are all here working together, putting our “drops in the ocean” to help those we can (Bojaxhiu, M. T).
- Bojaxhiu, M. T. (n.d.). A quote by Mother Teresa. Retrieved March 12, 2022, from https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/23677-we-know-only-too-well-that-what-we-are-doing.
- Stressors: Coping Skills and Strategies. (2020, November). Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/6392-stress-coping-with-lifes-stressors
- Thoits, P. A., & Hewitt, L. N. (2001). Volunteer work and well-being. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 115–131.