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Coping with Stress: What is in Your Toolbox

When is the last time you refreshed your coping skills toolbox? Are you overdue for a coping skills reboot?

I was born and raised in Miami, Fl where we only have two major seasons: hot and cool. Some would say summer and winter, but the temperature rarely gets cold enough to be considered a true winter, in my opinion. As an adult, I’ve enjoyed living in cities where there are truly four seasons. As a result, I’ve become accustomed to changing my wardrobe based on the season. It’s a whole thing now. I will take my time and go through my clothes, assessing season, comfort, and of course cuteness. I will exchange my sweaters and boots for sundresses and sandals, and jeans for skirts and capris. This has become a useful ritual of sorts, as I don’t want to be stuck trying to wear jeans and sweaters in the summer. I’ll keep a few light sweaters handy for the cool nights of the summer, and a few t-shirts available for layering. These behaviors are good for having a functional wardrobe when the seasons change, and for coping strategies as we navigate life.

It is good to assess whether your current coping strategies are working or if you need to adapt for the season you are in. The coping skills needed to manage stress two years ago, may be exhausted and no longer helpful. For example, early in the pandemic we all had to learn how to go with the flow and not make plans too far into the future. As the numbers improve and the warmer days are approaching, we might need to become more problem-focused with our coping. It is okay to change things up, but most importantly make it appropriate for the season.

There are five general types of coping strategies: problem-focused coping, emotion-focused coping, meaning making, social support and religious coping. We typically use problem solving strategies when there is something we can do about the issue. Emotion-focused coping is useful when we don’t feel like we can do anything about the situation, but can shift how we feel about it. Meaning making involves exploring the purpose of the stressor, ultimately considering why is this happening now? Social support can be calling a friend or family member, talking it out and getting some support. Religious coping might include prayer or meditation.

Take a moment to think about your current strategies: Have you called on your friends more than you liked, put off making a decision, prayed about it without a shift happening, or just tired from “fixing” things. If you answered yes to any of these questions, this may be a good time to change out the old coping strategies for some new and creative ways to manage stress. It might feel a little unsettling, but clear out the old and try something new.

If you’d like support with creating new, more helpful coping strategies to navigate life, our team of therapists at Isaiah Counseling & Wellness, would love to help.