By: Ema Gavrilovic, LPC

Ema graduated with a master’s degree from DePaul University in counseling with a specialty in clinical mental health. Ema welcomes clients of any age, and specializes in children and teens, “at-risk” youth, people with trauma, school-based counseling, college readiness, anxiety, and depression.

In my last post, I introduced the coping skill of the calming kind. In this blog post, I will introduce the physical coping style. Especially when we feel anxious or depressed, those are signs our body is telling us it wants to escape a situation. The adrenaline rush of a fight-flight response to something unnerving can resemble anxious bodily responses if we are unable to productively expend that energy. Our hearts beat faster, we feel sick, we feel like we need to move.  Let’s go over these forms of physical steps in order to achieve more control on things we feel we can’t outrun at the moment.

Physical skills

Sometimes, we feel like we need to outrun the stressor or feel like we can’t sit still when the stressful event is happening, and find ourselves fidgeting. Our natural reaction is to fight or flight in stressful situations. Notice, fighting or fleeing both involve movement, a natural state of humans’ bodies in times of stress. Doing nothing and just taking the stress in can contribute to loads of future issues, including anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and psychosomatic issues. However, to help combat injury to ourselves, screaming, running, and expending that energy in other productive ways helps us alleviate high blood pressure and mental pain. Even expressing emotions somewhere where we feel safe like in the privacy of our bedroom is a great way to relieve the adrenaline rush. Exercising, cooking, baking, and cleaning are other ways people cope with stressors. As long as they are preoccupied with a physical activity that lets them move and expel energy in a healthy way (is punching a brick wall safe? Is punching a mattress safer?) allows people to flourish after the negative event. Even putting on some music and dancing wildly (equally a child and adult favorite!) is a great way to relieve stress.

Positive aspects to conducting a physical activity is the happy feeling, known as the endorphin rush that accompanies the movement and can combat negative feelings. Further, the pressure of standing still and doing nothing is released with the intense movement, resulting in the aforementioned flourishing of the individual’s mind and body. Some potential issues with this skill type include that doing a physical activity is difficult and risky to do in all situations. Whereas at the work place it’s easier to excuse yourself to go to the bathroom and let out some deep breaths (calming type), it’s much harder to crank out running down the hallway in within public sight. Thus, please remain more selective on where and when you utilize a physical strategy, otherwise your coworkers might reconsider your competency if you just bust out a dance move in the middle of the office floor.

Your response to the stressor and lifestyle will also command what kind of physical activity you are more likely to try. Your personality traits and interests, motivation to relieve the anxious feelings, and the presenting situation that is causing you stress are all factors in the type of strategy in which you allocate time. Whether that’s roller blading down the street, letting out some steam in a video game, or cleaning the closet, the physical activity most likely to suit you is one that you are comfortable with doing already. Furthermore, remembering to utilize these traits in times of stress can be hard at first, and is the next step to succeeding in a stressful situation. Once they become a habit, they will be easier to remember and to utilize with time. As you habituate to empowering yourself, you’ll feel emotionally lighter, more sure of yourself and your worth, and more competent at handling tough situations.

Don’t forget to schedule a free 15 minute telephone session with Owens today to accommodate this work into your daily practice by calling 847-854-4333.