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By: Ema Gavrilovic, LPC

In my last post, I introduced coping skills and how to utilize them.  I also touched on the main difference between the former term and the term, self-care, a more extensive version of a coping skill. In the next four blog posts, I will dissect coping skills farther into four types to instruct readers on the best strategy to use them and during the most optimal times to use them. When people command a coping skill, it is up to their discretion on what kind to do, and this depends on the type of the stressor and how impending the stress is to each person. As I detail each type, think about certain scenarios that may benefit from the different kinds of skills, which are calming skills, physical skills, distraction skills, and processing skills. Let’s go over these forms over a series of four posts to get a better feel for them and to consider which you prefer to try out.

The first coping method I will cover is the calming type.

Calming Skills

The first coping facet this series covers is calming skills, which can be practiced anywhere, any place, and any time. We often hear, “just relax.” But what does this really mean and how can we quicker achieve a state of Zen?

Have you ever noticed how when you’re bottling up frustration, anger, and hurt, a lot of pressure builds. It’s pressure that could harm our lungs, our heart, our brain, and our blood vessels. When we bottle things up, we forget to breathe naturally. The phrase, “just breathe,” although could be demeaning in certain situations, has its roots in allowing the person to relinquish the excess energy, to let go, to breathe deeply to distance the impending emotions. The calmer we feel, the less our blood vessels constrict, and the healthier we are. Thus, the more our bodies and minds tend to relax the more we are able to breathe, and just mindfully be, during hard emotions and situations.

Many athletes utilize these strategies to obtain a control of their mind and to amplify their power. Athletes are taught to stay positive, confident, and assertive on the field. They remain in this winning headspace by picturing themselves winning the competition. This positive thinking, and even positive imagery (imagining the ball rolling into the goal, bouncing into the hoop, bouncing into the hole…) provides athletes with a calming effect. Activities such as deep breathing, counting backwards from ten or even twenty, listening to meditative music and sounds such as falling rain and ocean waves, fantasizing a calm scene such as an tropical paradise and other forms of meditation all act pleasantly to calm the stressed person. And indeed, anyone can turn into this mindful headspace, not just the athlete. A pro to using skills to calm the self are to reduce the physical feeling of anxiety, such as feeling heated or sick. Another pro to calming the self is to reorient oneself to the present, which decreases ruminating thoughts on future tension, and decreases that disconnected floaty sensation of not being present. A potential con of this is to remember that sometimes, in extremely strenuous situations, sometimes the mind naturally tries to disassociate in order to protect the self from further injury.

This first strategy as a coping skill will hopefully create more Zen in your life. As you read through it, are there some calming methods you already do? Are there certain ones that you can see yourself doing versus others that seem too unlike your style? The amount of tranquility depends on the consequence of the stressor and how alarmingly it is affecting you. Furthermore, remembering to stick with meditation in times of stress can be hard at first, and is the next level to achieving satisfaction with the surrounding environment. Once mindfulness becomes a habit, calm will follow. 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 fifteen minute telephone session with Owens today to accommodate this work into your daily practice by calling 847-854-4333.

Ema is accepting new clients at the Lake in the Hills, Warrenville, St. Charles and Schaumburg locations.  She can be reached at emag@owenscounseling.com or by phone at (847) 854-4333 extension 3015.