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Coping- how would you define it?

What do coping and being resilient mean to you?  What does coping actually look like for you?  And what does it feel like?

For many people, I think there is still the Victorian Britain image of coping.  The stiff upper lip, being a rock, shouldering the responsibility, putting on a brave face and so on.  These expressions all smack of isolation.  They imply going it alone, not sharing with or burdening others.  They epitomise the strong person, be it the father, mother, business owner, manager, leader or carer for example, who always has the answer, doesn’t reach out for help and never shows their emotions.

Behind the scenes, however, all is not well.  It’s just that you’re trying to make it look like all is well, that you’re coping and you’ve got it covered.  So, what is actually going on for that individual when they are putting on a brave face and not burdening others with their problems?

Lonely

Well, from personal experience, it feels lonely.  When you think that you cannot turn to anyone for support, you take on the responsibility of finding the answer alone.  And you might not turn to others for many reasons.  You may feel ashamed for not knowing how to solve the problem.  For making a mistake or not being able to handle it on your own.  Perhaps you’re stopped from asking because you imagine people will think you are stupid, ineffective, irresponsible or incapable.  Maybe you are concerned for the impact it will have on your marriage, career or relationships with your kids, friends and family.  Or even the future of your kids.  And so maybe that makes you feel guilty.  Perhaps you are held back by the stigma of failure or appearing weak?  Shame can play a big part in staying silent and “coping” in quiet desperation.

Stuck

I also felt stuck.  If you cannot go to others for advice or support, it is often difficult to find new perspectives and approach the challenge with fresh eyes.  Therefore, you get stuck in a rut and keep doing the same things and hoping you’ll get different results.  That feeling of “stuck” and perhaps feeling hemmed in, restricted or confined is debilitating.  It makes you tense, frustrated, irritated and anxious, which affect your concentration and focus.  In this state, it can be hard to sleep.  And you may be distracted and distant with those closest to you.  Which impact on your relationships, work productivity and engagement as well as your health and well-being.

You might experience tension headaches or migraines, tight shoulders and chest which could lead to shortness of breath and a sense of panic.  You might have low energy and diminished sex drive.

Defensive

And I was on the defensive.  You’ll tell everyone that you are fine or great and how well things are going.  And with every false truth you utter, a little part of you dies inside.  You’ll try to divert people’s attention away from too much detail so that they don’t find out.  You hold your body tense, armouring yourself against threat or attack, as if by not acknowledging it, the house of cards will not come tumbling down.  Yet, every moment you spend not creating an effective resolution, the house of cards gets closer and closer to collapsing.

That tension you are holding has its advantages.  It stops you feeling the full force of your discomfort.  Which you might also hide by drinking alcohol excessively, over working, keeping your distance (perhaps physically and emotionally) from those most impacted by this situation, recreational drugs, gambling and so on.

Sticking your head in the sand

This is a worse-case scenario.  But, if you notice yourself employing distraction and diversionary behaviour, feeling isolated and any of the possible symptoms mentioned above, you could be in a state of coping which isn’t really coping at all.  It’s sticking your head in the sand.  And while you might be busy doing things and hoping it will all sort itself out, the situation gets worse over time which makes you feel more stuck, isolated, desperate, lonely and defensive.  And so the spiral continues downward.

But it won’t sort itself out.  While you remain stuck, you are stressed, anxious and tired.  Therefore, you are not in a place to create an effective solution to the problem.  That stress and anxiety has your body set up for fight or flight (known as the Stress Response).  Which is actually the opposite of what you need to get out of the rut you are in.

Most people, particularly men, will wait until the final straw before they will reach out to others.  Stigmas, such as “asking for support shows you are weak and not a real man”, mean that people avoid asking for help so much longer than necessary.  So much stress, anxiety and heartache could be avoided if stigmas like this could be challenged.

Coping redefined

So, I’d like to redefine what it means to be coping.  Coping is not desperation or isolation.  And certainly not devastation.  The Cambridge English Dictionary defines coping as” dealing successfully with a difficult situation”.  There is nothing successful about that Victorian Britain definition of coping.  I believe therefore, that coping redefined wants to look more like resilience.

**Which means connecting to four key aspects of your well-being:

  1. Self
  2. Other
  3. Nature
  4. Meaning/ Purpose/ Spirituality

Self

One of the reasons people find it hard to cope is that they may not realise they are struggling.  They lack a degree of self-awareness that means they do not notice they are expressing signs of stress and anxiety.  You may know people who are telling you they are not angry as they yell at the top of their voices.

Mindfulness and embodiment exercises can develop that self-awareness so that you can notice the signs of struggling earlier and do something about it.  Also, the earlier you tackle the problem, the less off the rails you are and so it is easier to rectify.  The longer it is left, the more work you have to do to get back on track.  Which is more stressful.  Engage a little in the pain you are in.  The sensations are full of valuable information that can tell you where you want to head and how to take the first steps.

Other

Having relationships with a wide range of people means you have a broad support network to call upon when you realise you are struggling.  To be resilient it is best to have at least one person you can go to for practical advice, someone else who is an inspiration for you, another who makes you laugh at yourself and the world, a fourth that acts as a mentor or elder, a sexual partner or someone who gives you touch and finally someone who is a listener.  These six people collectively support you in your resilience and your ability in coping.  A single person definitely shouldn’t be all six of those things to you, but someone might cover two, maybe three roles.

Nature

A regular connection to nature is a great resource for coping.  The calm of the natural world will bring you to a calmer state if you allow it to nurture you.  Immerse yourself in the wilds, take a walk in a park, or even walk on the streets and take the time to look at the trees, clouds, the sun, birds and anything else that connects you with nature.  It might take some time for the effect to take hold but, do what you can and notice the impact.

Meaning/ Purpose/ Spirituality

When you are aligned to what is most important to you, you have access to power and confidence that has you working at a much higher level.  Compare that to when you are conflicted, second guessing yourself, confused and consumed with doubt or fear.  The power of your clarity, focus and fulfilment are second to none.  Living your purpose has a hint of stepping outside your comfort zone, discovery and creating something new.  It might feel challenging, risky and a step into the unknown, but here you are alive and vital.

You might feel stress, but it is not overwhelming stress.  It is stress that has you raise your game and perform beyond your expectations.  You feel of use or service in this place, contributing towards something larger than you.  Perhaps giving something that only you can give.  That sense draws you forward while you are oriented towards an inner compass point that feels fulfilling, meaningful and on purpose.

Dealing successfully with a difficult situation

If you listen to your body, it is telling you the answers.  Those urges to speak to someone, reach out for help, take a break and align yourself to what brings you joy are your body saying you need to do this so that you can cope.

When you take the time consistently to cultivate your resilience, your capacity to cope with life’s challenges dramatically increases.  So, rather than trying to cope by shutting down, withdrawing, digging your heels in and numbing the pain and suffering, you can reach out for as many of the resources that develop your resilience as you want or need.  So that rather than be stressed, anxious and tense you can be relaxed and at ease and so more inclined towards creative solutions, cooperation and collaboration.

There is even evidence to suggest that when we are stressed, our bodies release Oxytocin so that we are more inclined to reach out for support from others (the second on the resilience list).  You can listen to a TED Talk about it here.

So, there is no need to suffer.  And there is definitely no need to suffer alone.  In fact, when you get this right, overcoming the challenges and reaching your goals in life can come with remarkable ease.  If you listen to your body, it is telling you the answers.  Those urges to speak to someone, reach out for help, take a break and align yourself to what brings you joy are your body saying you need to do this so that you can cope.

Nothing in nature remains stuck.  Everything is in a dynamic flow that moves, changes, adapts and evolves.  If you are digging in and getting stuck, you are going against nature.  You are going against your nature.  Reach out and help things flow.  The answers come much sooner and the joy of relief more quickly.

Over to You

How are you coping?  What do you do to build and maintain your resilience?  What is your definition of coping?  How might it be different after reading this blog? What will you be doing differently as a result of reading this?

Pass it on

If you have found this information useful why not send the link to a friend in need?

 

** I have taken this information about resilience from Mark Walsh’s lecture on Four Types of Resilience from Integration Training’s Resilience Day on April 30th, 2020.

How are you managing yourself through Coronavirus?

Coronavirus is touching a lot of our stress points. It has thrown our known world into turmoil. Many people are struggling with the anxiety, worry, doubt, confusion, uncertainty and isolation. The question is:

What can you do about it?

Transition can be challenging to many. Once you’ve crossed that bridge, you have a new status quo.

It is very normal to experience these feelings when you are going through change. Your biology is designed and programmed to maintain the status quo. The scientific jargon for that is homeostasis- keeping things the same. It is partly what drives habits and why they are so hard to change.

Change is threatening because it upsets the status quo. It takes time to settle into the new normal. And that transition period can be challenging to many. Think how conscientious you have to be to change a habit and how long it takes. But once you’ve crossed that bridge, you have a new status quo.

Loving the uncertainty

Some thrive in change and uncertainty. For them, THAT is normal and their preferred status quo. When things are stable and consistent, these people get stir crazy. For them, the challenge is routine.

So, if you are one of those people that thrives in volatile times then you are probably enjoying the creativity and opportunities presenting themselves. During instability, things are dynamic. It is an ideal time to create and lead. Those that thrive in that will play a large role in creating whatever the new normal is going to become.

Are you struggling with change?

What can you do if you fall into the earlier category of people? Like me, you might be experiencing anxiety, worry, tension, shallow breathing, finding it hard to sleep and struggling with the uncertainty. Financial worries, your health and the health of loved ones, unpredictability of work, isolation at home, how long will this last, what are the guidelines we are meant to follow and so on.  And that anxiety makes it hard to create and lead in a positive way.

Also, the feelings come in waves. You might not be worried all the time. But you’ll hear something or think of someone and that will get you going. Or you’ll fall asleep at night but wake up and find it hard to go back to sleep because your mind starts working. Perhaps the government changes its stance (which it seems to do daily) again and you are left reeling with apprehension and doubt. Or you’re getting conflicting advice as you try and find out what to do for the best.

So here are 5 tips to help you through these challenging times.

Limit your intake of news

It is easy to want to stay abreast of every twist and turn of news as it happens. Keeping the 24 hour news channel on all day is not going to do your well-being any good. It keeps you in a perpetual state of anxiety.

The internet has multiple opportunities to catch up with the news. From pop ups when you log in the e-mail to social media posts. Limit your intake. Personally, I watch one bout of news a day and that is it. I resist the temptations to click on links that will take me to breaking news on the internet. That scheduled 30-minute news blast is enough to keep me aware of developments.

Knowing that I have that planned towards the end of the day means I can get on with my day and not worry about missing something important. At the same time, it allows me time to remain positively focused. And that helps me control my fear and anxiety.

Create routines

In these uncertain times, certainty is a blessing. Set your alarm to wake up and have your morning routine. It’s all too easy to stay in your pyjamas all day when you’re working from home or self-isolating. Get showered, get dressed, have breakfast. You don’t have to do it like you would if you were at work. But whatever routine you decide on, make sure it works to keep you productive, creative and buoyant physically, mentally and emotionally.

Connect with friends and contact them at regular times.

Have your workouts timetabled. Joe Wicks has his online classes to follow. Yoga teachers are doing similar things (you can find some incredible examples at Yoga and Movement Classes). Join Gareth Malone’s online choir which happens every day at 530pm UK time or the Embodiment Circle Online which has multiple sessions of body-based meditation and mindful movement throughout the day. There are loads of different options online.

Routines can reduce uncertainty by giving you structure, focus and predictability. Giving you a strong foundation from which to tackle the uncertain things you have to face.

Stay active

Even with the lock downs that many areas are having, exercise outside is great to make you feel more resourced. Running, cycling, walking will help to make you physically, mentally and emotionally more resilient.

You don’t have to go out in public. You can exercise in the garden, in the house, on your roof (as long as it’s safe). Even regular sets of press ups, sit ups, squats or whatever exercises float your boat are a great way to stay active.

Why not take up something new? Use these usual and unprecedented circumstances to try online a yoga class, Rolfing Movement Integration sessions, Feldenkrais’ Awareness through Movement, Kettle Bells classes or anything that might be fun for you.

Keep your space tidy

When you are at home a lot, it is important to keep your living space tidy and well-organised, for your well-being and peace of mind.  It really helps to reduce anxiety when your space is clear, clean and well organised.

As best you can, limit where you work in your living space. And if you have to work on the dining room table or in the lounge, pack it all away at the end of the working day so that you have a clear separation between work life and home life.

Centring

And if you feel the stress and anxiety creeping in, in spite of these above measures, you can always centre.

In fact, I recommend centring throughout the day as a matter of habit. It has helped me immensely to regulate and manage my anxiety. And when specific situations occur that I find stressful, that centring process is well-engrained and I can tap into that resource whenever I need.

Centring is a quick win, easy access tool that allows you to manage your response to stressful situations and anxiety. Here is a video of me taking you through BODY Centring as an example.

 

 

What is there to appreciate about Coronavirus?

These 5 tips that I’ve shared are great stress- busting tools. My hope is that you will use them and as a result you’ll be able to step back from the brink of anxiety and fear. Instead, you’ll be able to relax and calm yourself a little so that you can be more creative, resourceful and solution-focused. So that you can come through this crisis having grown, learned and developed as an individual, a family or a business.

And, these tips are not limited to a Coronavirus pandemic. You can use them throughout your life. Whenever you feel anxious, worried or doubtful, these tips can help you do a U-turn on your stress-based way of thinking. In the calm, you’ll create by practising these tips, you’ll be better placed to create positive solutions.

In fact, if you use them regularly, they’ll help make you more resilient, so that you do not drop into that negative way of thinking. Over time, things that once stressed you no longer will. You’ll build greater momentum towards positivity and learn to manage yourself more skilfully when the going gets tough.

And one of the plus sides of the drastic measures governments are putting in place is that you have a long period in which to engrain these new habits. Start any of these tips now and within a few weeks, you will be doing them as a matter of course.

They are great for maintaining and sustaining well-being. If you are not using them now, pick at least one and start practising a new habit. By the time we get back to our new normal, that new habit will be firmly in place and you’ll be able to keep using it to maintain your well-being.

Over to you

Are you struggling to manage the daily changing landscape of our lives at this time? Do you worry about how you’re going to make your way through this?

Which one of these tips are you going to try out? Would you like some support or accountability? If so, reach out and I would be happy to offer help in that way.

Pass it on

In these times of isolation and disconnection, show someone you are thinking of them.  If you think they might be struggling with anxiety and worry, please forward these tips to them. Let them know you care and that they are not alone.

Step Outside Your Comfort Zone

Growth happens outside your comfort zone

Growth happens outside your comfort zone

It was Eleanor Roosevelt who said “Do one thing every day that scares you”.  In this age of super human heroes in movies, fearless warriors in computer games along with the facade and bravado that people often display in every day life to show that they are fit and strong enough to compete for the greatest successes in their personal and professional lives, the idea of doing something that scares me is overwhelming.  It feels like I have to be this perfect ideal.  That shows no fear and never makes mistakes.  It feels like I have to up the ante each time.

Who can compete with that?  I certainly can’t!

Comfort Zone

The idea of doing things daily that seem to require super human heroism on my part often means that I don’t do anything.  Over time this has a negative impact on my self- worth and self- esteem.  Then someone introduced me to the idea of stepping out of my comfort zone just enough so that it was a challenge.  And importantly, not so much that it felt like over whelm.  I began to use Mrs Roosevelt’s saying in a way that enhanced my life.

Public Speaking- a common speak out of your comfort zone

Let me share, if you will, a personal example with you.  I have always had a strong aversion to public speaking.  What is interesting in that for years I have felt that I should do it.  I have written lectures TED style, courses to be delivered to classes over 6- 12 weeks and video scripts.  I’ve never been able to deliver.

On a recent CPD course it occurred to me that perhaps I was setting my sights too high in the first instance.  Perhaps the talks on video and in front of classes would come.  Even a TED talk.  For now though I felt like I needed to take a small step to prove to myself that it was possible.  So I did.  Although there was a sense of fear and anxiety there was also a sense of feeling alive.  It felt on the edge, challenged and at the same time manageable.  The feeling of success was elation and then what followed was a calmness and serenity that had eluded me for years.

I had avoided the stress of public speaking and other such things that made me feel anxious.  It was always accompanied by this gnawing feeling that I should be doing something more.  Now I had taken that step, mustered the courage.  It felt great to have taken myself to the edge of my comfort zone and survived.  A little melodramatic granted but that is how it felt.

Yin and Yang, pressure and serenity

In Taoism, the Chinese speak of Yin and Yang.  These are the polar opposites of right and left, up and down, masculine and feminine, light and dark.  Taoists and ancient Chinese understood that these concepts work in balance and in cycles.  In fact, there cannot be one without the other.  Just as darkness gives way to light, so challenge and the accompanying pressure to perform give way to a sense of calmness and serenity.  This is exactly what I felt.  It is strange to me to think that in order to feel serene I have to earn it in a way by stepping out of my comfort zone.  It is by this law of nature, as the Taoists would say, that things move forward and grow.  Humans are no different.  We are still subject to this natural and universal law.

“Do something every day that scares you”

Then, the serenity gives way to the gnawing feeling again and I know that I must move on and challenge myself again.  As Eleanor Roosevelt reminded us, this cycle lasts about a day.  It stops us becoming complacent, stagnant and bored and encourages us to be ever vigilant and searching, moving forward and engaged with the act of living and growing, in pursuit of achieving our full potential.

Pass it on

Did you find this article useful and interesting?  If so, why not pass it on to other people you think would be interested and spread the word?  I would really appreciate it.  And if you are new to Potentiality Coaching, why not sign up to the e- mailing list at https://www.potentialitycoaching.co.uk/ and get an e- mail straight to your in box when I post my monthly blog and be first to hear about news, information and insights at Potentiality Coaching.  I’d love to have you be part of the community.