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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.

When you are stuck, do you focus on the solution?

Do you ever feel stuck about a particular challenge? Have you noticed that when you are stuck, you spend more time focusing on the problem of the challenge?  You’re actually focusing on the problem rather than placing your attention towards the solution.  And because you are focusing on faults, mistakes and general negativity, you feel more stuck.  The cycle repeats and deepens and the solution never presents itself.

You’re trying to find more clients, or make more money, get better grades or achieve that promotion.  The knock backs keep coming and it reinforces your focus on the problem.  Just because your brain is wired to see and focus on problems, it does not mean you have to keep your focus there.

Solution focused

Evolutionarily, it serves your survival to focus on the negative.  You see problems so that you can plan and act to prevent or mitigate them.  But that is not where you want to maintain your focus.  Once you have identified the problem, you want to empower your creativity, imagination and intuition to bring forth the solution.  Do not let yourself get caught in the low energy, negative vibe of the problem.  Orient towards high energy and positivity and the solution will present itself.

How often have you been stuck on a project or been struggling to find the answer to a problem?  In frustration, you take yourself off for a run, a workout, a shower, a nap, meet with a friend, play a game……. And at some point, in the midst of that fun or pleasant activity, the answer comes to you.  Like a bolt out of the blue, the solution is crystal clear.  This happens so often to me, yet it never ceases to amaze me that it works.  I am not bothered why it works.  I just know that it works.  And that is enough for me.

Give yourself a break

Recently, I felt very stuck and unsure how proceed on a project I am working on.  When it is a bigger challenge, I have learned to take myself off for a few days alone.  That usually involves long hours walking in glorious countryside without mobile signal, e-mail or distraction from work, friends or family.  I allow my mind and body to relax, rest and enjoy the scenery.  I sleep a lot, remain in solitude as best I can (it’s hard to find in the UK sometimes unless you’re up a mountain, and even then), and keep a note pad with me at all times.  When the answers come, they happen fast, and it can be challenging to keep up.  Flashes of inspiration, insight and clarity come to me.  Then I can spend time working out how I can implement them.

This stuck project is a book I have been researching for years.  I set aside 111 days between November 2019 and March 2020 to write a first draft.  By December 2019, I was stuck as the writing felt flat, uninspired and dull.  I had researched for a book about science and spirituality but found it hard to make it relevant to people’s daily lives and what was true for me at that time in my life.  In a biting storm with horizontal hail near Coniston Water in The Lake District, the answers came to me.  Buffeted by the wind, I struggled to get the notes down, but I had the essence of the theme for the book now.  I’m taking a break from writing to write this.

Get out of your own way

So, I have learned that there is a process that I need to allow to happen.  I have to get out of my own way.  My Inner Critic or Saboteur will try to keep me focused on worrying about the problem.  The job of my best self (Inner Leader, Superhero, CEO, Head of the Board, Captain of the Ship) is to focus on the fun stuff, the positive thoughts that bring me joy, relax me and allow the answers to come winging in from the inner wisdom of my intuition, imagination and creativity.  As Liz Gilbert says in her TED talk “Your elusive creative genius”, keep showing up in that process, connect to what brings you joy and if and when the solution comes, act on it.

Whether it is short-term goals or long-term, the process is the same.  In long-term goals, there will be more flashes of inspiration, that will guide you along the way.  Do not spend the time focusing on the negativity, mistakes or faults.  That is where you are, but it is not where you are wishing to be.  Allow what is to be to become and be guided by your creativity, intuition and imagination.

When I coach people through their challenges, I support clients to connect to that positive inspiration, the resonance that affirms a life well-lived, in fulfilment, meaning and purpose.  When clients are stuck, we focus on core values and the things that bring their inner strength and wisdom to the fore.  Together they build a head of steam from which the solutions emerge.  If you have challenges you want to overcome, get in touch and let’s connect you to your creative, empowered and best self.

Over to You

Do you feel stuck sometimes?  What do you do to overcome the feeling?  Do you focus on the problem?  Or are you focusing on the solution?  When you try this method, how did it work out for you?  What would you change or fine tune?  What methods do you use to get unstuck and get solution focused?

Pass it on

Was this blog useful?  If so, why not send it to someone else who might benefit from the ideas shared.  Thanks for spreading the love.

 

**Inspired by the work of Abraham Hicks and a Christopher Chapman Workshop at The Royal Foundation of St Katharine (Love is His Meaning: At prayer with Julian of Norwich on February 15th, 2020)**

You’ve got that nagging feeling

With clarity of life purpose comes the power to take action and live on purpose

With clarity of life purpose comes the power to take action and live on purpose

Do you notice how in spite of your success in life, there is a nagging feeling inside that there is ‘something more’? A career, a calling, a thing you feel you must do and then you will feel a sense of contentment, like you have arrived.  That feeling is the desire within you to live life on purpose.

You may push the idea away, saying that it is foolish- you have a good job, family life, friends. Why would you rock the boat or risk that security to follow such a crazy dream? Maybe you think what you have in your life should be enough and that you are selfish to dream bigger and go for something more?

And yet, regardless of these ‘common sense’ and ‘sensible’ arguments, the idea keeps returning, jabbing at you or sticking pins into you.  That purpose continues tapping you on the shoulder and reminding you that it is there.

Living life on purpose

I know these feelings. I have been there many times in fact. When I had a successful career in science at Cambridge University, I founded a martial arts centre and later gave up my career in science to pursue that path more fully. The martial arts centre runs in Cambridge to this day.

Later I discovered I had more to give and started life coaching, firstly as an additional strand to the martial arts training I offer and now as a stand- alone business as well. Each step has been a step towards greater fulfilment and self- expression of my gifts, abilities and desire to share.

And what I discovered in taking those steps in my self is that I had many of the skills already. Those I did not have I developed along the way. Once the feeling was strong enough and the message clear enough, I found the courage to take that first step and then the next and so on. The worries of ‘not being good enough’ and ‘I’m afraid to take the risks’ still surface and I know will continue to surface along the way. They are challenged and made weaker every time I take a step towards living my life with more clarity and purpose. In later blogs I’ll share how I got that clarity and how you can get that clarity too.

Over to you

I’d love to hear your story about how you took that step towards realising ‘something more’ inside. Perhaps you have not taken it yet- what does it feel like to hold on to it and to contemplate taking that step? Whether you’re teetering on the edge, free falling or standing safely on solid ground at the bottom of the cliff, or the top, let’s share our stories and support each other in realising our potential. Is it change in career, a new hobby or relationship? The possibilities are endless.

Why don’t you……….?

If you found this article useful and interesting please 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.

And if you’d like to talk to me about gaining clarity and taking steps to get rid of that nagging feeling so that you can live your life with more meaning, fulfilment and purpose, please contact me in privacy and confidentiality on +(44) 7980 204946 or at david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk