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SURVIVAL KIT: COPING MECHANISMS

Resilience is a Filipino trait. To be a Filipino means being able to smile through adversity and struggle, it means being able to laugh it off and find the brighter things in everything. But we are only human and we need coping mechanisms.

Regardless of how much we prepare ourselves for the worst, there are still things that can make us lose our footing. Sometimes, it’s even because of small inconvenient things happening all at once or too close to each other. I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of saying we’re okay when we’re not, or saying something is not a big deal when it was. We learn more about ourselves everyday and it’s completely natural to learn that something affects you more than you thought it would. We need to process these things and we need to be able to do that in a healthy way.

What is coping? What are coping mechanisms?

Because of the things that happen to us and circumstances that compel us to react or respond to these events in a certain way – this leads us to coping. Developing coping mechanisms creates a habit or an immediate response to the difficult situation in front of us. There are a lot of different ways to cope and these mechanisms can be both good and bad. We often respond to situations depending on our mood, our current capacity, and what the consequences of our actions could be. For example, if someone was making you really uncomfortable, you might not say anything so as to not offend them especially if you’re close to this person and that they are easily offended.

Positive vs Negative Coping Mechanisms

Positive coping mechanisms can be difficult at first, because it can involve actively dealing with difficult situations which some of us tend to avoid. Using the example above, a positive mechanism is processing the situation together and being honest with that person. However, a negative response can be being too aggressive towards the person, adding hostility and resolving nothing; or accepting the discomfort to the point that it also harms your self-worth and confidence. Negative coping mechanisms develop responses that can often make the situation worse because nothing is resolved. It can end up with us being exhausted or just distracted.

Different Types of Positive Coping Mechanisms

Since there are a lot of ways to cope, here are some of the positive responses we can choose from. 

DIVERSIONS

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Sometimes, all we need is a moment to remove ourselves from the stressful situation to get us to a better headspace before we get back to the situation. Go out for a walk, read, watch funny videos, or listen to music. Diversions are creating an environment for ourselves to remove ourselves from the situation for a while so it means we need to actively do something to take our mind off of it. Diversions can be productive activities like a creative outlet or cleaning, or it can be just doing something for the sake of it.

COGNITIVE RESPONSE

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This is a more intentional way of making ourselves feel better. Try writing a list of the things or people we’re thankful for or the blessings and good news we’ve experienced recently. Sometimes it’s important to just take a step back and look closer at all the blessings that we have. We can also list motivational and inspirational quotes and write pick me up notes for ourselves in the future. When facing the situation head on, it can feel less overwhelming if you brainstorm possible solutions with a friend, or make a list of pros and cons on the steps you want to take.

RELEASE TENSION

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Difficult situations almost always leave us with a lot of pent-up tension and energy. Releasing this energy through sports, games, or just taking the time to laugh or cry are positive ways to deal with that energy.

OTHER POSITIVE RESPONSES

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In other cases, this is the perfect time to take the slower route. Take the time to reconnect with yourself, sit in silence, pray or meditate. 

It’s good to note that positive mechanisms can turn into negative ones if we use them as a form of escape, so we need to be careful not to overdo these mechanisms and always ground ourselves to why we’re doing it in the first place.

Photo by sydney Rae on Unsplash

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