Heartland Human Services

Coping VS Coping Well

By Kayla Schumacher

When someone is going through a hard time, such as after a loss, we often ask, “How are you holding up?”
Usually, there is the perfunctory response of, “I’m fine.”  But another, quite common response I hear is, “I’m coping,” or “I’m managing.” 

Coping.  Managing.  They are such simple words. Often we take the response at face value. But what if we were to follow up with, “But, are you coping well”?

The world is full of people “coping” and “just trying to make it.” And these efforts are commendable, but are our coping skills truly working for us?  Let’s find out.
Do your coping strategies:
-           Do physical harm to yourself or others?
Examples: Punching walls, hitting others, using drugs, etc.
-           Destroy property you or others care about?
Example: Throwing your very new, expensive cell phone and shattering the screen.
-           Involve behaviors that could have legal consequences?
Examples: Doing drugs or speeding.
-           Leave you feeling sick or worse than before?
Examples: Eating or drinking too much
-           Push others away or damage relationships?
Examples: Isolating or venting/yelling at those you care about
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, your coping strategies are not as positive as you might believe.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, to “cope” means to “deal effectively with something difficult.”  The key word is “effectively.”  So, how do we know if our coping skills are healthy and effective?  A good, positive coping skill should have NO negative consequences.  This means that once the action is done, you should feel better and not have to deal with any new problems.  Yes, a physical release can be very helpful in getting rid of the excess adrenaline that can come with intense emotions, but a safe and non-damaging activity should be chosen.  So, while throwing that cell phone may feel good, the realization that you now have to pay for a new one out-of-pocket comes with a not-so-great feeling.
Instead of acting out, other people cope by withdrawing.  Withdrawal can happen physically and/or emotionally. This strategy has the illusion of being a good coping skill but it denies us what we genuinely need: human contact and support.  By isolating, we keep those who can help away. And we limit the ability to create new, more positive experiences.
If you are now wondering how to cope instead, try going to: http://www.yourlifeyourvoice.org/pages/tip-99-coping-skills.aspx

This is a list of 99 coping skills.  That’s 99 coping skills with NO negative consequences.

Psychologists advise those who have feelings of depression lasting more than two weeks to seek professional advice.  If you or a loved one are experiencing  any symptoms of depression, contact Heartland Human Services at 217-347-7179 or take a free screening at www.heartlandhs.org