In our everyday lives, we find ways to cope in order to deal with issues or problems we may be facing. While its completely normal to develop coping strategies, understanding how we cope is the key to building resilience for now and into the future.
Asking ourselves how we can build resilience can help us navigate this pandemic as well as any other stressful event or issue we are faced with. To begin, we all need to see that there are two types of coping strategies – adaptive and maladaptive.
Maladaptive coping strategies might get you through the day, but they won’t have you coming out the other side of this pandemic or any other issue in a good place. Anything that makes you feel better in the moment but will serve to your detriment over the long term, is maladaptive in nature.
Consider alcohol intake. Increasing your drinking habits might help you feel better in the moment, but how will you feel the next morning? If this habit continued over weeks or months it would become a stressor in and of itself.
Another example might be making a decision to avoid everything to do with the pandemic. Although you don’t need to stay glued to every news update, you do need to keep yourself informed so that you can best protect yourself and those close to you. If reading the news has become too stressful, take a break but remember to check back every once in a while for major developments or new restrictions.
Maladaptive coping strategies can have a negative impact on not only your health and wellbeing but also your relationships, and in many cases, put you at higher risk for certain illnesses. Even though 25% of Canadians have reported increased levels of alcohol intake during the pandemic, this is one instance where there is no safety in numbers!
Adaptive coping can be challenging but it will benefit you in the short and long run. Behaviours and choices that are less emotion-based and more directed at the problem are adaptive in nature.
For example, eating healthy most of the time won’t solve the pandemic, but we all know it improves both our physical and our mental health when we fuel ourselves with nutrient-dense foods. Strengthening yourself makes you more capable of handling the multiple challenges around you.
Another example of adaptive coping might be sleeping in on a weekend to rejuvenate, pamper or soothe yourself. Getting a restorative sleep will help to strengthen you, mentally and physically to allow you to take on the challenges of the day, week or year.
On the other hand, sleeping in every day to the point where you are missing out on family or work responsibilities would be maladaptive.
Examining and improving how you cope can build resilience. But how?
When looking at the coping strategies you are using, think of your choices this way: if you participate in this behaviour for the next 6 weeks, 6 months or 2 years, will your total health be better or worse?
If you have identified a maladaptive coping behaviour, the next step is to try to change it. If you cannot change your maladaptive coping on your own or with the help of a trusted friend or family member, then it may be time to consider finding professional help.
If you’ve never spoken with a counselor before, don’t stress. In fact, getting professional mental health help is a strong adaptive coping strategy that adds to your coping skill set. You’ll feel better and develop skills and strategies in how to navigate challenging situations in a more positive way and feel better in the long run.
Remember to give yourself a break. It’s tough out there. Figuring out how to cope in ways that will get you through with some sense of control and strength is not only an accomplishment, it’s actually what resilience is all about.