Now that you understand the importance of letting go and can accept that there will be setbacks, what's next? What I've learned throughout my own Recovery is that I am going to need coping skills.
Coping skills are the tools we have within and without ourselves that help hold us up when we feel weak. Like a building has an iron frame and our body has a skeleton of bones, our mind also needs something to shore it up. We begin learning coping skills as children. When we get into trouble, we might tell a little white lie to avoid the consequence, or say something funny to divert attention from the circumstance. We learn where the best hiding places are, or where to go when we need time alone. We engage in escapism--inside the pages of a book, perhaps. Or we create an imaginary friend. We look for ways to provide the security Maslow (hierarchy of needs) says we naturally seek as human beings.
As we get older, we continue to use some of these early behaviors. We also adopt new ones. Maybe we begin journaling. Maybe we take up running. Maybe we gossip with our friends. Maybe we yell, kick or scream. Maybe we continue to crack jokes. Maybe we shut down. Coping skills have a lot to do with our individual personalities.
Do you know what your coping skills are? What are some of the tools you've adopted over the years that help you deal with change or the difficult times in life? Could you use a few more to place in your toolbox? Here's a list for you to review. Read through it and see what you currently use, or what you could begin making use of now. Maybe you aren't even aware you had coping skills or tools that would benefit you in times of need.
If there's something missing from this list that you have found useful in your own life, please add it as a comment below:
_Engage in a morning ritual that includes breathing exercises and meditation.
_Make a plan of action if you feel stuck. A simple written outline can do the trick.
_Watch a sunrise or sunset.
_Hike a mountain trail and spend time at the top taking in the view.
_Go for a bike ride, either alone or with a friend.
_Plan a week's worth of healthy meals.
_Schedule time in your daily routine for exercise, just 20 minutes for starters.
_Drink more water to flush out toxins.
_Jog in place to release stress, or jump rope.
_Begin a grateful journal.
_Journal what you eat on a daily basis, if you think food is an issue with you.
_Take an art class.
_Subscribe to a fun-for-you magazine and read it the minute it arrives in your mailbox.
_Read a chick lit or sci-fi novel, just for fun, from cover to cover.
_Take yourself on a date--no kids, no spouse, no partner, no dog, just you.
_Scream as loud as you can.
_Go wash the car.
_Play a musical instrument, if you have that talent.
_Sing a song in the shower, as loud as you can.
_Take an improvisation or acting class.
_Organize the shelves in your kitchen or the closet.
_Alphabetize your books.
_Order in and watch your favorite movie.
_Color in a coloring book.
_Doodle on a page.
_Go for a brisk walk, without the dog.
_Mow the lawn or trim the bushes.
_Clean the windows.
_Take a long, hot bath.
_Sit in the jacuzzi or go for a swim.
_Find a partner and play catch with a ball, Frisbee or other similar object.
_Light a fire in the fireplace and drink hot chocolate.
_Make a pot of loose leaf tea and drink it in your best china cup and saucer.
_Visit the nearest coffee house and people watch.
_Splurge on yourself at your favorite restaurant or clothing boutique.
_Visit your Farmer's Market and buy fresh and local.
_Call a friend or therapist.
_Take time to talk to your spouse or partner.
_Plan a vacation or a long weekend getaway.
If you'll notice, some of the suggestions on this list sound like work, while others sound like fun. The point is that they can help you get your mind off your troubles if that that's all you need at the moment. Or they can help you relax. Or they can help you solve the problem. Taking time for yourself, to be alone with your thoughts, to think through the challenges of the day, can be all you need to find the solution, to feel better, to move foward. Coping skills are not meant to be time wasters. They are meant to give you time--the time you need to adjust to new feelings, new surroundings, new people, new experiences, new whatevers.
Coping skills are learned behaviors, sometimes good, sometimes not so good. So we can all stand to learn new ones.