Stress is an inevitable part of life and with the current COVID-19 pandemic, global stress levels have skyrocketed. It is common to feel anxious, panicked due to the uncertainty of the present scenario, not knowing when things might get better and we can go back to our daily routine is nerve-wracking.
For many, this crisis has made way to disappointment and despair due to cancellations of important functions like graduations, weddings, important business meetings, and travel. For some, it has led to an increase in conflicts due to lack of space from family members creating a volatile and highly triggered environment.
The lockdown and social distancing has restricted or cut off our access to our usual coping mechanisms like outings with friends, travel, gym, sports, dance class, etc.. The question to be asked is have they been replaced with healthier or unhealthy coping?
What Is Coping?
Simply put our coping mechanisms are the resources or actions that help us to deal with stress and uncomfortable emotions.
Everyone has a threshold of how much stress they can endure, process and integrate.
In the midst of uncertainty, overwhelming anxiety and panic, everyone is dealing with the crisis in the manner they know best.
How can we distinguish whether we are coping in a healthy or unhealthy manner?
Coping well in crisis, healthy coping mechanisms may not lead to instant gratification but lead to long-lasting positive outcomes. It is adaptive.
Unhealthy coping mechanisms, on the other hand, feel good in the moment but have long-term negative consequences on our physical and mental health. It is avoidant.
Why do people resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms?
– Healthy coping strategies were never modeled for them
– They need short term relief from highly distressing emotions
Some of the signs that we are dealing with the stress in an unhealthy manner are:
- Excessive Smoking
- Binge eating
- Caffeine Overconsumption
- Drinking regularly
- Binge-watching and gaming
- Scrolling social media feed mindlessly
- Sleeping for long hours
These coping methods might numb the pain and provide temporary relief from the stress but drowning out the emotions that we are too overwhelmed or terrified to face doesn’t mean they vanish, rather they might manifest in physical symptoms like muscle pains, headaches, insomnia, etc.
For many their healthy coping strategies like gym, going out with friends, travelling, spa, going for walks, hobby classes, alone time if you’re cooped up with family is inaccessible due to the lockdown.
Those who are struggling due to the absence of their coping mechanisms may feel restless, agitated and irritable. They can benefit from mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the state of non-judgmental awareness of the present moment including the awareness of one’s thoughts, senses, and feelings. This can be done through meditation, eating or walking mindfully and paying attention to the sensations within and outside the body.
Research has shown that mindfulness helps us reduce anxiety and depression. By teaching awareness for one’s physical and mental state at the moment, mindfulness allows for more adaptive reactions to difficult situations. Mindfulness works in a number of ways. It encourages us to open up and accept our emotions.
Self-care and healthy coping mechanisms in times of crisis could look like:
- Video Calling a loved one
- Decluttering your space
- Reading a book of your favourite genre
- Signing up for an online course
- Joining an online dance class
- Creating art
- Learning a new language
- Listening to a podcast
Depending on the resources available to us, we can take care of ourselves and deal with stress in a conscious, deliberate and healthy manner.
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