Coping 101: Preparing For Winter Months
The winter holiday season can be an exciting and rough time for a lot of people. Alongside bright lights and festive treats dwells stress. In Winter 2021, the American Psychological Association reported that 38% of Americans were experiencing stress so intensely that it negatively impacted their day to day life. Increased stress or worry easily leads to depression, anxiety, substance misuse, more physical illnesses, and other negative emotions/results.
What about the end of the year makes it so damn stressful? Well, a lot of things.
There’s increased financial stress and responsibility around giving gifts to others on these special days, our days are shorter and nights longer, it’s cold weather season for many Americans, and the end of the year often seems like a representation of how well the remainder of the year actually panned out. It’s a lot, to say the least.
One of the best things to do for yourself to prepare for the winter months is to take care of yourself by strengthening your coping strategies.
Social media often presents coping as an on/off switch that’s a cure all for all negative emotions and that’s just not realistic. Furthermore, it’s an unfair expectation to have. Rather, let’s think of coping as strategies that help us manage day to day emotions and allow us to further process whatever emotion you may be experiencing.
Coping strategies are helpers, not fixers.
In order to figure out what strategy works best for you, I want you to ask yourself these questions first:
What negative emotion do I experience the most?
When/where do I experience that emotion the most?
What emotion would I like to experience instead?
It’s important to ask yourself these questions because they allow you to sit and reflect on yourself. There’s strength and hope in self awareness with how we feel and think.
What helps identify specifically what you’re feeling.
When/where helps pinpoint what thoughts, environment, or people may increase that feeling.
Last but not least, pointing out what you’d rather experience helps you move towards something concrete and less vague.
After you’ve asked yourself each of these questions, identify what kind of coping strategy you think might work best for you. Coping skills fit into one of two categories-- emotion focused or problem focused.
Emotion focused coping skills are perfect for assisting feelings you have when you know you do not want to change any environments. This is the kind of coping that’s often used after the death of a loved one or pet.
Problem focused coping skills work well when you’re aware that a situation, environment, or person is highly correlated with your negative emotion and you want to elicit dramatic change in that area. This is the kind of coping used after a breakup or for folks with unhealthy work environments.
Ideally, you’ll try coping within both categories, but if you’re only able to do one type at a time, that’s fine as well. Work with yourself and do whatever you’re capable of.
Let’s use a real life example to get a clear idea of what coping might look like.
Imagine you and a friend get into a fight. You’re not sure how the fight started or what next steps in resolving the fight should look like.
Emotion focused coping in this scenario might include you going for a walk or a run to temporarily distract yourself and calm down, reading a book, or doing a long and dramatic skin care process (I’m talking to all my fellow 10 steppers out there).
Problem focused coping could involve texting your friend to ask if the two of you can speak and making a list of bullet points to bring up during the conversation.
Below are some more examples of what each type of coping consists of.
Emotion focused coping: Taking a bath, watching a movie, giving yourself a pep talk, doing yoga or meditation, or cuddling a pet.
Problem focused coping: Improving time management, making a low stress to do list, asking for help, or maintaining boundaries.
Coping can sound like a lot of work, but it becomes second nature with practice and taking care of ourselves is always worth it.
Like I said earlier, these winter months can be rough, so I encourage you to be kind to yourself, do your best, and take care.