Coping with the Tough Stuff

Written by Lacey Liebert, Licensed Mental Health Counselor

Today’s tip – Coping with the tough stuff

My last tip was about building mental muscle to help take on and stick with challenges (growth mindset, constructive self-talk).

Today’s tip is about coping. What do we do when it all feels like too much?

You are not alone if find yourself overwhelmed at times…

…with experiences (e.g., things piling up at work, issues in an important relationship, health problems…)

…with feelings (e.g., grief, anger, loneliness, hurt, fear, rejection…)

So what do you do? One pathway to managing overwhelm is to:

a) know how you cope

b) decide if that’s working for you

We learn ways to cope with difficult feelings and experiences, starting from a very young age by observing and interacting with our small world (aka our family of origin and household). In doing so, we inevitably develop ways to deal with feelings and experiences (that work in those worlds). As we get older, we often have to become aware of, adapt and refine our strategies.

I think about coping on a spectrum from Healthy <—> Harmful

Here are some examples, in no particular order:

· Say how you’re feeling. Reach out to a trusted person.

· Get quiet. Shut down. Hide. Push people away.

· Over book yourself with busy-ness.

· Distract.

· Write it down.

· Get loud. Lash out. Act out. Risky behavior.

· Passive aggressive. Hope someone notices. Wish for a mind-reader.

· Numb it all away.

· Sweat it out.

· Deny.

· Take space with intention. Reflect and connect.

ALL of these might help you with your feelings and experiences in the moment. SOME of them might have unintended or unwanted consequences.

My go-to strategies used to involve getting quiet and shutting down. When I was younger, I didn’t even realize this was how I was coping. I had to learn new ways of dealing with tough stuff. I learned to talk to my trusted others and say more about my feelings & experiences. I’m guessing if you’re reading this, then you are HCS family, and you may know that I seek out hugs, dogs, and running. I also know that I need quiet spaces to take time to reflect on things.

What are your favorite (and healthiest) coping strategies?

Disclaimer: The therapeutic relationship and process is unique and unable to be reproduced in a social media post. The advice here represents a generalization of material and ideas. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly.

To connect with a therapist, here are some resources: