Not all coping mechanisms are created equal. Some are good and healthy for us, while others are harmful and destructive. We need to learn the difference if we want to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis a better and stronger person. Here are some healthy coping mechanisms when you’re overwhelmed with negative emotions.
Consulting with a mental health expert
It’s unfortunate that not many people think of going to a mental health professional as a first step for dealing with overwhelming emotions because while it’s true that not all of us have diagnosable mental health disorders, all of us will benefit from some form of counseling or therapy because it is a human reality to go through traumatic and painful experiences. If you find that your feelings are getting too much to handle, consider looking for a counselor who can help you sort out your emotions. There are plenty who allow teleconsulting, especially with lockdowns still in place in some states.
Seeking support from people you trust
Another healthy coping mechanism is reaching out for support from people you trust and you know love you and want the best for you. This can include family and friends who only kindly and lovingly encourage you towards health and healing, and not those who would enable your destructive habits. Find friends who you know would never judge you, but would not tolerate and enable any toxic habits. Talk to them honestly about what a hard time you’ve been having, but ask them first if they have the capacity to help carry your burdens for now.
Indulging in healthy and productive hobbies
It may be tempting to reach for the bottle or cigarettes whenever our emotions get the best of us, but there are plenty of other things we can do with our hands to distract ourselves from the overwhelming surge of feelings and negative thoughts. Here are some of them:
- Doing something with your hands, like knitting, gardening, sewing, or drawing.
- Starting up a collection of things that interest you, like autographed photos of your favorite celebrities, your favorite musician’s albums, or your favorite author’s books. Building up an extensive collection of something you find interesting can help build up your self-esteem and can provide you with a safe and healthy escape from the stresses of your daily life.
Reaching for healthy snacks
Just like vices, it’s tempting to reach for unhealthy snacks whenever we find ourselves in emotional distress. Combat this by filling your pantry with healthier alternatives, like yogurt, fresh vegetables and fruits, cheeses, unsalted seeds and nuts, and hummus. There are plenty of healthy foods and snacks that can help satisfy your craving for something sweet or salty without you having to consume too many calories.
Exploring mindfulness and meditation
Starting your day with breathing exercises and even prayer or meditation can help center and prepare you for the rest of your day. Researchers found that the practice of mindfulness can help alter the brains of depressed patients. Another study from the same institution found that it can also help ease mental stress, anxiety, and other types of pain. Start small: Wake up 15 minutes earlier than usual and devote that extra time to doing some simple breathing exercises. Observe how it eases up and relieves your anxiety throughout the day.
Going for a run
If there are no shelter-in-place orders in your city, consider blowing off some steam by going for a run or a jog. Doing so can help you get some fresh air, clear your mind, and let out any anger you have within you. Just be sure to wear a mask, keep a safe distance from other runners, and bring an alcohol-based sanitizer so you can disinfect your hands any time.
Crying it out
The reason we’re never fully able to heal from whatever hurt we’ve experienced is that we never fully allow ourselves to mourn all the ways we’ve been hurt. If you find that you need to let out some tears, give yourself the freedom to do so. Grieving is an act of kindness to ourselves because we allow our hearts to hold space for our hurts. If you must cry during a therapy session or while talking it out with a friend, do so. Tears are a good gift.
Not all of us have the tools to be able to cope in healthy ways, and that is why it’s important to seek the help of mental health professionals. Caring for ourselves in this way might seem like a daunting task, but it’s worth the fight and the effort. Remember that you and your healing are always worth it.