COPING BEHAVIOURS IN STRESSFUL SITUATIONS
For several years after the failure of my first marriage, I went through constant episodes of feeling extremely anxious, frustrated and so depressed that I just felt like there was no point in trying anymore because nothing seemed to be going right for me. I had applied for several jobs which didn't get me anywhere. I was thinking that there was no hope of ever being happy again, My ulcerative colitis was giving me so much grief that I had so many admissions to Hospital for obstructions, I lost count in the end just how many times I had been admitted.
I was feeling so depressed that I couldn't even take the guitar out to play and have the usual little singalong I used to have in my room by myself. I always found that I would get such a comfort from my singing . I was in my own little world where there was just me and my guitar. But lately, I just didn't feel like doing this. I began to think what is going to become of me now? Will I ever get back on track again and perhaps get a job and make some new friends?
LOW SELF ESTEEM
My feeling about myself had fallen to such a degree that I was feeling completely worthless as a woman, but more importantly as a person.I just kept thinking that unless my circumstances changed pretty darn quickly I was going to be in the poorhouse. I was running out of money and I had already borrowed money from my parents, which I really hated doing. They had been so kind to let me come back home after I left my husband, I was very grateful to them, even though I don't like borrowing money at all, from anyone, especially Mum and Dad. Even though everyone was trying to help me with my depression, I still was feeling inadequate and life was hopeless. My situation was getting very desperate and my GP had said on my latest admission that I had to take steps to improve things or it was going to destroy me and maybe cause me to have a breakdown of some kind.
He said all these feelings I was having were not healthy and had to be addressed. He told me t when I saw him that these unhealthy beliefs I was having were irrational, not logical and unrealistic, and were more than likely going to give me irrational and unhealthy outcomes. I discovered that when we are faced with a stressful situation we often don't think things through properly, or our views are restricted of the situation. Have you ever wondered why it is that some people you know get extremely frustrated and stressed out about some things or everything that comes up in their lives, while there are others who just 'take it all in their stride'? I have been told that by so many people in the past but I am one of those that lets stress take over my life, I can't just take it in my stride. I was told that the way I was responding to the different things and circumstances in my former marriage didn't depend on what happened to me, but rather on the way I reacted to the situation. In other words he said, I was not disturbed by the actual things that occurred, but my view of them.
When we are presented with a situation or event, the thinking processes of our evaluation and response that occur in us are known as 'cognitive appraisals'. These appraisals will help us determine these events in a way that may lead us to have healthy or unhealthy emotional consequences. Therefore, the stress that we experience in response to these actions or events, is caused by our interpretation of it rather than the action itself.
In working out how to cope with what I was faced with, I had to learn some basic coping techniques and I was shown some key strategies . There is a little prayer that I have learned that I often say to myself that I would like to share with you:
'God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to be able to distinguish one from the other one'.
COPING BEHAVIOURS: WHAT TO DO IN STRESSFUL SITUATIONS
After you have worked out what it is that is causing you to have bad thoughts about yourself. You feelings of depression, etc have to be dealt with, it is time to look at Coping Behaviours.
At a practical level, the way we cope depends on the two types of problems which are:
- Problems that we can actively do something about (completing housework, fixing up any problems with family members, such as the fight that I had with my mother that seemed to go on and on without an end in sight, or by changing our mood state by doing things such as sleeping and eating in a different way.
- Problems that no matter how hard we try, we really can do nothing about i.e. worrying about someones behaviour, or feeling frustrated about financial or physical circumstances or just getting pretty upset with life in general, as was the case with me. I had just about had enough.
If you are experiencing problems that you can actually do something about, then the best strategy for you to use is Problem Solving. These strategies are designed to help us as an individual and our families to cope with stressful situations which require practical solutions.
Problem Solving is all about us identifying the best and most effective way to address the problems that are bothering us the most. This is a way for us to reduce, minimise, control and even prevent any stress or anxiety from happening in our daily lives. Here I have outlined for you a few examples of where problem solving would be a suitable and practical strategy to use in your daily lives:
- Financial issues and difficulties in accessing services.
- Fighting with any of the members of your family
- Finishing jobs that you have started around your homes or in your community.
- Any problems that need changing in the external environment.
When a problem is one that we can do something about ourselves, I found these things that I have listed as a good way of solving them, or at least trying them can't hurt.
1. Identify your Problem: Think about your problems very carefully and ask yourself some questions, then write all the problems down. I wrote down anything and everything that was bugging me, and it worked.
2. Make a List of possible solutions: Write a list of all your ideas, even ones that are not very good, just don't give any thought at this time as to how much they could or couldn't help you solve any of your problems: An example of things that I used in my list were:
- Organise for a Social Worker to come and see me .
- Ask for help from Mum and Dad, perhaps my sisters, they usually help when it is needed too.
- Ring up Centrelink and inquire how else they can help me financially, although I think I knew what the answer to that one would be before I asked.
3. Go through your list and assess each solution: You need to go through the list that you have made and write down the advantages and disadvantages of each one of them.
4. Decide which solution is the best one for you: Decide on the one that you believe will be the most practical and appropriate for solving each of your problems. I opted for my parents, even though I thought they would probably give me the old lecture about this and that. I bit the bullet, rang them, told them what was happening and the result was good. In fact, better than good.
5. Work out the best way to carry out your plan to solve your solution: If your memory is not good like mine, make another list, this time of the things that would be necessary to implement the best possible solution and also the things that could cause it to turn sour. I asked mum and dad for their help, and after the usual lecture on what I should and should not have done, they agreed to let me stay with them until I got back on my feet again.
6. Put your plan into action, then see how you have done: At this time, you should just be focusing on what you have achieved and feel good about it. You should also think about what you still would like to achieve, and if necessary go through and repeat all these steps from 1-6 once more, just to rule out anything you may have missed
I moved in with mum and dad and stayed for six months, that is how long it took me to sort things out not only physically, but also in my head. I was not only trying to cope with my marriage falling apart, but also the loss of my beautiful little girl.
The best strategy to use if you are experiencing problems which you just can't do a thing about changing anything to do with it is called Emotion Focused Coping. When I went to see my Therapist I was shown how effective that this strategy can be in coping with what I called "my whopping big problems" things such as my major illnesses, i.c. Ulcerative Colitis. The other issue that was also big at that time was facing my divorce and eventually getting my marriage annulled. Oh boy, that was something that freaked me out big time.
Therefore, if like me, you are faced with some very big life changing problems, and haven't a clue where to go, what to do, or anything at all, then this is the strategy for you, Emotion-Focused Coping , this is what was recommended to me, and this is what I am recommending to you, because I can tell you from personal experience, that it does really work. These strategies are aimed at changing or controlling the level of anxiety or stress that you happen to be experiencing because of all of these "whopping big problems", as I called them. There are a few healthy types of Emotion-Focused Coping. Here are just a couple of them for you to peruse:-
This means that you have a look at all the problems that you are facing, and try to see them in a different light. You can do this by:
- Have a think about whether or not something good can come from the situation.
- Telling yourself that it really isn't as bad as you first thought.
This strategy also helps you balance your thoughts and allows you to see both the good and the bad signs of the situations that you have, or as the saying goes:- "see your glass as both half empty and half full!!"
This strategy requires you to put all your concentration on one specific issue which can be related or may be unrelated to the problems that you are facing. I decided to use my singing as my diversion, because I have to completely focus on what on am doing when I am singing, otherwise I will literally stuff it up. I mean I had to concentrate on my breathing, otherwise I would not do as good a job of singing as I would by doing this. You may like to go to the movies, or you may have some other hobby. The main thing is though, that you just do something to take you mid off those "whopping big problems".
Seeking Social Support
When I read about this strategy on my list from my Doctor, I thought what exactly do they mean here? Well, it means that you just have to find someone that you have known for a while, or even a short time, just a person that you can confide in and discuss your feelings about different things to do with your situation. If you have a difficult problem, make sure though that the person you ask for help, is familiar with what you want to talk to them about. Because I had some medical problems, I had a friend who was an ex nurse, who helped me so much. I got so much support from her, and I was able to talk about the things to deo with my depressive moods with her, because she had also nursed mentally ill patients, and patients who had depression.
POINTS TO REMEMBER
- When we have a problem to face, and before we become too upset or stressed about it, it is important that we decide:-
. Whether or not this is your problem
. If there is anything that you can do about your problem yourself.
- For the problems that are not yours - don't worry about them. Focus instead, on other things and you could also use relaxation techniques to keep yourself calm and move on.
- However, when the problem is yours - Just ask yourself if there is anything that you can do about them. If nothing comes to mind for you to fix them then you can use Emotion-Focused coping Strategies to reduce your level of stress. If you can do something about these problems, then use the problem solving techniques. to alleviate distress and solve your problems.
One more piece of information for you that I found of tremendous help was the use of Relaxation Techniques, these were good and assisted me by helping to reduce all the tension I was storing in my body. My neck and shoulders were actually the worst place for me, that is where I store my tension in my neck. I must stress that it is important to do these Relaxation Techniques regularly, so that when the time comes for you to relax when you are put into another stressful situation, you will know how to relax yourself quickly and effectively.
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