For our mental health awareness in August, our mental health liaison, Kaela, wants to focus on some healthy coping mechanisms for when life makes you feel stressed and overwhelmed. Even though mental health can be hard to battle, there are ways for you to channel these emotions.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, is the largest mental health organization in the United States. It is dedicated to building better lives for those affected by mental illness. It provides people with examples of coping mechanisms as a direct way to help. Some of the more common self-help suggestions include exercise, mediation, and being more present. While these methods can be helpful for some, they aren’t universal for all. Finding the right coping mechanism can take time and patience but can have a large impact on how the person feels.
Radical Acceptance is a coping mechanism that involves you completely and totally accepting a situation. Essentially, it is what it is. Having a mental illness cannot be changed, therefor trying to get rid of it or pretending it doesn’t exist just drains a person. Radical acceptance is accepting yourself and accepting your condition then taking the necessary steps to take care of yourself.
Deep Breathing is a very useful coping mechanism, especially to calm anxiety. You can pick from multiple methods. One is the 5 3 7 method, which means you breath in for 5 seconds, holding your breath for 3 seconds, and breath out for 7 seconds. Another method is “Window” or “Square” breathing. This method uses the image of a window as a focus for the breath in, holding, and out. You breath in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds, and hold for 4 seconds. These breathing techniques send a message to the brain that everything is okay.
Opposing-to-Emotion Thinking is acting in the opposite way your emotions tell you to act. If you are feeling upset and have the urge to isolate, this technique directs you to go out and be social. Additionally, you would combat feelings of anxiousness with meditation. You may find this technique to be the hardest, but the results can be incredible.
The 5 Senses Technique
The 5 Senses Technique directs you to run through each of your senses. You reflect for a moment on what each sense is experiencing. For example, someone experiencing PTSD would stop, look around and question what they see, feel, hear, taste, and smell. This only takes a few seconds and will help a you stay present and focused on what is currently happening, rather than what you believe is happening.
Mental reframing is another coping mechanism requiring you to change the way you look at an emotion or stressor. A prime example is negative self talk versus positive self talk. Instead of focusing on how hard something is, or how you aren’t getting it right the first time, you actively reflect on how great you are doing. You change your internal narrative.
Awareness is Key
Each of these coping techniques are designed to increase your awareness. Once you have awareness about how your are feeling, and why, you have an easier time coping with your emotions. Give one of these coping mechanisms a try next time.