Tag Archives: drugs

Coping Skills

By Nancy S Buck, PhD, RN

We all have those overwhelming experiences and stressful times in our lives when it feels as though everything is falling apart. The upset can be a failing grade on an important exam in our high school class, or hearing the news that our family pet has died, or being laid off from our job and only source of income, or the pain and heartache that comes with a love break-up. Let’s not forget that many are now struggling because of environmental and whether challenges. These include floods, flash floods, out of control forest fires, tsunamis, hurricanes and tornadoes.

What do you do when faced with these kinds of things in your life? Do you have coping strategies and self-soothing comfort skills? Have you developed and practiced these skills? Or are you like many people who aren’t quite sure what you do until faced with the emotional upheaval of life?

I have recently begun working as a nurse in a psychiatric emergency room of a regular hospital. Most of the people I see are in the worst moments of their lives facing terrible circumstances. This is the time when coping skills are really needed. Too often however, people tell me they have very few or no coping strategies.

When I asked one fellow, who was terribly upset and distraught, what he did to help himself he told me he asked his girlfriend to hug and hold him. If she wasn’t available he told me he then took drugs, whether they were prescription drugs or street drugs. He was in search of something that would help him numb the pain he was experiencing. These were the only two strategies he had. Amazingly he never considered seeking some kind of solution or help to solve his problems. Even this emergency room visit had been initiated by the police and not his idea.

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For improved Mental Health & Happiness start now developing, learning and practicing your coping skills. This is best done not when you are faced with the crisis or upset, but when life is mostly in balance and you feel calm and in control. Chances are good that you already have a few of these self-soothing strategies. Perhaps you just haven’t considered these to be part of your coping repertoire.

For instance, do you close your eyes, take a deep breath and count to 10? Or maybe you call a dear and trusted friend just to hear his voice knowing he will offer wise words of counsel. Some people get regular massages and when needed get an emergency massage. Others take a bath, or meditate, or take a nap, or go for a long or short walk in nature. Still others go directly to the ice cream shop, local bakery or fried chicken joint to eat their comfort foods because that is what is needed — some comfort.

A crisis is not the time for judgment about what is the healthiest choice. Now is the time to evaluate only based on the ability of your strategy to give you the kind of immediate comfort, relief and help you need.  Once the crisis is resolved you can decide whether or not to cultivate healthier and more effective coping strategies. It is always appropriate however, to evaluate whether or not your coping strategy is putting you in greater danger like my patient who was hospitalized for perilous drug consumption.

Start today. Follow these three simple steps:

  1. Identify your present coping strategies
  2. Evaluate how healthy and effective they are
  3. Start cultivating and practicing more strategies to add to your  repertoire. To get more ideas you can always ask friends and family  members what they do to help them cope when under stress.

Dealing with a crisis involves more than relying on good and effective coping strategies to help keep you calm. Understanding the step-by-step of handing the crisis you face is also essential. This will be discussed in a future blog.

For now, improve your Mental Health & Happiness today by cultivating, practicing and improving  your present coping strategies.

Shame & Guilt: The Happiness Destroyer (Part 1)

 

By Michael Rice, LISAC

All of us have done something in our life of which we are not particularly proud.  And there may be some who may have even had some things happen to them by someone else that they are keeping secret.  In either case, the basis for keeping these things secret and not wanting others to know about them will be rooted in two things:  Shame and Guilt.

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Shame and guilt can be the core of most, if not all, of one’s unhappiness.  Yet both shame and guilt are not always bad.  There is such a thing as healthy shame and guilt and these are the principles which keep many people from breaking laws, harming others, or performing deeds that would affect others in negative ways.  It could be said that healthy shame and guilt keeps our innate urge to be selfish or harm others in check.

I don’t believe we know about shame and guilt until we have been taught what is proper and what is not proper when interacting in society and in our families of origin.  And while we are known to be products of our environment, there are some individuals who have not been taught about what may be right or wrong and therefore may possess minimal shame and guilt, if at all.  And there are some parents who use shame and guilt to “control” their children . . . to manipulate them to behave the way they want them to or to get from them what they feel they are lacking.  Playing the martyr is an example of how this is utilized by a parent or spouse to get love and attention that they feel that don’t have.  They suffer or pretend to suffer to instill shame and guilt in someone so that the other person will show them some pity and attention. . . .another form of external control.

It is toxic shame and guilt that destroys one’s happiness and peace of mind.  Toxic shame and guilt consist of the following beliefs:  Guilt is: I DID something wrong.  Shame is: I AM something wrong.

We often hear, “We’re as sick as our secrets,” and to this I must agree.  It takes a tremendous amount of energy to keep from being “found out.”  One must be ever vigilant and looking over their shoulder to keep others from finding out whatever it is they don’t want others to know. Shame and guilt affects all of our genetic Basic Needs of Survival, Love and Belonging, Power, Freedom, and Fun.

A leading cause of substance abuse is found in what is referred to as the Shame and Guilt Spiral.  Drugs and alcohol put to sleep what would make a person feel bad.  As long as they are high or buzzed, the things that normally tend to cause one to feel bad go away, albeit temporarily.  What happens next is the spiral.  Once sober, they begin to feel badly about what they just did (drinking or using) on top of all of the other things of which they feel bad.  They just added another 5 pounds of shame and guilt in a 3 pound container.  The quickest remedy?  Drink or use some more.  This behavior continues to spiral downward until they either get help or die.