How are you coping?

Coping in relation to trauma and PTSD

Coping mechanism

When you are confronted with a traumatic event,  there are certain automatic responses taking place in your brain.  Some of them you are conscious of,  like the adrenaline that heightens your awareness and prepares your body for action,  others are happening on a unconscious level.

Either way,  the coping mechanisms used are adaptive,  and therefore useful in reducing stress,  or maladaptive and increasing your stress level.

Whatever you choose or is chosen for you,  those mechanisms are there to help you manage the anxiety produced by the traumatic event.  As I stated in a previous post,  no one can decide what constitutes a traumatic event for someone else.

About 400 to 600 coping mechanisms have been identified,  according to Wikipedia.  So,  why do you cope the way you do?

You are unique

Photo by me

Life is experienced differently since each of us is unique in every way.  You are not born as a blank piece of paper.  Generations have gone before

you,  having an impact on who you are.  You might have your father’s nose or your grandmother’s eyes.  You inherit certain traits,  not just in how you look,  but also in how you behave and react to life events.

For instance,  anger is a coping mechanism in my family of origin.  I deal with a lot of anger,  but having been exposed to the detrimental effect it can have,  I struggle in expressing my anger in a healthy way.  In the beginning of my healing journey I wasn’t even aware I had anger issues.  Can you say denial?

Upbringing & social environment

The way you have been raised has a huge influence in how you perceive trauma or stress.  Maybe you had to overcome the death of a parent.  Or the betrayal of trust.  Or you had a happy and care free childhood.  Maybe your parents believed in you and  raised you to be a strong person in his or her own right.  Or the whole family system was skewed and you had to take care of a parent,  instead of being taken care of.

Maybe you were bullied in school.  Or you were a little shy.  You were the popular guy or girl.  You were intelligent,  learned easily.  Or you struggled to do your homework and exams,  feeling dumb.  Or you were told over and over that you wouldn’t amount to anything.

I can go on and on.  The way your parents relate to you and vice versa influences all your relationships with major authorities.  Do you get that?  Do you really get that?

I was astounded to discover that after finally being able to leave my highly dysfunctional family behind,  I entered a social network with leadership that was actually identical to my relationship with my father!  And I walked into it with open eyes.  I had absolutely no clue what was going on,  since I was used to misuse/abuse of authority from my parents.  How could I recognize a healthy authority-dependence relationship when I had no idea what it actually looked like?

Coping skills

Besides being influenced by your environment and unconsciously learning from it,  there are also coping skills you can acquire.  First you need to be aware of how you respond to the stressor.  Then you consciously have to change your reaction to something (more) desirable.  This takes practice.  For example,  to reduce stress you train yourself to focus on your breathing instead of the stressor.  Or you learn how to practice mindfulness in order to stay in the moment and not be hijacked by the stressor.

In other words,  even though you might have inherited lots of coping mechanisms,  you don’t need to be stuck with them.  You decide the outcome you want,  then you work on the skills you need to reach your goal!

So,  how are you coping?

Further reading:

A list of coping mechanisms

Photo credit: lululemon athletica 

8 Comments

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8 responses to “How are you coping?

  1. I’m learning to cope more appropriately each and every day, and I am constantly aware of the impact my interactions with my children may have on their development. I am worried about the impact of trauma in their lives as they’ve been raised in a home with domestic abuse (emotional and psychological). Fortunately, I am moving on, divorcing my husband, and enrolling my kids in a school that can more effectively manage their unique emotional needs. I am going back to graduate school for MS in Mental Health Counselling on the sixth and I am networking to find the support for my kids outside of school that they desperately need as well.

    In the mean time, I am seeing a counselor of my own through alternatives for battered women! Quite empowering!

    • You are doing so well, Melody! You are truly a brave woman!
      Now you know more clearly what is going on, I so hope it will become easier to get a handle on the situation with the kids. I am so glad to hear they’ll be going to a school where there is more & better support for them. Thye have a mom who knows what it is and who is fighting for herself and her kids. I believe they will be alright. It will take time, but they will be fine, honestly! And by fine, I don’t mean, without any problems, but strong, healthy coping young people who know how to deal with set backs and difficulties and therefore will be able to get on with life. I keep telling you, Mel, you are doing an awesome job!! ((((<3))))

  2. Honestly, good and bad. Sometimes I cope well with things and just seem to nail whatever feeling has me going and other times I just feed on it, can’t let go of it and let it fuel me to no end. While somethings are getting better, others are getting worse. But then I still make these huge breakthroughs. I guess it’s all a part of life. Anger is a real struggle for me as well. I still don’t know how to channel it properly or purposely, it always feel never ending. Trial and error and a lot of practice.

    • Welcome 24 Paws! I love your blog! It is so cool how animals can aid in our healing process, isn;t it?
      Thanks so much for your honest response, I can relate to what you share. Our lives always seem to be a swinging pendulum, moving back and forth, getting stuck here and there. But yes, there are also the breakthroughs!! Yay!
      I am interested in how you deal with your anger, as I also feel it is never ending and strong, real strong. Overwhelmingly powerful. It is really something I want to learn to let go by bits and pieces… but how?!?
      If you feel up to it, you can always email me (thecrazyrambler (ad) gmail (dot) com), thanks!

  3. I’m coping very well considering I’m coming off meds and my insecure hubs is worrying enough for both of us. He sees me coming out of myself and thinks I’ll run off with someone else? Men? I swear he likes me better when I’m stifled by self-consciousness and unable to speak to people. He copes this way because his ex of eleven years cheated on him with his close friend who ended up dying at the end of a whiskey bottle a month after it all came out. He struggles with anger and jealousy and insecurity.

    My meds helped me when I really needed them. I’m sure I’ll end up back on them at some points through my life. But if I don’t have to, I hope to cope on my own with mindfulness/mood charts/alternative treatments.

    Thanks for this Fenny. Have a great week. Shah. X

    • Hi Shah!
      So glad to hear you are not only doing well, but getting more yourself now you are coming off meds. I can imagine that it can be hard for those close to us experience changes in our behavior. People are used to who you are. I am sorry to hear what your husband has been through. That is really tough, betrayal and loss like that, it evidently leaves scars😦 Hope he is working on it?
      Keep going, Shah, you will be ok!

  4. Well, my main coping mechanism has always been chocolate! I do use meds, but don’t think of them as a coping mechanism. In the past meeting with a Psychologist has helped a lot, as had education, writing and crafts. Let’s face it though, you just can’t beat good old fashioned chocolate cake, brownies, chocolate, white chocolate and macadamia nut cookies, Lindt chocolate, Toblerone, Cadbury’s cream eggs, etc.

    • Hahaha, death by chocolate for you, eh, Elizabeth? That’s cool and pretty easy! My comfort food to go to is chips (crisps for you Brits).
      It is an interesting question if one can consider meds a coping mechanism… hmm.
      Talk-therapy helps me lots.
      As far as chocolate goes: I love the unadulterated pure chocolate bar. (shich is just as well, considering diabetis) Unfortunately I have never seen them with macademia nuts😦
      Thanks for sharing!

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