I regularly think I can’t cope. I think that the universe asks for too damn much, and the weight of the past is heavier than I can carry.
Everybody experiences being overwhelmed at some point in their life. When you’re drowning in unregulated emotions, it’s easy to fall back on temporary solutions like drugs, alcohol, unsafe sex, addictions, and self-harm. It feels great in the moment, but those things are just a shitty band-aid for your mental health.
In the battle against trauma, healthy coping skills are a necessary weapon in your arsenal. They’re also surprisingly effective! The challenge is to notice that you’re stressed, and then intentionally do something safe in response. Having dissociative parts can make this trickier, because all of your parts need to develop coping skills.
Here’s the latest version of mine.
Get grounded. Anxiety prevents you from thinking logically and can heighten your other emotions.
Do the Butterfly Hug.
Practice Havening against the traumatic memory or urge.
Revive your inner joy and optimism. Make a ‘happy times’ folder full of pictures that make you smile. Places you’ve been, experiences you’ve had, people and pets you love, etc. Joy-on-demand, for all of your parts.
Try meditation or mindfulness. Headspace has a free intro to the practice, and there are lots of resources available online.
Get in touch with nature. If you’re housebound, substitute nature videos, like BBC “Planet Earth” series (Netflix). Awe and wonder are great emotions to nurture.
Play with your pet. If you don’t have a pet, watch cute monkey videos on YouTube. Or baby goats, or puppers, or whatever makes you smile.
Watch a show or move. Go for 2 hours at most, then take a break and try something else. Avoid your triggers, and try to pick something all your present parts can enjoy. If you find yourself zoning out, try a different activity. Your goal is to be totally engaged in the topic.
Play video games! Again, go for 2 hours then have a break. Anything can become unhealthy if you overindulge. If you’re bad at video games, hit up Twitch and watch somebody else do it. Or practice, and get good 😀
Play songs that make you sing out loud. Disney, 80’s rock ballads, angry ragey metal: whatever fits your mood.
Read! Fiction, self-help, comics… there are LOT of options if you’re stable enough to focus on reading. Reread your favorite books or hit up this list of 100 Books To Read Before You Die.
Write! Journal, stories, D&D characters and world-building. Blog about your passions.
Draw! 100 Art Therapy Exercises, or learn to draw if you’ve never tried. Basic drawing is a skill anybody can learn.
Exercise. You don’t need a gym for Yoga, Calisthenics, or jogging. Exercise bands can provide really strong resistance and take up no space (you could fit one in your wallet). Do squats, burpies, situps, pushups, whatever feels good. Remember to breathe and focus on being present in your body.
Listen to bilateral audio or delta waves, two science-backed anxiety tools you can use anywhere with headphones.
Look after your body. Have a long shower or relaxing bath. Shave, put lotion everywhere lotion should go, and put on your most snuggly clothes. Paint your toenails.
Ask for help, connect with another human. It could be a colleague, a friend, a therapist, a help line, an online group, etc. Remember, you can also ask inside for help. My teenage part has developed better anxiety management than all of us, and we know to ask her for ideas.
Feel the emotions and cry it out. No emotion lasts forever. You’re entitled to grieve.
Last but not least, apply inner compassion. Judgement, shame, disgust? Not helpful. Stop the negative self-talk. Talk to your parts with respect and care. Listen to their needs and emotions. You’re all in this together.
Start experimenting and determine what works for you, don’t wait until your stress bucket is overflowing.
Choose coping mechanisms today, that will make you like yourself tomorrow.
“You’re not responsible for being down, but you are responsible for getting up.”