My father spent two years in the hospital before he passed away in 2015. When he was in the hospital, every day was a mystery. He could have an episode at any time that would completely turn his healing process upside-down. Throughout this time, he had good and bad days, and I had good and bad days. Something as simple as a text from my mom that said nothing but “call me” was triggering. And sometimes these events leave a lasting impact on you, which you may feel you need to forget about and go about your day as usual. I am already an emotional person, so learning to be a human being while handling this trauma on a daily basis was a process. I realized that my coping mechanisms may be helpful to others who are also struggling with a mentally straining situation in their own life, so I wrote them down.
Disclaimer: these are coping mechanisms that have worked for me. I encourage you to do some soul searching and figure out what works best for you, but feel free to use my ideas as a jumping off point.
Legitimize your emotions
Think about your situation and tell yourself that it’s okay to feel the way you’re feeling. Being objective about your emotions will help you to legitimize them and to allow yourself to express them in a healthy way.
It’s okay to let your mind take a break from your crisis and just not think about it for a while. Don’t let guilt tell you that your mind should be focused on this one thing at all times. Distractions can be helpful and healthy. Try to surround yourself with positive people and do something outside of your routine. Just make sure that if you are seeing people, that they know you are trying to get your mind off it so they won’t keep bringing it up.
Acknowledge good and bad days
If you are having one of those “bad days,” tell yourself that it’s okay. Everyone has bad days, and even if yours seem worse than others, they will still pass, like every other day. Let yourself have a bad day. Let it out, cry, and be moody. Buy yourself ice cream and watch cartoons. Then chalk it up to a “bad day” and move on. Also, don’t forget to acknowledge when you are having a good day. Even if it just seems like it’s good because nothing is blowing up or falling apart, so be it. Take the good days and try to make the best of them.
Talk to someone outside your inner circle
Someone who doesn’t know your whole story might be more helpful than you think. I found the biggest help to be talking through my feelings about these situations with an unbiased, detached friend. Someone who is going through the same stress with you will probably have a biased opinion or may be too emotional themselves to be helpful. Talk to supportive and positive people who make you feel good. Maybe someone went through something similar in the past and can offer insight, or maybe they just care to listen to you and provide you with comforting words. A counselor or therapist can be that person, or a friend who isn’t in your immediate circle, or even a family member who you don’t talk to on a daily basis. You never know who can provide you with some interesting perspective, so don’t be afraid to reach out.
Don’t expect people to know what you’re thinking
If you don’t want to talk about it, let your friends know that. Sometimes you need time to take your mind off the situation, but no one will know unless you tell them that. You have every right to be moody, but it’s not fair to let someone think that it could be about them. Tell people what’s on your mind or if you’re unfocused for a reason. Especially if you are having trouble getting your job done at work. Most people will be sympathetic and compassionate about it. Most of all, if you have a significant other or best friend who is constantly dealing with your ups and downs, give them the benefit of the doubt, be reasonable and understanding with them if they become frustrated, and let them have their breaks too. They are trying their hardest to be there for you, and it can be stressful on them as well, even if they don’t understand what you’re going through.
Don’t make future plans that can’t be changed
If you are dealing with a long-term situation, don’t make plans for too far in advance. It’s hard to only plan for the immediate future, but it’s harder to cancel a trip you’ve been looking forward to for months. Make plans on a shorter term basis, or make less-involved plans. That way, if something comes up and you have to cancel, you won’t feel so bad about it. Then when things are going well, treat yourself to a weekend away.
Do what comforts you
When my dad was sick, seeing him comforted me. Knowing that I wasn’t going to get an emergency phone call and that I can be there to see how he is feeling and how the nurses were taking care of him so routinely and they were not worried. It helped me not be worried. Eat comfort food. See comforting people. Wear comfortable pj’s. The littlest things can lift your mood.
Energy- use it!
You have energy from the frustration and anxiety of what you’re going through. You want to use it to scream and tear things up and break every object in your house. Don’t. Try to use your energy in a productive way. If you’re a runner, go for a run. If you’re an artist, make something. If you’re neurotic, clean the house! Try to use your energy to your benefit.
Do something for ONLY you
Take a walk, go on a trip, take a bath, play the piano, bake a cake, read a book, beat a video game, organize your desk, take a class…and remember that your life is YOURS. Even though other people can impact you, you still have the ability to make yourself happy.