Thursday, 16 February 2017

Coping Mechanisms

I've tried to be as open as possible about my struggles with my mental health. Not just for my benefit, but for the benefit of other people who might be in a similar situation. Just over a year ago I started taking my medication that helps with my panic attacks which has helped me an incredible amount. This isn't the solution for everyone and there are times when circumstances dictate that I can't take it. Once for instance when I was greeting a rather unruly guest it would have been inappropriate for me to reach into my handbag for my pills, he definitely would have been even more angry! This calls for a strategy of controlling your thoughts that the therapist I saw right after the attacks called coping mechanisms. Essentially these are techniques you can use in order to help relax yourself in times of increased stress and anxiety. 
There are different methods you can use depending on the situation. Personally, I find taking public transport alone quite a stressful scenario. In order to combat my paranoid thoughts when I'm sat in a stuffy, claustrophobic carriage I always have a book with me. I tend to read novels that are completely immersive. This stops me from thinking about what is going on around me while giving me something to occupy my mind. It also helps that reading lots has many benefits, from making me sound cleverer to helping me with my writing! 
When I first discussed coping mechanisms with my therapist, she asked me what I like to do to relax. One thing that made me really happy. Can you guess what that is? No, it isn't eating but close. It's baking. I remember the night before my German A-Level exam I stress-baked over 40 madeleines (if you've ever made them you will know this is a time-consuming process) to give my pent up nervous energy something to do. There is a reason why the Great British Bake Off has done so well. Baking is good for the soul. Unfortunately, in Paris decent ovens are hard to come by but I try and make do with what I have. If I can't manage baking then chopping up lots of veg and making a big soup with all sorts of yummy things in it does the trick. The smell permeating through the flat and relaxing me just like one of those plug-ins you get for the dog before Bonfire Night. 
In those moments when I don't have time to do anything like this I have to think on my feet. Maybe it's a stressful hour at work or a panic attack as I'm on my way to a party. I simply close my eyes and focus on my breathing. I can't tell you how helpful this is. It is a bit of a cliché but trust me it helps. Trying to get back into yoga has taught me how useful it is to control your inhales and exhales. You don't have the be a master yogi to be able to practice this either. Your technique doesn't even have to be very good. Just close you eyes and picture the air flowing in and out of your lungs. Little visual aids help me so much because it takes all of my concentration to conjure up the images. 
I completely recognise that these might not help everyone. However, my aim with this post was to highlight little ways in which you can improve your overall well-being. you don't have to be suffering from depression to indulge in a spot of self-care. Keeping yourself on an even keel by applying coping mechanisms to stressful times can only be a positive thing.

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