How will you cope with the holidays?
That is a question I am asking myself. Each year presents different challenges. When the kids were young, it was making sure Santa had time to get the presents under the tree before the kids awoke.
My coping statement then was “we have done this before; we can do it again.”
As the kids became young adults, the challenge was to get them up for Christmas before lunch. I begin to worry that we will not have time to open presents before family arrives.
For this, my coping statement was “whatever happens, happens. I can handle it.” And “these are just feelings; they will go away.”
This year, throughout the world, we are facing decisions about the holidays that can change our future or the lives of those that we care about. Covid 19 and the Pandemic make visiting with family and friends potentially life threatening.
My coping statements for this include:
- I have survived this and worse before
- No matter how bad it gets, I can do it
- Stay focused on the present. What do I need to do right now?
- Feeling tense is natural. It tells me it is time to use coping strategies.
It is easy for me to get anxious about which choices make the most sense. And it is even harder to accept some of the choices I know I must make.
But making choices gives me strength. Even if I end up changing my mind later, in the moment I have decided.
If I am going to use self-care to get through the holidays, I decided I should know what it means.
- the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health.
- “autonomy in self-care and insulin administration”
- the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress.
- “expressing oneself is an essential form of self-care”
17 months ago, I discovered coping statements as a form of self-care. I finally saw that I could take an active role in protecting my own well-being. Protecting my happiness is still a work in progress, as I am still developing compassion for myself, allowing myself to feel joy.
So, then I asked myself, what are coping statements?
Coping statements are truthful positive statements used to replace the negative and untrue thoughts that take-over when you feel anxious, stressed, angry, and/or when facing other overwhelming situations.
In past years, I felt guilt for not going to holiday events.
Now that I have a pandemic to blame for my not traveling during the holidays, I feel guilty for that, too. I cannot explain why that is true, but it is. I know guilt is an inhibitory emotion.
To understand what and why I feel this, I looked up the definition of inhibitory emotions.
A person with emotional inhibition holds back emotions in situations where it would be healthier to express them. … Someone with this behavior may feel embarrassed or ashamed to feel or express certain emotions or may fear disapproval or losing control.
My eyes went immediately to “may fear disapproval.”
If I do not do what they want, I will not be thought well of. I grew up learning that pleasing others was more important than pleasing myself. The reality of that was probably not nearly that stark, but that is how I remember it.
It happens like this:
- The simple act of self-care brings on guilt.
- And guilt leads to unhelpful thinking.
- Unhelpful thinking leads to anxiety.
- Anxiety can make me agitated and clouds my ability to make rational decisions.
- And the next thing I know, I am circling the drain, as I edge closer and closer to the abyss.
Now I have learned that I can use coping statements to see a different path, a different way to think about guilt and its embarrassing behavior.
Having learned that I cannot control events, but I can control my attitude towards them gives me hope (and possibly joy). Using coping statements allows me to have control over situations. I get to ask better questions and challenge unhelpful thinking styles.
With positive coping statements, I will not feel guilty for practicing self-care. Even in the face of a global pandemic, I can control my attitude. I can be kind to myself while making better decisions for myself and those I love.
Give this a try during the next six weeks. I think you will see just how empowering using coping statements can be. And this is more than just “every day, and in every way, I am getting better and better.” Now I am not knocking this, it is a powerful coping statement.
Building on this, I collected 101 positive coping statements I can draw on to cope with situations. This act gives me the courage to challenge unhelpful thinking and to make better decisions. And I make these decisions with less GUILT.
While those decisions are not always easy, or comfortable, with the tools I have learned, I can make those decision and not feel guilty. And it only took me 43 years to figure this out!