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Wooster's wonderful post here:

 

http://www.crazyboards.org/forums/index.php/topic/67639-my-therapist-says-ill-probably-never-quit/

 

got me thinking about healthy ways to manage emotions. A lot of people use the term "coping skills" and I guess I know a few (mostly for OCD), but I'm wondering what other people have learned.

 

My method of coping is simply to zone out (zen out?) to avoid dealing with problems. I do this by getting lost on the internet, watching TV, or sleeping. I think we all do this to some extent, but I take this to the extreme, and as you might imagine, it just makes my problems worse.

 

So I want to ask: What are healthy methods of managing emotions? What has your therapist suggested and what works for you?

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I think it's pretty individual for everyone - the lists pinned in the self-harm forum are really good - they're written as alternatives to self harm but they can be used to help with almost any overwhelming emotion.

 

I like to do something nice and positive for myself - cooking works well for me because I enjoy it, but I don't find it overwhelming (except for the dishes it generates!)

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If I am worked up about something with my husband, I go to bed. I might or might not fall asleep, and I know it is hiding, but it is better than letting things escalate between us. We are together 24/7, and while we have a nice layout, so we can be at opposite ends of the house to be by ourselves, we just can get really sick of each other at times.

 

Playing with my dog makes me laugh, even when I am really upset. She knows I am upset, and is a total clown. She knows she might end up getting showered with treats if she "performs" well.

 

Take a shower or a bath (said the woman who hasn't bathed in umpteen days)

 

Singing along to music always really relaxes me. I have loved to sing since I was a little kid, and at one point had a good voice. But I'm not performing (except perhaps for my husband), so I just wail away. It *really* is a huge stress reliever for me.

 

Funny podcasts. Catching up on Miss Manners. Looking around youtube for music videos or tv shows, and following suggested links around (I have found some good stuff that way). I like the Stephen Fry (from The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive) quiz show QI, and there are years of seasons to watch.

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For me, it helped me to look at some lists from Dialectical Behavioural Therapy and other coping skills lists. We have a lot on the personality disorders/self harm bit of the board pinned. Then I looked at ones I could easily do and not feel awkward about and tried those. I kept a list on my fridge and when I started to feel bad, I looked and had a go. My tips for coping skills are:

 

  • Don't expect a miracle. Any time you can buy from being self destructive or small relief from the emotion is a success. A coping skills is often to get you through a short term problem or help you pass time in a moment you cannot change. 
  • If you are upset by an issue that you could take an action to change for the better, find a way to do that, because using coping skills to avoid taking action won't help long term.
  • There will be some coping skills you have already. You have to whole distraction thing down by watching hours or TV or sleeping. Great skill in and of itself, but you seem to be overusing it. Maybe look at other skills like self soothing?
  • Different times call for different measures. Maybe one skill works in the immediate pain but in time, you need to change tactics. Maybe something used to work well and now doesn't.
  • A coping skill is a tool to help you, not a measure of how well you are doing or your self esteem. If something doesn't work in the way you expect, that is not your fault or your failing.
  • Build coping skills into your day to day life so that you aren't trying them out for the first time in the middles of a crisis. 
  • Some people have a coping skills kit, so a box with a funny movie, a favourite snack, an email of encouragement from a friend, a happy photo, some benzos, herbal tea, a journal, anything to hand to cut down on figuring it all out when you feel bad.
  • Get a set of gold stars and mark each day where you tried a skill. Don't focus on building gold stars, just make sure that each day you tried, you find a way to recognize that, with a gold star or anything else that you can see and feel good about.
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