Ten Things of Thankful: Coping Skills Edition

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Through living most of the last twenty years of my life with Bipolar Disorder and PTSD, I have picked up a trick or an idea or a method that works to help calm the pain inside my addled head.  Much of it is learned from DBT (Dialectical Behavior Therapy), a lot of it is common sense, and so much more came to me through the process of trial and error.

Captain Jack is right — it is often how you think about a problem, and your attitude toward a “problem,” that is the issue.  While I don’t often think of these skills after the storm has passed, when I am in the thick, I am really thankful for the ten random things listed below that help me get through:

  1.  An extreme attempt to change body temperature.  From going and standing out in the winter air in shorts and a t-shirt, to a cold compress to the back of the neck, this is my number one go-to coping method.  It also works in the form of a super-hot shower, a super-cold shower, frozen bag of peas behind the knees.  I don’t know the science, but the temperature change trick almost always snaps me out of hysteria.
  2. Coloring or doodling.  I have several “adult” coloring books and a seriously large collection of markers, pens, colored pencils, crayons.  This is becoming a more popular choice among many anxious people, and has even turned into a big of a “fad.”  The thing about this “fad” is that is REALLY works.  If you can get yourself coloring or doodling, you will find that you can turn your mind over much more easily than if you are just sitting and angsting.
  3. Phone a friend.  Not just for “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?”, this coping strategy works especially if you have one person in your life that can talk to you for five minutes and bring you outside yourself.  For me, this person is usually my dad and sometimes my mom.  They both know me well, and often five minutes after picking up the phone, I am mostly calmed down, or at least I have a plan to calm down.
  4. Get a hug.  A hug, or really any physical contact, can be helpful.  LarBear knows that if I am really upset and he rubs my neck or my back, that I can start to calm down.  There is something reassuring about human touch, something that makes us not feel so alone.  Sometimes I can calm down if LarBear simply sits and holds my hand for awhile, even if he says nothing.
  5. Get up and move.  Of course, this is easier said than done.  In the midst of hysterics, its tough to get up and do anything, but I find that if I can even get up and do a little pacing, or, even better, find a small area of the house to organize (like a drawer or a shelf…think small!), I can calm myself.
  6. Five senses meditation.  This is a great grounding exercise and it is exactly what it sounds like.  Out loud, name five things you can see, five things you can touch, five things you can taste, five things you can smell, five things you can hear, five things you can feel.
  7. Get it in writing.  Blogging is great for anxiety, but journaling or even free-writing can be helpful.  I have numerous written pages, where I have been extremely anxious, and have put pen to paper for a set amount of time (usually five minutes) and written down things as they flew through my brain.  It is an excellent way of letting thoughts go on down the road.
  8. Mind your breath.  After the temperature-change exercise, the thing I do most to calm down is to focus on my breath.  There are many ways to do it, but my favorite is to do a breath in to the count of five and a breath out to the count of seven.  You might have to play with it to see what works for you, but if you can put all attention on your breath, you may be able to calm yourself that way.
  9. Hug a tree.  No, seriously, I mean it.  Go outside and hug a tree.  Panicked, anxious, sobbing your eyes out?  Go hug a tree.  This is a very grounding exercise, and, similarly, sitting or laying in the grass can be almost as helpful.  Concentrate on the textures and feelings through your hands or on  your legs.
  10. PRN medication.  As an opportunity of last resort, after I have tried all of these things, or if I have tried several and none are working, I will take a teensy dose of Klonopin.  I don’t do it everyday anymore, or even every other day.  It is meant for short-term, very occasional use, and I really don’t think there is anything wrong with using that tool in my toolbox, as long as I am not abusing it.

Do you have any coping skills that you use, that I haven’t mentioned?  I would love to hear from you and have a blog post full of what works for everyone!  In the meantime, as a PLUS-1, maybe take a few minutes and put a Ten Things of Thankful list on your own blog.  ‘Till next time!

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19 thoughts on “Ten Things of Thankful: Coping Skills Edition

    • Thanks Trinh, and thanks for stopping by! I dropped by your site, and it is very visually captivating, but I’m sorry to say that it is a good deal out of my brain range. You keep it up, though, because there are many people out there interested in your topic!

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  1. Wow. I’m glad you have several successful resources to help you. The breathing one works for my anxiety. So many times I realize my breath is shallow or I am holding it. Getting it to flow works. Have a good week.

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    • Ugh yes! Holding the breath! I catch myself doing that ALL the time. I wonder if there is something that could be come up with that alerts us to the problem of holding breath before it gets really serious. It is a habit I would LOVE to break. You have a great week, too! 🙂

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  2. Those are awesome coping techniques and I’m glad you shared them – thank you! I also hope you don’t have too much cause to use any of them through the festive season. I don’t have techniques really, which I think tends to me getting caught in mental tangles every so often. Writing, though – that helps. And writing poetry.

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    • Thank you! And thanks for dropping by! 🙂 You say you don’t really use any techniques — I have to do at least a little or I am a raving basketcase, but that is probably learned behavior (maybe?). And I have seen your poetry on your blog and it is WONDERFUL. I have a hard time with poetry, because it feels like I am really, really naked and I don’t so much love that feeling.

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      • Awwwh thank you! I tend to find it enables me to slightly obscure the truths, or at least present them in a more palatable way, and so redeem them with lovely words, just a tiny bit.

        I’m glad your techniques work for you and that you’re not a raving basket case 🙂

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  3. You’ve got some fabulous coping tricks. This year the new adult coloring books have been on everyone’s list of things to give to our favorite aunt. Every niece and nephew remembers coloring with her, and now the grand-nieces and nephews will get to have that fun too.

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  4. I LOVE coloring!! It is very meditative. I also find that watching something from HGTV that I have DVR’ed on the idiot box can be very soothing. I am a great fan of the home makeover shows, like Flip or Flop. It really occupies my mind 🙂

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    • Oh gosh, I don’t know why but the home makeover shows STRESS ME OUT! LOL! My favorite coloring book right now is a peacock one that a blog friend sent me. I have four or five, but I can get kind of picky about things and not do them if I’m not feeling in EXACTLY the right space…don’t know how to explain that one. :/

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  5. These are excellent! Gonna have to print them out and paste it on my fridge as a reminder. Since I have a 6 and 8 year old my mind sometimes automatically goes to silly and I will do something totally silly like meow like a cat to my kids when I’m talking to them so it cuts through the tension and makes them laugh. Talking in a different pitch voice also works, from extremely high to extremely low, but I guess a lot of my conflict is with my kids so these are tips for dealing with them.
    Focusing on breathing in public spaces works – when I remember.

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    • Thank you, I’m glad you liked them! I like your idea of changing pitch of voice or being silly with a meow. I don’t have kids, but I do find myself doing similar with my boyfriend at times, ya know, using a funny voice to try and lighten things up. And I am right there with you on trying to remember to breathe in public spaces. I have coached LarBear to quietly encourage me to do so in public when he can see me freaking out, and it really does help (when I don’t want to zip his lips for him)! 😀

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  6. I love this list and could have used it lately.
    I miss being able to colour. I can’t see anymore, but could still scribble, like a little child. I miss seeing the colours though.
    I think there is nothing at all wrong with adult colouring books.
    Hugging a tree and feeling the grass tickle my legs is very soothing.
    Human touch and the sound of a calming and understanding voice works wonders. I love just holding the right hand.
    Writing helps, blogging, and this thankful list is highly relaxing and perspective giving.

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    • Thanks for stopping by! I am glad you liked the list. I do like coloring quite a bit, and doing beading and jewelry making, so I would really have to come up with some more ideas if I had no eyesight. And yes, grass tickling legs and feet…nothing better! 🙂

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