Long seasons of hardship can leave us grasping for ways to cope. In our first part of this two-part series, I talked about five harmful ways to cope with your illness and other chronic struggles. If you don’t know which coping style you relate to, there’s a quiz included. Here, we’re tackling those harmful coping mechanisms head-on with healthier counter-measures.
Instead of living in denial, emotionally detox yourself by journaling your experiences.
When I’m talking about journaling our experiences, I’m talking about the whole range of experiences from the moments we find to be thankful for to the painful memories that have traumatized.
I know you guys, it can seem almost horrifying to rewind time to some of the more painful moments, but research has shown that writing down these thoughts have actually helped to improve mental and physical health as well as moving pain induced thoughts from the anxiety produced region of our brain to an area that is able to comprehend the incident better. That’s pretty incredible, right?
Instead of over-romanticizing your problems, intentionally recognize what is bad and use it as an opportunity to lament while offering praise to God with the good that exists in your life.
We need to take our cue from Jesus and learn how to lament. When Jesus was met with the message of Lazarus’ death, instead of plastering on a saccharine smile, He wept. And get this, many commentators believe He wept not because Lazarus Himself died (keep in mind, He already knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead) but because He mourned death itself which was not in His intentional design for the universe.
Instead of obsessing over how to fix your problem, assess what can be done, and then implement short-term goals.
What in your life can change for the better, even in a seemingly minuscule way? If you found something in your research that’s helpful, create a game plan of how you’re going to implement your change. Many times in seasons of long-term trials, it can become difficult to know what the next month will look like much less the next year. Instead, create short-term goals that include how you’re going to help your tomorrow be a better day versus trying to map out your five-year plan.
Properly self-reflect and ask God to give you a “why” instead of over-analyzing your problem.
Trying to trace back the reason why we’re in our struggle can leave us feeling off kilter if we’re doing this obsessively, but proper self-reflection is healthy.
Was there anything that you did that could have led to your predicament? If it’s a health issue, did you spend years not taking care of yourself by eating a healthy diet and ignoring your body’s warning signals? If so, this isn’t a time to shame yourself; there is grace for your mistakes. But is there a way that you can alter your actions now to change your future for the better? Is there a diet that has efficacy for your ailments? If so, how can you live this out on a day-to-day basis?
Instead of overly maximizing the bad and minimizing the good, find the things you still enjoy that are good.
We’re told to focus on “whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, and whatever is commendable.” What do you enjoy doing? If you have a chronic illness, you may have found that many activities you once enjoyed you can no longer experience due to physical restraints. But what can you still do that you enjoy that won’t cause a health flare-up?
By focusing on the good, you can find the things you still enjoy so you don’t feel like you’re living to survive.This can be done through creative writing, music therapy, and art therapy (painting, photography, calligraphy, coloring in an adult coloring book, pottery, floral, web, and/or interior design and the list could go on).
If you’re still trying to figure out which coping style you fall into, take the short quiz from over here. Can you think of other ways you cope harmfully? Have you self-corrected with better coping methods?