Life Management Skills:
Coping with health problems or stress
Ineffective coping strategies
may help us temporarily feel better or buy
time but seldom solve a stressful situation. We
all learn ways to cope. Some are less effective
Ineffective coping strategies:
The stressors and the stress are still there
(and sometimes made worse!) when the effects of
the chemical or behavior wear off. When we are
Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired, we are
vulnerable to ineffective coping strategies.
"HALT" and consider this next list...
- Denial: "Everything's fine, no problem" but
obvious evidence points to real sources of
conflict or concern.
- Wanting to retreat to a happier, simpler
time in the past.
- Complaining: Can be a release of energy but
unless we are talking to the right person our
problems are not being resolved. Figure out what
you need and who you need to talk to.
- Alcohol, mood altering drugs, overeating, or
- Working harder and harder.
- Helping others too much at an ongoing cost
Effective coping strategies
that can be adapted for individual use.
- Take a break. A change of scenery can clear
the mind. Go for a walk, call a friend, count to
- "One day at a time." Action or acceptance.
Face stressors by acting directly when possible.
Problem solve. Dwelling on issues without action
or acceptance adds to stress. Acceptance at
times is difficult because powerful feelings are
involved. With loss can come: Shock, anger,
peace of mind, sadness and hope. Working with
your honest feelings is a way to take it one day
at a time.
- Use positive calming thoughts and decrease
worry ones. This can be difficult because to
worry is easy. Worry about yesterday or tomorrow
adds to stress. Positive thinking takes
practice. We can change our physical state with
- Nourish the spiritual part of yourself.
Religion, beauty, nature, science and even
painful life experiences have been used by
people to deepen their sense of spirituality.
- If religion is important to you, what part
(s) of your religious practice brings you closer
to God? Take the time to do it! Be here now. God
is user friendly.
- Experience, strength and hope can be gained
through painful life experiences.
- The beauty found in nature, art, music and
poetry can provide deep inspiration and peace.
- Science with the elements of wonder and
open-mindedness and the goals of relieving
suffering and serving humanity, provides a
method to seek what is Truth.
- Learn to use a relaxation technique. There
are many types. Conscious relaxation reverses
the physical stress response. See next section
- Establish clear and realistic goals for your
personal and professional lives. Manage time,
don't let it manage you.
- Pace your activity. In managing pain,
recovery or a chronic health problem, it is
useful to have an activity-rest schedule. This
allows you to rest before you get too tired.
Over-activity causes a corresponding increase of
symptoms and down time. Activity means feet on
the floor including standing, moving about or
sitting with your feet on the floor. Resting
means the feet are up off the floor, including
lying down or feet up in a recliner. Have a
"sick day" plan for less activity and more rest.
- Delegate responsibilities. It is OK to ask
for help. Also it is OK to say no and not feel
guilty if no is the truth.
- Be involved with people, family, friends or
support groups. Many communities have support
groups that are free of charge.
- Therapeutic massage, either from a
professional, trained friend or family member,
can be very beneficial for your
body-mind-spirit. Neck and shoulder, and foot
massages are examples. Healing Touch techniques
- "Talking it out," is a very good stress
buster. It is helpful to share your thoughts and
feelings with a family member or friend who is
willing to listen. Some also find speaking with
a professional provides objective support and
encouragement. Locate someone you can trust!
Some people find writing in a diary, journal or
letter is a good way to "get it out."
- Allow your vacation time to be a complete
break from routine. Rest a day before you return
- Regular exercise improves the body's
ability to respond to stress. Stretching and
walking are easy, safe ways to release tension.
- Good nutrition. Follow your prescribed
diet. Try to include more whole foods. Drink
plenty of water.
- Stop smoking. Even though people smoke to
relax, it actually increases the long term
stress responses in the body.
- Heat, warm water. Hot baths and hot water
bottles can work like magic on tired muscles.
- Sleep provides relaxation and rest. Avoid
regular use of sleeping pills.
- Remember to have fun! Humor and simple fun
are sure fire stress reducers. Hobbies, music or
creative activities give your mind and body a
break. Pets can also provide companionship and
pleasure for people. For information on humor
and healing visit
the Carolina Health and Humor Association
- Assertive communication skills. Passive and
aggressive communication styles tend to draw
more stress to people. Be "open, honest, direct
and respectful." Be respectful both to yourself
and other people. See below for everyone's
communication rights. Exercising these rights
may cause stress to rise at first but it is a
good stress that can over time greatly improve
your stress management.
- Service: Consider increasing compassionate
action in your life. Compassion is touching pain
- Create a beautiful and relaxing place for
you to spend time. Aromatherapy, candles, water,
- Non-drug pain management.