Does this sound familiar? You, (or someone you know), are feeling anxious or depressed. It may have something to do with a job, with a relationship, even with social media. When well-meaning people try to cheer you up, telling you to look on the bright side, it has no discernible effect.
Feeling down, being anxious or stressed – these are complaints great numbers of people have. Who doesn’t get stressed when running late, or when criticized at work? And who doesn’t feel sad when not making the team, or in reading about some close friends getting together at an event they weren’t invited to?
Many people have innate coping skills to deal with these situations. They may simply “blow it away” – reminding themselves that it’s really a small matter and then are able to move on to other things. Or they may cope by being pragmatic and realizing that not everyone can be invited to a party, or make a team. Others are able to make themselves feel better when criticized by remembering incidents when they were praised.
But people with limited coping skills can struggle to deal positively with difficult situations. The result may be an inability to approach even the simplest activities without a fear of total failure. Or people may retreat within themselves and refuse to communicate with even close family members about what’s bothering them. Guidance in navigating through life’s challenges is one of the most common reasons people seek therapy.
Therapists work with clients to develop coping strategies to restore optimal daily functioning. Tangible examples include soothing exercises such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation; reflective practices, such as meditation; and intellectual projects, such as journal-writing. Additional effective coping tools involve releasing energy through movement or regular physical activities.
The above examples are often utilized in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, otherwise known as CBT. CBT is a solution-focused approach to dealing with life’s situations. Since people struggling with anxiety or stress often tend to filter out the positive and focus on the negative, CBT helps to do the opposite: it shows one how to filter out the negative and focus on the positive.
Being faced with a major life challenge can be extremely difficult without coping skills to effectively minimize feelings of stress or anxiety. Happily, acquiring these skills, with proper therapy, is within reach.