I recently was reminded that May is mental health awareness month. Last year, I was much more aware of that and spent some time writing about mental health. This year, I’m obviously a bit unprepared for this. I’d like to take some time to write a bit about coping skills for anxiety and depression. There are many other mental health issues that could be talked about, but depression and anxiety seem to be two that really resonate with me.
The first thing I need to note, is that while I am a LICSW and can technically diagnose and treat, these posts are more about information not treatment. You should definitely seek out a mental health professional to treat whatever mental health issues you are dealing with.
Right now, we are dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic and all the changes that have come out it. The stress that it places on many of us, including those who do not have depression and anxiety diagnoses, can cause situational depression and anxiety. For those who have never dealt with these feelings before, I can be scary and can cause even more stress, which can then in turn trigger worsening depression and anxiety, creating a vicious cycle.
One of the things we need to it recognize our triggers and also our response to these triggers. Once we know our triggers, we can then pay attention to our response and notice if it helps or hurts us. Once that happens, we can then work on making changes to our response so that hopefully our new responses will become automatic.
I think I my need these posts just as much as others reading them. A lot of these coping skills I already know and have talked to patients about them. I’m sure that there are other coping skills that I don’t know about yet and I hope to learn more. My one go to coping skill though, is breathing. When I notice myself getting stressed, overwhelmed or anxious, and sometimes I don’t notice, but my husband will remind me, I slow down my breathing and breathe in my nose and out my mouth. I try really hard to use my abdomen and not my chest.
I need to take my own advice and notice and be aware of my triggers so that I can go to my toolbox and pick out the best tool for the current job. I like to look at coping skills as tools in a tool box and you have multiple tools to use depending on the job you are faced with. So, probably my most used tool is my breath. One thing I need to remember is that it is helpful to practice using these tools when not anxious or stressed.
Do you have a toolbox of coping skills or are you just starting to get one and fill it or are you somewhere in between?