coping mechanisms 101

I’ve been counseling a lot of patients over the past 8 weeks.  And while the entire premise has been based primarily on diabetes and weight loss, it’s not just about the…well…diabetes and weight loss.

If it came down to just the know-how knowledge of nutrition, most of my patients could be dietitians themselves.  Most, not all, but most of them know what they need to do.  It’s getting there that’s the issue.

The behavioral changes, the way we cope with things, and those things that need to take place before any real life changes can happen are oftentimes so ingrained–such a part of us–that we don’t even notice their existence.

For example.  Coping mechanisms.

We all have them, whether we admit to this or not.  How do you handle stress?  How do you react when you get a huge promotion?  What do you do when you’re burnt, tired, feeling alone, bored, (fill in the blank)?

Some of us smoke.  Some of us drink.  Some of us journal.  Some of us turn to food.  And some of us don’t cope at all.

I always thought I was immune from this “coping” thing.

But then, I felt it last year after I visited my Memere in the hospital.  I felt it again when I was applying for dietetic internships.  And then I felt it this morning, when I realized that the thunder and lightening would keep me far, far away from my much needed run.

Yes.  I am a stress runner.

Coping mechanisms can be a good thing.  We all need to get through the tough, exciting, stressful, wonderful, etc. periods of our life with something.  Something.  

But then.  They can also be very bad.  Messing with our minds, causing us to overeat, or causing us to push too hard in our running regimens.

So.  What to do?  First, find what your coping mechanism is.  Write down your feelings revolving around these emotions and soon you will find a connection.  Acknowledge those feelings (they won’t ever go away completely!) and think about what your coping mechanism does to help you deal.

If you cope by eating, find another outlet.  Another source.  Surround that emotion will a number of possible, healthier outlets, training yourself to turn to these things when you feel the need.  If you feel you deserve to eat something wonderful because of a stressful day at work, replace the eating with going for a walk.  You deserve to leave the stress behind you.  You deserve to treat yourself right.  With respect.  And you deserve to feel the best that you can feel.  Or save money by skipping takeout, make your own meal and plunk some of that saved money into a “massage fund.”

If you cope by running, like me, then be realistic about this.  Don’t go out and chomp out 10 miles when you’re feeling stressed, which will only set you up for injury.  Instead, keep the mileage reasonable and focus on your breathing, your posture, the way your legs feel as you smooth along the road.  Mindful running.  And stick to your mileage plans to avoid overuse!

And when you can’t run?  Like today.  Harumph.  It’s tough, but embrace this as part of your training and find something else to practice mindfulness.  Yoga to strengthen the weaker running muscles.  Or simple sit down, eat your breakfast, drink your cup of coffee and realize that tomorrow your legs will feel fresh enough for that 4 miler you had planned.

QUESTION: Do you notice one (or two…or three) type of coping mechanisms in yourself?

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8 comments on “coping mechanisms 101

  1. Lisa Fine says:

    It sounds like you’re doing great work, Sarah.

    I find exercise very therapeutic, and I actually first got into running to beat the stressors of my prior job.

    Unfortunately, for my mind and stomach, I sometimes overeat when I am stressed. I want to turn towards calling a friend or doing yoga instead, though.

  2. WONderful post. I thoroughly enjoyed this, Sarah. I’m sure I have many coping mechanisms but I can’t think of any at the moment. But I’ll give it some thought! Because you’re right, we all “deserve to treat ourselves right” and respect ourselves. So well said!

  3. BroccoliHut says:

    Unfortunately, my coping mechanism is usually NOT to eat. It’s a vestige of my eating disorder, I’m sure–if I can’t control the world around me, why not control my food? I think I’ve learned to counteract this potentially unhealthy coping mechanism however.

  4. Nicole says:

    I think that I tend to bottle stress up, and then it affects me physically. So I actually need to find a healthy coping mechanism that helps me release stress. 🙂 Now that the nice weather is here, hopefully I can turn to running!

  5. Emily says:

    I really like how you said ‘you deserve to leave the stress behind’ I just came off a very stressful couple months in grad school and I learned a lot about myself and how I react to stress. I had an awful four week cold (hello stress sickness)… When I’m stressed I am very hard on myself and just start feeling really negative about my abilities and very frustrated with myself. I am also a stress runner so that did help

  6. Amanda says:

    I am not a runner, but I actually turn to running, or other forms of cardio when I am stressed. I actually had a really stressful morning and thought about going for a run today.

    Your oatmeal looks really good, makes me want to get up and have a huge bowl of oats in the morning and then go for a run lol.

  7. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. It was a good reminder for me to remember how to focus my thoughts and energy when life starts to tilt out of order. : )

  8. Mindlessly munching sometimes, but prayer always provides faithful, so I turn to that most. Great post, and very timely for what my neighbor and I are doing. We have joined together to run/walk and keep one another on track in our goals of a healthier lifestyle. Not going it alone has made a profound difference on this journey. Thanks for posting, and love the photos!

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