Coping strategies

Coping Mechanisms

9 useful tips on how to stay healthy and positive

A Siren Training Mental Health First Aid trainer –Ryan Ridgway shared his experience, thoughts, and some useful coping mechanisms. 

We are in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, which challenges our mental health and wellbeing. Mental health specialists are talking louder and louder, exclaiming that after the Covid-19 pandemic we will face another, the mental health ‘pandemic’. So how can we look after our own mental health and help others?  These are Ryan’s top 9 coping strategies.

I think my experience is valuable. My own journey of mental illness and I’ll share some insights. 

I didn’t get a diagnosis till the age of 35 and I’m 40 now. I’ve now got this tool kit of helpful coping strategies that I’d adopted in my early years of struggle. My not-supported mental illness was made worse by stigma, judgment, and a lack of awareness. I had to work out on my own. What are other things that I can do that protect my mental health? What are my coping strategies? These are the things I want to share?

I want to share with you some of the techniques that meant the most to me. It helps me to deal with significant life events. We’re all going to face stress, we’re all going to face things that affect the way we feel. And it’s so important to have a toolkit that helps to cope at difficult times. 

So why do we need coping strategies?

I’ve got a model here called the stress cylinder so that upside-down triangle is your stress center. This is where all your stress is. You can’t have an MRI scan to see how big your stress is. You can’t go to the GP and they say – right let’s have a look at an X-ray and see  how much stress you can absorb without any problems presented.

 

But how do I feel about that stress, that pressure when I’ve had an eight hours rest for sleep. I’ve not been sitting in front of a blue screen all day. I’ve spoken to my best friend. I’ve gone out for a run, and I’ve spent time in nature, in daylight compared to the Tuesday where I’ve had four hours of broken sleep and 10 hours of Zoom calls. 

1. Identify the triggers

That’s why we need these coping strategies. We haven’t got a magic wand to just take out all the stress from our life. So the first one is a recognition and identification of your triggers. Spot it when your mental health is starting to suffer,  identifying when you need to adopt these coping structures when you need to take some time for you to recharge the battery often will have what’s called a stress signature.

 

This could be a thing you do. When you start to be anxious and stressed. My stress signature is when I pick and scratch my phone.  Or scratch myself to the point where it’s sore and it’s bleeding.

 

Try to recognize when you’ve had a difficult day, week, month your stress signature might be starting to present or recognition, first of all, that I need to take some time out for me. I need to take some time back, take a step back. Log off from life and do something that is going to let out the stress.

Coping with stress and anxiety

2. Talk

One of the most natural protective coping strategies we have is talk. I’m sure we’ve all heard that unraveling these concerning thoughts, feelings and emotions, getting these words out, these concerns out, and letting the words hit the air and take away their power is hugely helpful.

 

We know it’s good to talk. We need to identify who, where, and when. We’ve already heard those hashtags, those slogans. It’s okay not to be okay, it’s good to talk. So to who, how, and when we need to go to the next layer of communication and that can be through community, friends, family. We look at the data around mental health. 19.7% of people in the UK aged 16 and over showed symptoms of anxiety or depression – a 1.5% increase from 2013.  That’s the official data, but in reality, the figures are much higher.  

 

 Not talking, keeping to ourselves results in crisis, depression, and anxiety. I’m sure we’ve all got a group of friends. Who are the people that I can go to that will genuinely listen and be supportive?

3. Mindfulness

The next one is mindfulness. We’re hearing a lot about mindfulness. Mindfulness can be many different forms, it can be as profound, just having 10 minutes where we slow down the pace of life. And just be aware and just enjoy the moment. Come off that time out in your day, take 10 minutes even just 10 minutes where your phone isn’t in your hands.

 

Try to slow the pace of life down and appreciate the here and now.  Enjoy the sights, the sound, the smell, slow down the mind and temporarily log off from life. 

 

I’ve been doing mindfulness for my life. Mindfulness is really just about being good and comfortable at being bored, and I think this element of truth to that because I got bored in my twenties maybe in my thirties but I couldn’t tell you the last time I got bored because there’s some always something on hand that we can grab for and use and do. So mindfulness has many different forms, find the way it works for you. Sometimes it is having a time in the garden without my phone and just thinking, letting thoughts rattle, and just being present conscious.

4. Blue light and sleep

The next one is mindfulness. We’re hearing a lot about mindfulness. Mindfulness can be many different forms, it can be as profound, just having 10 minutes where we slow down the pace of life. And just be aware and just enjoy the moment. Come off that time out in your day, take 10 minutes even just 10 minutes where your phone isn’t in your hands.

 

Try to slow the pace of life down and appreciate the here and now.  Enjoy the sights, the sound, the smell, slow down the mind and temporarily log off from life. 

 

I’ve been doing mindfulness for my life. Mindfulness is really just about being good and comfortable at being bored, and I think this element of truth to that because I got bored in my twenties maybe in my thirties but I couldn’t tell you the last time I got bored because there’s some always something on hand that we can grab for and use and do. So mindfulness has many different forms, find the way it works for you. Sometimes it is having a time in the garden without my phone and just thinking, letting thoughts rattle, and just being present conscious.

Coping mechanisms

5. Meditation

Meditation has been used for over thousands of years. Meditation is a good technique for slowing down the pace of life and quietly in the mind. Now when I first started meditation, I could not get on with it. I thought I was supposed to be sitting on a hilltop somewhere in the sunshine all zen thinking of nothing but peace and tranquility.

 

And I was thinking about everything. I couldn’t stop thinking. There are so many free resources for meditation available now. Lots of different formats and methods and I had to set some time aside, remove distractions, connect to it on a daily basis and just practice meditation and it now forms a hugely important part of my day coping strategies.

 

It’s a proven way, but maybe if you try to before and like me dismissed it early. Find the way that works for you. There are lots of different methods, formats and ways of embracing meditation and bringing magnet to your toolkit of coping strategies.

6. Exercise

Meditation has been used for over thousands of years. Meditation is a good technique for slowing down the pace of life and quietly in the mind. Now when I first started meditation, I could not get on with it. I thought I was supposed to be sitting on a hilltop somewhere in the sunshine all zen thinking of nothing but peace and tranquility.

 

And I was thinking about everything. I couldn’t stop thinking. There are so many free resources for meditation available now. Lots of different formats and methods and I had to set some time aside, remove distractions, connect to it on a daily basis and just practice meditation and it now forms a hugely important part of my day coping strategies.

 

It’s a proven way, but maybe if you try to before and like me dismissed it early. Find the way that works for you. There are lots of different methods, formats and ways of embracing meditation and bringing magnet to your toolkit of coping strategies.

7. Nature and daylight

 

Daylight and spending time with nature seem very relevant. The theme for mental health awareness week this year is nature. Daylight, natural daylight gives us vitamin D which can improve moods you probably heard of the sad syndrome, seasonal affective disorder.  It’s something that can occur during times of the year when we get less natural daylight.

8. Your Hobbies - do something you enjoy

Do something you enjoy, just for yourself. What are hobbies? Get creative, paint, create a dance for your favorite song, write. Read inspiring books, learn something new. Taking yourself up using your imagination and taking yourself off into a world of different space where you’re using your imagination can be a really great way of protecting and improving mental health and a great coping strategy. We have a list of coping strategies.

9. Wim Hof Method

You may have already heard about the Wim Hof Method.  Win Hoff is from the Netherlands. He lost his life partner leaving him with children. Hof has said that his sadness over the loss of his first wife was formative in leading him to develop techniques to face low-temperature environments. Once he jumped into a frozen canal and he realized that when he was under this ice water he found some peace and tranquillity so he started to look into cold exposure and using a power breathing to influence his body by chemistry and he’s broke some amazing world records:

 

Hof set the Guinness World Record for the farthest swim under ice, with a distance of 57.5 meters. The swim at a lake near Pello, Finland was filmed for a Dutch television program, and a test run the previous day almost ended in disaster when his corneas started to freeze and he was swimming blind. A diver rescued him as he was starting to lose consciousness. 

 

On 26 January 2007, Hof set a world record for the fastest half marathon barefoot on ice and snow, with a time of 2 hours, 16 minutes, and 34 seconds 

 

So he claims that we can influence our own system through the power of breath. The power of breathing in a certain way has an amazingly positive effect on our physical health and our mental health. I tried the Wim Hof method and the breathing up. I absolutely loved it, feels like it was an active form of meditation so evolves from breathing in and only breath to full and then you have a period of attention when you just don’t take a breath and part of the science body is an increased oxygen depletion and carbon dioxide and then the body’s biochemistry will go around and have certain positive effects.

 

I’ve tried cold showers and take cold showers every day now. At first, it was hard to get used to it. The cold showers were sending signals to the brain to say – don’t panic, don’t shiver, everything’s fine, you don’t need to protect internal organs – and you find a space of peace.

 

Calm and tranquillity and instantly calm the mind. The Wim Hof method for me is absolutely valuable and this is what I mean about this lots of different methods of formats out there, this is one example of breatheology and it’s now being branded using our breathing to influence how we feel like a coping strategy and it’s proven Wim Hof method scientists tried to.

 

Everything  I’ve mentioned is free: meditation, mindfulness, nature, exercise doesn’t cost anything. Now it’s time to choose which one works for you. And remember no one will take care of your mental health as well as you do, and it’s not a shame or selfish to actively look after your mental wellbeing. Your mental health is equally important as your physical health. 



copyright@ Siren Training
2021

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