Coping Mechanisms

It seems everyone things I’ve quit all my vices cold turkey and left myself with no coping mechanisms. I can assure you, that is not the case. I have been indulging in plenty of behavior that I don’t really approve of (for myself) in my attempt to manage this feeling of wanting to crawl out of my skin. I know I can’t make every positive change in my life at once. I know I will doomed to failure if I do. At  this point I am focusing mostly on the compulsive spending, while trying to embrace the minimalism mindset (because I think ultimately it help me stop spending compulsively), but without a lot of pressure to “get it right”.

{The only other thing I’m trying to quit right now is biting my nails (actually I mostly bite the skin around my nails) because it got so bad that I was creating deep fissures that were excruciatingly painful, and also my daughter has started biting her nails (from watching me) so we’re trying to quit together. That actually hasn’t been so hard because I’ve found an alternate habit to insert in place of biting my nails, and I’ve become so mindful of my nail-biting triggers–it happens in specific places (the car, while I’m waiting for something) and for specific reasons (boredom, stress)–that I have been pretty successful at swapping out one habit for another. I’m not putting a lot of pressure on myself to stop biting my nails though, mostly I just don’t want to injure myself anymore, because man, the places where I broke the skin were really starting to hurt.}

So what are my current coping mechanisms? There are plenty.

I’m drinking a ton of Diet Coke, like 2-3 cans a day. I’m also indulging in a lot of coffee. I plan to stop drinking Diet Coke completely at some point, but right now I might as well be mainlining the stuff.

I read. A lot. I’m constantly escaping into books, articles and blog posts. I’m on my phone constantly. I’m listening to books on tape constantly. I’m reading all the damn time.

I have taken up TV watching again. I never made a conscious effort to stop watching TV but with only an hour in the evenings to do so, it wasn’t really happening. Lately I’ve been binge watching all sorts of TV. I have crappy shit on in the background while I fold laundry or grade papers and my husband and I have been spending out evenings watching something, anything, that will give us a reason not to talk much to each other. (Things aren’t bad between us, it’s all just A LOT and we appreciate some easy, mindless moments at the end of long days.)

I’m eating a ton of crap food. My diet is a fucking shambles right now (and when I say diet I’m simply referring to what I eat–I’m not on any specific “diet” to lose weight). My sugar consumption, which is usually almost nothing, has skyrocketed, and I’m doing absolutely nothing to curb that.

I’m giving myself a lose leash on the cash spending. That $100 a week does not include groceries (my husband buys those) or gas (I use my debit card) and I’m letting myself get snacks or treats or eat lunch out right now, because those things make my days easier and more fun. I don’t feel like spending money that way is a compulsion for me (like buying stuff is) so I’m letting myself do it, because it would be way too hard to just stop spending money entirely. Eventually I want to live on a much tighter budget that would exclude frivolous food spending of that kind, but right now, as I try to cold-turkey stop shopping, I’m letting myself indulge a little, and refusing to feel guilty about it.

I’m letting the house get messy again. It’s driving me crazy, and I’m constantly picking Cheerios from between my toes, but I just can’t let myself get stressed out about the mess right now. Hopefully, as I continue to get rid of stuff (and recreate the balance that was lost with the influx of stuff at Christmas) it will become easier to keep the house neat again.

Also, I’m not pushing myself to write. Sure there are times when I want to, and feel that I can’t, but I’m not creating an obligation that isn’t there. That is why I go weeks without writing here, or anywhere.

Finally I’m making exercise a priority, even when it creates situations that really piss my husband off. I am not letting exercise get crowded out by being home alone with two kids, one of whom doesn’t nap, most days. I’m making it work, even if that means encouraging my daughter to spend an hour or more on the iPad three times a week.

Those are just some of the ways I’m cutting myself some slack and giving myself coping mechanisms during this difficult time. I will admit I’m trying to reign in the really bad ones (ahem, excessive Diet Coke consumption) because I don’t want to replace one unhealthy addiction with a bunch of other unhealthy addictions that will be hard to give up at some later date. At the same time, I want to give myself leeway right now, so I don’t go crazy while I make these changes.

I have some positive coping mechanisms waiting in the wings as well. I’m participating in a online discussion group that is committing to meditation starting in January. I hope being a part of a community of people that are also trying to meditate will help me hold myself accountable. I really do believe daily meditation could be a HUGELY positive change for me.

I’m also going to start writing in my journal, as per Karen’s suggestion. I think that will be a really positive outlet for me too. Writing about 5 things I did well in a day will give me a reason to pick up a pen, even when it all feels too overwhelming to get down on paper. I hope with the addition of those positive coping mechanisms, I can dial down my dependence on some of the other more mind numbing habits I’ve taken up (*cough* internet, TV).

What are your go-to coping mechanisms? Are there any you want to change?


  1. AHHHH….. you ARE extending grace to yourself!
    Hope your New Year’s Eve is special and grand and lovely.
    Thank you for all your writing this past year and I hope you find it works for you to continue posting in the new year. You make a gift to so many when you write.
    Best luck with the meditation practice and all your new year endeavors!

    1. Yes, I am extending myself some grace. Mostly because all of you kind and wonderful supporters have been telling me to do so for the last five years. Thank you.

  2. Coping mechanisms…..a bath with a horrid fat juicy novel that has no intellect in it at all 😉 wine, coffee with my friends, a run or a spin class or just an evening of brainless TV.

    Don’t let that house get out of control!

    1. Coffee with friends sounds sooooo good. I’m working on that this coming year so hopefully by 2016 I’ll actually have a few people to do that with.

      I’m trying not to let the house get out of control, but it’s so, so hard. I’m never sure how to walk the line between giving myself space and acceptance and not letting shit get crazy. It’s a hard line to walk and I fail at it most of of the time.

  3. Coping mechanisms, ahhhh. Funny, I only count the positive ones- the ones that HELP me as coping mechanisms. The others I try not to think about. But for honesty’s sake, I’ll list them here.

    My coping mechanisms: I write in my journal, even if it’s like 5 minutes of writing. I find that when I’m bound up and feel like I CAN’T write, it’s when I need to write the most. I listen to audiobooks when I’m in the car to help me through the stress of fucking awful traffic, and even then that barely works. I run or swim, or think about what my goals are for my next race (or even what my next race will be). I play candy crush soda to disconnect and escape from too much connection. I go on Facebook and Dailymile (my running board) and connect with people through the internet. I cry and vent to my two best friends (but never my husband).

    And recently, I discovered that if I’m really stressed and crawling out of my skin and my family is placing demands on me, if I go into the office, sit on a pillow, put on headphones (so I can’t hear anything) and deep breathe for 30 sec- 1 minute, I can calm myself down enough to change my mindset. I suppose it’s meditation, but it’s quick and dirty and easy. But man, it really WORKS to get me out of my snappish mood.

  4. My friend, we weren’t CRITICIZING you when we said you had no coping mechanisms! We were trying to HELP you! I hope you didn’t feel anybody was saying you were crazy.

    I like this list, though. When we discovered J was allergic to dust, I was trying to deal with having to vacuum weekly, which I hadn’t been doing. I told myself that any household mess that WASN’T dust-related was just going to have to stay put. Eventually, I was able to handle both dust and clutter (although not all the time; I only put things away a few times a week). Hopefully that’ll happen to you, too.

    My coping mechanisms: Chocolate and Facebook. I think those are my biggest. I’m often puzzled when people talk about trying to waste less time online, because FB and blogs help me feel so much less alone, so much more supported. I also like tea, and reading in bed at night. Sometimes I consciously forfeit some sleep to spend time talking with my husband, and that helps. But other times I give up housekeeping tasks in order to get sleep, and that helps too. I am forgiving of myself for letting the house get messy mid-week. I clean up on the weekends, and that’s enough. And baking. I LOVE baking, and it always cheers me up.

    My favorite thing, which I can’t often manage, is to get home from work early enough to have a few minutes in the house before I pick up the kids. Like 10-20 minutes, to go through mail, put things away, have a snack. Small thing which makes a HUGE difference when I can actually do it.

    So, those are mine. That was an interesting exercise.

  5. What a time of year to be tackling these big issues! Yep, give yourself some slack. I’m happy to see that you are!

    I’ve been coping with family stuff lately, and getting through the holidays. So, I’ve been eating and drinking whatever the hell I want. Sometimes we just need to do that to get through tough stuff.

  6. My coping mechanism? Work! I am working my ass off so I don’t have to think those ‘dark’ thoughts. and planning a trip to Egypt, ALONE! I need it, oh, do I need it!

    1. You know, the more I teach, the less time and energy it requires (at least outside of the school day) so that is probably one of my problems, I can’t lose myself in work like I used to. I think that is ultimately a good thing, but it’s taking some getting used to. Your trip to Egypt sounds amazing. I can’t wait to hear all about it.

  7. Coping mechanisms.
    Food – I never thought I was a stress eater, but I am. Though trying to break that habit.
    Or not sleeping – and ending up reading or getting on the internet. Yes, that’s one of my ways to cope and procrastinate. So actually, it’s not really a coping mechanism, as another problem, because it just means I’m procrastinating.
    On the positive side – Yoga and meditation these days are helping a lot.

  8. My coping mechanisms – Coffee. Beer A glass of wine. a shower or bath with no kids present. working out. indulging in a sweet something.

    I’m trying to make working out MORE prevelant as a coping mechanism, as I really need to get back in shape. This time of year my go to work out – running – is fairly hard to do as I don’t have a treadmill and it’s been too cold out (highs of like, 3, last week) and now there’s a fair amount of snow on the trails I usually run that make the paths I run impassible. I’m committing to doing some sort of workout – however small – daily because I feel it’s one of my only coping mechanisms that gives back in the long term. Oh, and getting lost in a good book.

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