Tip Day: Making your coffee cup bigger

In yesterday's post, I shared Dr. H's metaphor about how stress is like coffee and my coping skills are like a coffee cup.  You can have lots of stress and be perfectly fine if you have enough coping skills.  Alternately, you can be royally screwed if you have the coping skills of an espresso cup and half of a normal cup of coffee (which, for me, is like a standard cup.  I have BIG mugs, kids. Okay, wait, that sounds dirty...).

The key to coping with stress is either decreasing your stress/coffee or increasing your coping skills and coffee cup.  Today's tip day is going to focus on how to improve your stress coping skills (ie, making a bigger coffee cup).

1. Find a hobby.  It sounds cheesy, but even lame-sounding hobbies can be a stress reliever.  So you like collecting stamps.  Or latch-hook rugs.  Or ant farms.  It doesn't matter what it is, but having an outside interest can often be a sort of pressure release valve.  Things like crochet and House re-runs and playing the piano might not be the most exciting of hobbies, but when I'm stressed, working on my afghan for a few minutes can be tremendously relaxing.  It also helps me remember that whatever I'm stressing about isn't the entire world.

2. Make a list.  Of your potential coping skills, that is.  What makes you feel better?  Write these things down so that when you're freaking out you don't actually have to retrieve that information from the deep, dark depths of your brainpan.

3. Act like a kid.  I don't mean throw a temper tantrum in the middle of the grocery store--although I have wanted to on more than one occasion!  What I mean is try to remember what you liked to do as a child, and try to re-create that when you're stressed.  I still have a bunny puppet that I got as a baby (his name is Bozzlie) and no, he doesn't cure my stress, but he does bring a smile to my face.  This also explains why I usually have bubbles somewhere.

4. Prioritize.  Part of the problem I have when stressed is that everything seems equally important.  This is where I get into trouble because it's very easy to misjudge what desperately needs to get done and what is the proverbial icing on the cake (make mine cream cheese).  My criteria is "How bad will it be if this doesn't get done? Will it majorly inconvenience anyone else?  How many people will be seriously pissed or even notice?"  Buying cookies to take to your book club instead of making them from scratch doesn't mark you as a bad person.  Most people are like "OMG COOKIES!!!!1!"

5. Delegate.  This is probably my Achilles heel.  I suck at delegating, mostly because I don't really trust anyone else to do the job "right."  It's essentially an open invitation for people to treat you as a doormat.  Even if it wasn't, there will come a time when you have to face the grim inevitability that you can't do it all.  It might mean asking your significant other to cook dinner for a change (or at least pick up some take out).  Or asking someone at work to help you with a project.  It's not a skill that comes naturally to me, but when you're really in a bind, it can be a lifesaver.

6. Positive self-talk.  Often what helps me is not telling myself that it's all going to be okay because, hey, you never know.  What helps me is to remind myself that whatever happens, I can figure out how to handle it.  This usually calms me down because I can start to let myself stop worrying about the outcome and start trying to figure out the solution.

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Ace said...

Great tips! They will hopefully be very helpful :) I also recomend adding: "Take a break! Over-working yourself will only increase stress; make time in your day for something relaxing, like a warm, scented, bubble bath. However, be careful when doing this: do NOT procrastinate! Your are most at risk when you have a history of or are prone to puting things off. Just don't work 24/7"
Just a suggestion :)


ps, i wuld lov if u culd follow my blog?

hm said...

Don't know if this will be helpful to anyone or not- but my therapist and I were discussing the link btw. anorexic and autistic people and she suggested trying some of the methods used for soothing an autistic person in distress, such as compression- finding a way to physically contain your distress- such as having someone squeeze you around your upper arms and chest- or lying under a heavy blanket or blankets- gives you a sense of keeping yourself together.

Abby said...

Yup, number 5. Have to get better about that. Just the other day I was forbidding my boyfriend from cooking dinner, even though I was basically a puddle of stress, because he "might screw it up and then I'd have to eat it anyways."

Dana Udall-Weiner said...

I think hobbies are underrated. They provide a kind of constancy and regularity, and they can boost our confidence because we are usually fairly good at them. Although "sitting with our feelings" is important (my clients sometimes laugh when I say such cheesy things like that), it's also great to have distracting hobbies.

hm said...

I was having panic attacks all day... read this post... and took you up on tip #3 (act like a kid). I've got 2 shining examples right here in my house- I played transformers with one of them and cards with the other. It totally helped me get my mind off myself, and I don't think I would have thought to do it if I hadn't read this- anxiety makes a person want to withdraw and isolate, close doors- thanks for posting these.

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I'm a science writer, a jewelry design artist, a bookworm, a complete geek, and mom to a wonderful kitty. I am also recovering from a decade-plus battle with anorexia nervosa. I believe that complete recovery is possible, and that the first step along that path is full nutrition.

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