A cookie, a tall drink, an edible, a texting marathon with a stranger… unhealthy coping strategies provide instant gratification: they allow you to forget the stresses of life, if only for a few moments. But in the long run, such coping strategies just add to the stress you already have. That cookie, multiplied by 100, puts you at risk of unhealthy weight gain. Those hours spent on social media prevent you from meeting a deadline.
Healthy strategies have the opposite effect: they build resilience, which means the ability to recover quickly from challenges. If stress is a problem in your life, start with these healthy coping strategies: 19
- Recognize and focus on what you can control.
- Take breaks from the news and from screens.
- Practice self-care: eat healthy foods (including when snacking), get moving, and get plenty of sleep.
- Avoid excessive substance use.
- Make time for relaxing, including activities you enjoy.
- Practice slow and deep breathing (four counts in, four counts out).
- Stay connected with other people and organizations.
- Reach out for help by talking with others who can help you.
Take the time to assess your unhealthy coping strategies. Start a paper or electronic log book and record your pat terns: when, where, and why you turn to your “quick fix:’ If you feel a craving coming on, resist it and replace it with another activity (like the healthy strategies listed above). If you feel uncomfortable, sit with the feeling and record it in your log book.
If you are coping with stress by using harmful amounts of alcohol, cannabis, or other substances, you may need help to quit or cut back. Take that first step and schedule a visit with a doctor or counsellor. And don’t forget your pharmacist: many London Drugs pharmacists have training in smoking cessation, cannabis misuse, and opioid use disorder. Your local pharmacist can also point you toward other helpful resources.
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted just about everyone’s routine and increased stress for most of us. To build resilience during the pandemic, the Mental Health Commission of Canada recommends crating a self-care and resilience plan. The idea is to make a list of behaviours and activities that can hep you manage stress, decide which ones you’re willing to try now, and then schedule times to try them. TIP: Focus on simple activities you can easily incorporate into your daily routine.
You can also reduce stress by taking every reasonable precaution to protect yourself from severe illness from the virus. The most important precaution, experts agree, is vaccination. If you have fallen behind on your COVID-19 shots, your London Drugs pharmacist can help you catch up. And while you’re at it, talk to your pharmacist about other vaccines that may protect you, like the influenza or pneumonia shots. The more protection you have, the less you need to worry about getting sick.