If you’re alive, you’re going to have stress in your life. It’s that simple. But sometimes life gets so stressful that you feel as if you could truly collapse beneath it all. I have been in constant stress overload before and simply lived in survival mode only to really collapse afterward; I have also had stretches of stress during which I let out my emotions and learned to use coping mechanisms that were healthy. I heartily recommend the latter.
Whether you have a relative in the hospital (or you, yourself, are very ill), you’ve lost a loved one, you’re struggling financially, or you’re experiencing other types of stress, here are a few mechanisms I would suggest for coping. Please feel free to add your own in the comments.
Relax. This will do wonders for your body and your mind. Obviously it’s a very difficult things to do, so you’ll have to force it. Set up an elaborate scene—a candlelit bath if you need it, complete with candles and music—and just soak. Take a nap, cuddling in your comforter, after some hot cocoa. Sleep does wonders for an aching spirit. Your body needs this. Neglecting our self-care is the first thing we do in survival mode, so make an effort to practice it instead.
Read a book. If you’re not a reader, watch a movie. The point is to escape, however briefly, and get your mind onto something else just for a bit. My daughter had RSV for weeks as a premature baby and I was beside myself with fear and craziness. We had to use a nebulizer to treat her every few hours. I thank Nickelodeons' film Barnyard for getting me to laugh so hard I threw up—first time in my life for it, believe me! My body just had to release that built up tension. This week, while my poor husband has been passing a kidney stone, I’ve been up with him and during his brief periods of sleep, I’ve read two excellent supernatural books that helped me keep my mind busy. Without them, I think I would have been a wreck.
When my daughter was in the hospital as a preemie, I used to work or do some school a bit online when I returned to the Ronald McDonald House—we were thousands of miles from home—and then read on the Internet: fanfiction, preschools at home, anything to distract me. I would do the same when passing gallstones to try and keep my mind busy and away from the pain.
Breathe. I know these sound so simple and easy, but when you’re in crisis mode they are anything but. If you take five minutes to just inhale as deeply, as long, as you can, and then exhale slowly until your lungs are empty, and repeat it a few times, I guarantee you will be a bit more calm afterward, if not a lot.