Some coping strategies to try
If you are currently trying to manage emotional pain, these are a few strategies that may help. The first thing you try may not make you feel better. Don’t let that be your excuse to stop trying. Instead, pick another strategy to try, then another. At worst, you’ll pass some time. At best, your thoughts and feelings will shift away from the pain and toward something helpful.
For longer-term relief from suffering …
- Identify your strengths (the VIA-IS Strengths Survey is free: www.viacharacter.org). Each day, choose one strength to focus on and practice throughout the day. This is especially helpful for coping with depression.
- Develop a daily mindfulness practice (e.g., daily meditation or a daily gratitude journal). Once you are in better charge of your focus, you will be able to move it in more meaningful, helpful, and/or distracting directions. It does not have to linger on your pain.
- Identify what is most important to you in life (if you need help with this, try reading my article: The Value of Values.). Do at least one thing every day in support of these values. Notice how it feels when you make choices that align with what you care about.
- Be willing to make room for pain. It is a part of life and can’t be avoided. You may be able to learn from the pain. You may not. Either way, do your best to not let the pain be the center of your attention. Widen your scope to focus on the things that are important to you, or on anything that captures your attention. (This article may help with this concept: Making Room for Painful Emotions.)
- Take a week-long break from social media. Notice how you spend your time instead. Notice how you feel.
- Focus on helping others in some way: Smile at everyone you pass. Open the door for people. Pay for the person behind you in line. Choose an organization to volunteer with. Hand out bags of goodies and essentials to homeless people. Providing service to others has been found to be especially helpful for coping with depression.
- When something positive, no matter how small, happens to you (e.g., when someone compliments you, when see a beautiful something, or when you feel good about completing a task), take 30 seconds to savor the moment. Allow the positive feelings to linger. Repeat the words said to you, and try to believe them. Write the experience down (consider keeping a journal just for this). Spending 30 seconds to engage at this level with the positivity of the moment allows your brain to encode it more deeply. You will actually learn from that moment to seek other moments like it – you will start to look for the positive in life.
- Identify people who don’t make you feel good about yourself (including online friends or people you follow), and reduce the time you spend with them. Spend more time with people who make you feel good about yourself as you are right now. If you don’t yet have those people in your life, start strategizing about how and where you will meet them or find solo activities that make you feel good about yourself.
- This article on how to improve your mood using neuroscience has more ideas: http://www.businessinsider.com/a-neuroscience-researcher-reveals-4-rituals-that-will-make-you-a-happier-person-2015-9.