My head was resting uncomfortably on the headrest of the car’s passenger seat. Classical music played quietly on the radio in the loud interior of a vehicle going 80 mph down the interstate. I was heading home from a doctor’s appointment. I didn’t bother putting on a podcast using the headphones which sat on the back seat. I was upset.
Following yet another long list of new diagnoses (is one disease not enough?) I’m faced with the long process of finding effective treatment. Which means encountering a long list of emotions.
I was never friendly with emotions until my medical issues started getting more intense. Now I’ve had enough practice to learn the secrets of coping. I want to share those secrets with you.
The first definition I found for the word ‘coping’ is:
“The top, typically sloping, course of a brick or stone wall.”
The second was this definition of coping as a verb:
“[To] deal effectively with something difficult.”
In its physical meaning, coping is a slope. A curve possessing two ends: one higher, one lower. A perfect analogy for the verb meaning of coping.
I used to think of coping as merely surviving. Barely existing. Living one day just to get to the next. Now I identify coping with standing up against hard circumstances. Contentment during conflict.
But coping encompasses both views.
On one end of the coping slope - the bottom - coping is just surviving. Living one moment to the next, focused on staying alive. Working, eating, sleeping.
On the other end - the top of the cope slope - coping is a form of thriving. Existing with peace and joy. Acknowledging difficult circumstances and transcending their challenges.
Coping isn’t just for those who face difficult life circumstances, coping is for everyone.
Coping determines how well a person manages life with all its variables. Coping can improve with practice, but it’s a long climb to the pinnacle of contentment.
To prepare for that climb, we must equip ourselves with the following tools:
You must analyze your situation before mounting the cope slope. How damaged are your emotions? How unfamiliar is the current terrain of life? Will you need to pack a metaphorical fur coat?
The slope is a mountain needing preparation and experience to embark upon. If a person is dealing with a life altering situation, they may not be able to find the right climbing equipment by themselves. Sometimes, finding the right supplies means seeking professional help. There’s no shame in going to therapy.
This is the fun part of coping. Hobbies! My hobby is art. Whether it’s writing, drawing, editing, or daydreaming, art brings me an escape. A way to occupy my mind instead of dwelling on scary circumstances.
Navigating the ledges of the cope slope can be terrifying. It’s hard to prevent getting dizzy and falling into the dark lowlands of anxiety.
Hobbies provide footholds on the ledge, enabling a person to continually climb the mountain.
The escape of art I just mentioned? Sometimes it doesn’t work. Sometimes I’m too tired to create. So I watch Netflix. Or listen to a podcast. Or music. Other times, none of those things work. I must do something completely different. It’s important to adapt to the changing terrain, not try the same technique repeatedly when you’re stuck on one section of the cope slope.
Upon reaching the top of the cope slope, looking back on your journey thus far is just as crucial as the foresight stage. There are different cope slopes for different phases of life. What worked well on the last climb may not work well on the present climb.
Whatever your life circumstances, coping is part of being human. Foresight, escape, flexibility, and reflection are essential in navigating the emotions of life.
The next time I’m sitting in the passenger seat, heading down the interstate to a doctor’s appointment, I’ll be sure to fill my thinking with art and daydreaming. After all, my coping will continue to improve with practice. So will yours.