DO YOU COPE OR AVOID? 14 ESSENTIAL STRATEGIES FOR COPING

Back to  Mind  |  Body  |  Spirit

by | Oct 22, 2021 | Mindset & Positivity

 

Hello My Friend

 

In this post I want to discuss a problem we all face at some stage in our lives. When things go seriously wrong, do you Cope or Avoid? Avoidance is very common but not a great solution. Here’s how to answer this question, and 14 Essential Strategies For Coping when things go wrong in your life.

 

What is Coping Vs Avoiding?

Do you cope or avoid?

Ever done the ‘Ostrich Syndrome’ when things go wrong…you know, head in the sand, it’s not happening if I just ignore it and don’t look? You’re not alone.

(Actually ostriches don’t really do this…but the image is appropriate!)

The ‘head in the sand’ metaphor perfectly describes how many people react when life throws a tantrum. That’s because we aren’t prepared for it, so the initial reaction is to pretend it’s not happening.

Perfectly natural.

While this reaction is normal, if you let it continue then it becomes avoidance.

When you face a challenge in life, you have a choice of either coping or avoiding it. Coping is a positive way to manage challenges, problems, and disappointments.

Avoidance is a negative behavior that can make your problems even worse.

In psychology, avoidance refers to the behaviors a person chooses in order to not deal with their thoughts and feelings.

Err, yes…I’ve definitely been there and bought the T shirt., and it’s not a comfortable place to visit!

But there are lessons to be learned from it, and they can be surprisingly positive if you embrace them.

 

There Are Two Types Of Avoidance

  • Doing

Behaviors that try to diminish a thought or feeling, like someone washing their hands repeatedly because they fear germs.

  • Not Doing

Behaviors that try to remove a person from situations that make them uncomfortable. As an example, a person might take a different route to work to avoid driving past the place where they recently had a car accident.

Psychologists agree that both types of avoidance behaviors are not healthy.

People who avoid their thoughts and feelings often find themselves fixated on their problems because they use so much energy to avoid them.

 

Avoidance Can Easily Become A Way Of Life

If you fall into a pattern of avoiding any situation that isn’t playing out the way you expected, you may find yourself always reacting this way.

'Cope Don't Avoid' text on soft pastel background

You need to break this habit ASAP, or you will be setting yourself up for a life filled with constant disappointment and an emotional roller-coaster.

Failing to deal with difficult situations by ignoring them and hoping they will somehow get sorted out will lead to:

• Stress
• Anxiety
• Decreased Self-Confidence
• Low Self-Esteem

Avoidance behaviors can cause stress because they disrupt your routine. They can also lead to anxiety and low self-esteem when you beat yourself up for not being able to deal with the issues at hand.

These feelings of inadequacy will make an already uncomfortable situation worse, leaving you feeling helpless because you’ve convinced yourself that nothing you do can solve the problem.

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

 

Examples Of Coping Vs Avoiding

 

  • Assuming Intent Vs Getting Support

Avoidance can cause a deep mistrust of other people.

To avoid negative feelings, you may assume that other people don’t like you or want to hurt you emotionally. By assuming a harmful intent, you try to justify your avoidance of others in you mind.

However, when you cope with challenges, you realize that other people’s support is often the key to solving the problem, rather than assuming the other person’s intent is harmful.

  • Not Starting Tasks Vs Managing Expectations

Would you start a project or task if you didn’t know how to finish it or how it would turn out? Probably not.

Avoiding tasks because you are unsure of the outcome limits the opportunity to learn new things. Tackling a challenge allows a you to build and use your skills.

To cope when a project or task isn’t going well, you learn to manage your expectations. Perhaps you need more training or support, or you may need more time to find a solution.

Coping moves you toward completing a task, while avoidance may keep you from even trying.

 

Coping Is A Skill That Can Be Improved With Practice

So, have you worked out whether you cope or avoid yet?

I have a friend who never bats an eyelid at difficult situations. She just deals with them and moves on. This is a skill she has always had, and I envy her greatly.

She attributes it to being raised in a very entrepreneurial family, where adjusting quickly to a changing environment was often needed. She calls it her ‘kick ass’ coping strategy!

Happy mature woman giving thumbs up to camera

But, for most of us mere mortals, we need to hone our coping strategies so that we are better able to deal with issues and don’t resort to avoidance.

People who cope extremely well when things go wrong tend to use numerous different methods to recognize, deal with, and manage their problems.

Being able to cope is a positive, healthy mental and emotional strategy, because the psychological boost you feel after dealing with the issue is empowering.

Effective coping strategies can be the main difference between people with issues like anxiety and depression versus those who do not experience them.

 

Signs You May Have Lost Control Over Your Life

Do you feel like every day is a challenge?

None of us know what the day will hold. You might have a good idea of what’s going to unfold, but none of us really know for certain.

I’m sure you remember this famous saying:

“Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get” – Forrest Gump

It’s very easy to just let life drift by, hoping our best-laid plans will pan out. But, you need to nurture those plans to ensure life is enjoyable, productive and fulfilling.

Mature woman looking thoughtful and concerned. Worried about life

If you are concerned that you may have lost control over your life, then here are five signs to look out for:

  • You feel Constantly Tired

Do you wake each morning still feeling unrested? Do you find it really hard to experience joy, excitement or even passion in your life?

Then, there is a good chance you have lost control. Going through the motions is a terrible way to live.

People who are in control of their life embrace each day with exuberance. They relish each challenge and look forward to tomorrow, next week and everything to come in their future.

  • There’s No Enjoyment In Life

No matter how hard you try, you can’t find enjoyment in anything anymore.

Whether it’s hobbies, catching up with friends, watching a great sports match on TV, or even binging Netflix. You just can’t get interested in it now.

  • Food Doesn’t Interest You

You only eat to stay alive now, but no longer for enjoyment.

Even chocolate doesn’t hold the same appeal it used to…OMG. You have lost control my friend. Time to take steps to get it back!

  • You Are Questioning Everything

Do you sit and mull over your life and the decisions you’ve made, second guessing where you should have done things differently?

If this is a common occurrence, it could be an indication that you’re on the wrong path.

Something deep inside will be nagging at you about what you should have done, and what you should do now. Listen to that voice and start to make a plan.

  • You Feel Disconnected

Your family and friends should be a source of joy and one of your key connections to your world, but do you feel incredibly lonely even when they’re around?

This is so much more common than you may think, and it’s a sure sign you have lost control over your life.

You might have people surrounding you, but somehow you have lost that connection to them, and you aren’t sure how to get it back.

View this as an opportunity to reach out to your closest, most trusted friends, and work on building those connections. You will start to feel more in control again.

  • You Feel Negative & Pessimistic

If you constantly think pessimistic, negative, or destructive thoughts, then this is an indication that you have lost control of your life.

It’s also a symptom of escalating depression. If this describes you, then you have to get a grip on your thought process before you fall into a black hole!

 

Are You Having An Existential Crisis?

Have you ever heard the term existential crisis, particularly in more recent times?

Many people I have asked think this think it is a New Age term used in meditation and by spiritual people, referring to a loss of faith or searching for the meaning of their existence.

While this is partly true, it also refers to any serious events in a person’s life which causes them to question why they exist, what life is all about, and whether it’s even worth continuing to live.

Woman looking panicked and distressed with hands over face

It can occur at any age and be brought on by many aspects of life. The most common time we experience these feelings is during periods of great transition or uncertainty.

These can be events such as bereavement, divorce, major illness, bankruptcy, empty nest, retrenchment, AND this terrible global pandemic.

It boils down to our inability to adapt to a situation in which we feel powerless.

In situations where the very foundation of your life is shaken or crumbling, it’s natural to question the meaning of life when faced with such change and disruption.

Do you recognize any of these symptoms?

  • Are You Feeling Overwhelmed?

You feel overwhelmed by the idea of death, whether it’s your own or someone else’s.

If you suddenly have an increased awareness about the reality of death, or even how difficult life can be, then this can lead to overwhelming bouts of contemplation.

This can often be brought on unexpectedly later in life by the illness or death of an aging parent or friend.

The sudden jolt about the fragility of life and your own mortality, makes you start to question your own life and lost opportunities.

In a worst-case scenario, you may experience thoughts like – “If I am doomed to die, what is the point of living at all?”

It sounds dramatic but many people do go through a phase like this in their life. Even though it can be temporary, it’s still devastating at the time.

  • Do You Have A Constant Feeling Of Sadness?

Do you dwell on the past? Are you suddenly preoccupied with questioning all of your life choices, even the minor ones?

While it’s normal to sometimes think about moments from your past, calling into question everything that has happened to you  may be a sign that you’re going through an existential crisis.

Do you constantly feel sad about a direction or path you’ve taken in your life?

For example; do you wish you’d chosen a different career and imagine what life could be like now?

Do you think about a former romantic partner that you consider the ‘one who got away’, even though you’re happily with someone else now?

Do you wish you had children, or maybe NOT had children and imagine how different your life would be?

The past can’t be changed, so all these thoughts are pointless, unhealthy and may indicate an existential crisis. Moreover, it can correspond with, or lead to depression.

  • Are You Consumed By Worry?

Does everything seem to bother you as if your life is falling apart?

When even little events are becoming major dramas in your life, and you lie awake at night consumed by worry and fear over issues that can easily be overcome.

And, I’m sure you already know that nighttime is the worst for far and insecurities raising their ugly heads.

Strangely, the same thoughts and feelings don’t seem anywhere near as bad in the morning light. But if they continue to be just as bad the next day then you may be having an existential crisis.

You may not know what triggered it yet, but it’s something you must take seriously and try to get to the bottom of the true cause. Because, maintaining this level of worry is not healthy, and it can create severe anxiety.

It may also lead you to feel emotionally paralyzed, questioning all future decisions because you don’t believe you can be trusted to make the right choices.

  •  Are Naps Becoming A New Pastime?

Are you feeling the need to have naps more than ever? If so, you may be going through an existential crisis. Napping isn’t a problem…but using it as a way to avoid addressing a current situation is.

Sleep is used by many people as a means for ‘hiding’ from problems that appear insurmountable. Our body uses it as a coping mechanism, triggering tiredness when we are under emotional stress…but it can also be a form of avoidance.

You’re possibly not aware that you are trying to avoid dealing with the issue, but unfortunately when you wake up after each nap, the problem will still be there.

Note: this is ‘Ostrich Syndrome’ but in a comfortable horizontal position!

  • Has Your Usual Positive Attitude Taken a Beating?

Do you feel that you can’t rise above your unhappy mood even to enjoy happy events around you? This lack of positivity, especially if you are usually a positive person, can mean you’re in an existential crisis. (related post)

Believe it or not, many things can trigger this type of crisis, and many people experience it at some point in their lives.

For example; my trigger was finding out that I had kidney cancer. Luckily, I was able to fully recover without chemo, something I am extremely grateful for.

I became very aware of my own mortality, something which is very a common among cancer survivors. This can seriously mess with your head.

But there can be a huge upside…

It was an enormous kick in the backside for me, forcing me to re-examining my existence and decide what I wanted from the coming years of my life. (related post you may like)

Understand & Accept That Life Throws Curveballs

As the saying goes, there are only two things in life that are certain…death & taxes!

Everything else is unpredictable and life is pretty good at throwing curveballs, usually when you least expect it.

Baseball pitcher ready to pitch. Close up of hand behind pitchers back holding the ball

These can vary in destructiveness and severity. Regardless, it is impossible to escape the impact.

The pandemic is a good example of a curveball that none of us saw coming. The stress, uncertainty, and emotional anxiety it has caused has led to many people experiencing their own existential crisis.

Curveballs leave your feeling like your life has been flipped upside down. Some of them deprive you of a normal source of reassurance and comfort.

They disrupt your usual routine, and it can take some time and concerted effort to restore your faith in life before moving on.

Disappointment is something everyone will face at some point in their lives in varying degrees, and there are so many reasons why things can go wrong in life.

Maybe you were rejected by a person you really like, or you didn’t get a long-awaited promotion.

Maybe it’s closer to home like a divorce, financial problems, or constant issues with family members. Any major disappointment can result in feelings of sadness, anxiety, and a sense of loss.

But, an understanding and acceptance that this is a normal aspect of life will help you come to terms with it and learn to cope rather than avoid.

 

14 Essential Coping Strategies For When Things Go Wrong

Whatever the disappointment may be, it is important to try and cope with the situation and not allow it to consume your life. So, how can you cope under these extraordinary and often dark circumstances?

Try these essential strategies:

 

1. Accept That Your Feelings Are Valid

It’s perfectly normal to feel disappointment, angry or sad when something doesn’t turn out the way you expected or hoped.

You’re not super-human. These emotions are natural.

We all react differently to stress, and it’s very common for us to have trouble remaining rational. You are likely to behave in unexpected ways compared to normal.

While you are entitled to them to these feelings, it’s not healthy to blame others for your emotion responses. Talk about your feelings but don’t get angry with others for not sharing them. We are all different.

This understanding and acceptance will help you cope with all the emotions swirling around you, allowing you the strength to see things through to better times.

A better response is to take responsibility for the situation and ask yourself what you could have done differently.

 

2. Focus On What You Can Control

In our modern world, we are conditioned to believe that when something terrible occurs there is someone there to blame. There can be no catastrophe without blame.

But, when your world has been turned upside down, and there’s no one to blame, we tend to turn it inwards and hold ourselves responsible.

This is not only irrational, it’s a really unhealthy response and one that will never benefit your already compromised state of mind.

At this point, you need focus…not blame.

What’s done is done and while you might want to rehash it, that will not serve you well. Your best bet is to focus on what you can control.

You can control your reactions and responses, and you are in control of steering your life back in a positive direction.

 

3. Gain Perspective

Immediately following a disappointing situation, it can be hard to realize that you have lost your perspective.

Even if you feel like this is the worst thing that’s happening right now, stepping back, composing yourself, and examining the situation, will help to put things back into perspective.

Dwelling on failure based on previously held beliefs, will hold you back from recognizing new and different options.

I have experienced this when something didn’t go to plan. Following the disappointment, I realized that actually, this allowed for something better to occur.

 

4. Manage Your Expectations

We all have expectations, but they are often unrealistic. It’s important that you learn to manage your expectations otherwise you are setting yourself up for being let down.

We view the success of others and think that the same can be achieved by us.

The problem is that other peoples’ successes may have come after years of trial and error…something we don’t factor into our equation.

The outcome of this is that when things don’t go to plan, our natural reaction is to beat ourselves up emotionally over your apparent inability to be successful.

This is followed by disillusionment, disappointment, and anxiety…and it’s extremely counter-productive!

Learning to be very realistic about what you can and can’t expect to achieve is a valuable skill, and one that can save you plenty of heartache and frustration. Following your own path is the only way to go.

 

5. Maintain Normal Routines

Keeping to your routine as much as possible will create a feeling of normalcy which can be very comforting when things start to go sideways.

The loss of normalcy in any crisis or upheaval greatly contributes to our sense of doom and gloom. Sticking to your normal routines as much as possible will help to settle your emotions.

Even simple daily routines will tell your mind that the world is in order, allowing you the breathing space to start a coping strategy for whatever has occurred.

 

6. Take Time & Space To Reflect

Take a step back and pause. This allows your brain to adjust to the change, rather than react and try to rush through the bad situation quickly.

A sense of distance, whether literal or mental, allows time to rebuild your confidence and formulate a plan. Trying to let go of what you wanted even for a while will allow you to adjust your goals.

For example: if you have relationship breakup, don’t be afraid to go away somewhere alone for a little while. Choose somewhere peaceful where you can collect your thoughts. It’s not running away, it’s time for you to quietly regroup.

Once your confidence is back and you have a new game plan to implement you can start working toward the next phase of your life.

Contemplation can have a very calming effect, bringing things into perspective and allowing for more rational and considered reaction to changes.

 

7. Think New Thoughts

Change your thoughts from a negative to a positive. Positivity is always going to help you deal with life’s up and downs.

Reframing your thoughts in this way takes the power away from negative outcomes, allowing you to better cope and come up with solutions.

 

8. Banish Self Doubt

When things go wrong, your ego can take a battering. You may experience self- doubt, leaving you so disappointed that you become reluctant to try other things in case you fail again.

Reassess the situation with a short-term mindset. Ok, it didn’t work this time…but that doesn’t mean it can’t work in the future.

Maybe your expectations were too high, so consider lowering them until you see a level of success that empowers you. Then reach for the bigger goals.

 

9. Remain Objective

Being objective is a trait we would all like to have. What better way to make decisions than to do so with facts? Sounds like an easy proposition, right?

Yet it’s anything but.

We all have biases, and they can negatively impact our life. We view things based on our own past experiences, upbringing, and expectations.

But we are often wrong. Whatever you think you know, objectivity will help you to determine what is real and what is based on your bias.

This is especially true when you are overwhelmed with stress and in need of a healthy coping mechanism. Thinking objectively will help you cope, by allowing you to remain flexible and avoid rigid thinking.

 

10. Make Plans

Plan ahead wherever possible.

This can be in relation to a nest-egg of savings, a bug-out for serious societal unrest (I never would have considered this until the pandemic), or even an alternative course for your life or career if things go wrong.

Maybe it’s time to make some pivotal life decisions now that things have taken an unexpected turn.

 

11. Always Be Grateful

Gratitude can have the effect of minimizing the impact of change, even if the outcome isn’t perfect.

If you look for it, there is always something to be grateful for.

The old saying that “every cloud has a silver lining” can help you find the good in bad situations, and this optimistic approach will greatly assist you to cope when things in your life don’t go to plan.

 

12. Search For Solutions

Once you have come to accept that the disappointment occurred, your world didn’t end, and you are capable of moving past it, you will need solutions.

Engaging in problem solving can be important in dealing with stress such as disappointment.

So, start planning – what are your next steps? If your career path has stalled, what can you do to restart it or redirect it?

Perhaps you were turned down by a person you liked. Well then, they were not the person for you, keep looking.

You may not always be able to find a solution to get the thing you were originally aiming for, but you use the knowledge and experience to reach for something new and worthwhile.

 

13. Seek Support

Don’t go it alone.

When things in our lives go pair-shaped, it’s a really common reaction to battle through it without asking for help.

The stiff upper lip approach is not only lonely, but it robs you of the support and friendship you need at a major crisis stage in your life.

Now is the time when your support network is more important than it has ever been. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends and family to help carry you through this challenge.

If you are facing financial hardship, find support in your community from other people in your position.

If you’re dealing with loss, contact a support group of people experiencing the same pain and can understand that you are going through.

 

14. Self-Care

Finally, you MUST look after yourself and practice self-care.

If someone you love was going through the same situation you find yourself in now, how would you respond?

Don’t withhold that same compassion and empathy from yourself.

If you need to take time for yourself, then take time for yourself. If you feel better when you are surrounded by the laughter of friends, surround yourself with the laughter of friends.

If organizing your life and addressing the problem head-on lifts your spirits, then do it. But…you must look after yourself at all costs.

 

Conclusion

I really hope you gained some great coping tips from this post.

I decided to write it because I have learned to use these strategies to help me identify when I’m avoiding a situation rather than coping with it.

Yes, I had my own existential crisis…in fact I’ve had several.

But guess what…I actually benefited from them.

They made me re-assess my life, helped me to make some pivotal life decisions, and find a level of happiness and contentment that I don’t think I would have achieved without them.

Seeing them as a way to learn, grow and become more positive about life is something I am truly grateful for.

If you like this post, please share on SM, and as always, I look forward to your comments.

 

 

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Hi, I'm Amanda

My passion is helping 50+ women live their best life possible and follow their dreams.

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