Building Resilience with Coping Skills
April 13, 2023
Life is a marathon, not a sprint. As life progresses into and throughout adulthood, competing responsibilities continuously mount. Between the duties of work and home life, it's easy to feel like endless obligations are burying you, with many of them being emotionally difficult, as well.
For me, I have been experiencing the full spectrum of the life cycle. On the same day, I found out my wife was pregnant with our first child, my father also found out he had an incurable cancer. About three years later, my wife and I recently had our second child while my father has been battling illnesses with a compromised immune system. I have realized that I have now taken over my father’s mantle of leadership within my family, as both he and my mother now lean on me for support, in addition to my wife and now two children.
In Joseph Campbell’s, The Hero’s Journey, the ninth stage of the hero (a metaphor for coming into adulthood) is the "Atonement with the Father." As described by Campbell, atonement can be literally interpreted as “at-one-ment” with the father archetype. This is the point where we come to terms with bearing the full weight of life’s responsibilities as we confront and replace the leadership figure. It is a very difficult period psychologically and emotionally and happens to people of all different ages. And if we live long enough, it is inevitable.
While these psychological and emotionally difficult situations come to pass, it can be incredibly difficult to remain focused while at work. Yet, poor performance at work can result in even more stress for our family life if our job and financial security are affected. So how do we find the strength to keep our energies high while continuously supporting more and more responsibilities at home and work?
The key to not crumbling when times get rough is by building resilience. Resilience is not being immune to stress and adversity but rather being able to adapt positively to challenging situations. In order to make it through all of life’s challenges, we must be able to process and respond to hard times in healthy and strengthening ways. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Healthy Coping Skills
Building resilience requires developing healthy coping skills for handling stressful situations throughout life. There are two types of coping skills: Problem-Focused and Emotion-Focused. Problem-Focused coping skills are for when you need to make a change in life, whereas Emotion-Focused coping skills are for when you don’t need to make a change or for things out of your control.
Examples of Problem-Focused coping skills are: making pros/cons lists, to-do lists, asking for support from others, and setting boundaries.
Examples of Emotion-Focused coping skills are: relaxation, hygiene, exercise, hobbies, and practicing mindfulness.
Regarding my current life situation of raising two under two while supporting my parents, the coping skills I should leverage are emotion-focused. My father’s illness and the needs of my children are out of my control, so I am not looking to make a change. What I have found that releases my stress well is playing guitar. I have been playing guitar since I was very young, and it is an activity that puts my mind at ease. Additionally, my children enjoy it when I play my guitar, so I have found ways to naturally integrate this activity into my routine.
Unhealthy Coping Methods
Many unhealthy coping skills involve the overuse or overdoing of a behavior as a means to mask emotional pain. Some common unhealthy habits are: overeating, oversleeping, overspending, oversharing, using alcohol/drugs, and context avoidance. It is important to avoid these common unhealthy coping methods during times of stress, as they can quickly make situations worse.
Proactive Coping Strategies
Since stressful life situations are unavoidable, it’s best to have preplanned coping strategies for when they inevitably arise. Research shows that having proactive coping strategies significantly helps people manage ongoing life challenges. To establish proactive coping strategies, it is important to prepare for situations that might be derailing. Therefore, building resilience involves enhancing self-awareness of one’s common personal stressors to prepare coping strategies. Personality assessments–like the True Tilt Personality Profile™–are excellent tools for revealing individual personality patterns, stress reactions, and hidden habits that can be used to strategize personal coping skills.
Resilience through tough times requires a high degree of self-awareness of behavioral habits, especially negative habits produced by stress. Knowing our negative reactions triggered by stress allows us to mitigate our potentially derailing actions that ultimately worsen situations. Additionally, understanding our reactions to different stressful situations gives us the ability to mindfully adjust how we respond and actively prepare with different coping strategies.
Having taken the True Tilt Personality Profile™, I have gained greater insight into my personal stress triggers and reactions to them. This has allowed me to recognize which situations are more likely to cause me to fall out of balance and flow, allowing me to preemptively plan coping activities. For example, knowing that I'm a Clarity Tilt pattern, during times of stress, I can become overly skeptical and resistant. Being resistant to new ideas and change is a quality that can cause more stress and counter-productivity in a household and at work. So, now when I recognize stressful situations approaching on the horizon, in order to stay resilient, I preplan time to play guitar with my children to mitigate my stress and maintain a healthy balance.