You do not always need the assistance of a therapist to cope with
times of stress. There are times when an appointment with a
therapist is clearly indicated, but there are certainly times when
you can cope without one. Of course, this depends upon your
personal skills, resources, and experiences.
You need a
therapist when you have difficulty distinguishing reality from
that which is not real. You need a therapist if you are suicidal
or homicidal, or contemplating or engaging in any harmful
behavior. A therapist is necessary when your own cognitions hinder
your success, when you practice thinking errors and need
assistance with recognizing more valid interpretations. It is also
wise to seek professional help when your behaviors cause you or
others distress and prevent you from achieving your goals.
Other times, a therapist may be beneficial but unnecessary.
Perhaps you can acquire and attain appropriate skills and
resources that will assist you in coping with problems. A
therapist can help you to attain these skills during a relatively
calm period in your life so that when crisis occurs, you are
prepared to cope. With practice, you can utilize appropriate and
effective coping skills under duress.
Identify your strengths and write them down. Do not lose this
list as it will be needed during times of stress. You can save
yourself the time and energy of trying to recreate this list when
you are perhaps in a disorganized state. Reminding yourself that
you do have strengths, skills, and successful experiences will
help you to cope with your next stressor. Reviewing this list
during a stressful period can provide hope.
Express your emotions safely. Denying them may result in them
seeping out in even more unwanted ways. If you
deny your anger,
you may resort to cutting (as an example). Establish a place and a
time when it is safe to vent your feelings. Sometimes it is
helpful to write them in a journal or to express them through
dance movements or visual art such as painting. Being with a
friend can provide a sense of safety. Sometimes a pillow or
stuffed animal (no matter your age) can be comforting as you
express your feelings.
Being able to contain your emotion is as important as
expressing it. You need to shift from an emotional state to a
rational one. Your reasoning skills are vital when it comes to
clarifying the problem, devising a plan, and identifying
resources. Writing and verbalization are great ways to move into a
logical mindset. Finding words, forming sentences from words,
categorizing ideas into lists are all rational mental skills.
Brainstorm all the possible outcomes. What would you need to do
to resolve the worst case scenario? Make lists of what you need to
do; prioritize your list. Identify what resources you need to
resolve your problem. Note how you can procure these resources.
Your list will change as you begin your action plan, as you
identify further needs or resources.
A support system is another valuable tool when
stress. Do you have people whom you trust to offer support and to
listen to your ideas? Will you permit those in your support system
to honestly and constructively criticize your plan? You need to be
open to the perspectives of others - they often see things that
are in our blind-spots. You also need encouragement from others
and a pat on the back, a shoulder to cry on, or a hug.
Stress diminishes hope, so you have to strive to restore it.
Despite the hardship, the setbacks, and the frustration, you have
to find some small accomplishment. Affirm your efforts. This might
be an area where your support system can assist you. Use your list
of strengths. An affirmation might be, "I've been through tough
times before and I will overcome this one too."
Pay attention to your thinking process. If your cognitions tend
to be full of doom and gloom, you need to interrupt that pattern.
It is not reasonable or efficacious to repeatedly tell yourself,
"I'm such a loser. I always mess up." No one's life is that bad.
No one ALWAYS messes up. Replace your distorted cognitions with
more realistic ones: "I've really messed up this time, but I'll
find a way to get through this."
These ideas may seem obvious to you when you are not
experiencing a crisis, but they become forgotten once stress slams
you. They require practice too. It is easier to practice good
mental health during periods of relatively less stress. Other
ideas to incorporate into your mental health preventive routine
are relaxation exercises (controlled breathing), physical
exercise, spiritual worship, laughter, adequate sleep, and