During my first marriage my wusband (past tense for husband, a word I adopted from a wise friend) was drinking a lot, as alcoholics do… until they don’t. In between binges or out of the fog sometimes he would have profound moments of clarity. I’ll never forget him saying just before falling asleep, drunk, one night, “It all comes down to how you feel about yourself.”
Also, he predicted, “I have to lose an arm or you to quit drinking.”
And he famously yelled at, or to, himself one afternoon, “I’M 34 YEARS OLD AND I HAVE NO COPING SKILLS!”
Which was partially true. He had the maladaptive coping skill of drinking. He ran for exercise which helped him quite a bit. And he had a great sense of humor – essential for getting through this life, don’t you think?
I was in the midst of developing coping skills at that time, going to Al-Anon meetings, practicing yoga and meditation, studying under Henry Grayson, and reading lots of books that taught me things to practice that have really turned out to be invaluable in maintaining peace and serenity much of the time. In case you feel like you “HAVE NO COPING SKILLS!” I’ll share them here. If you have more coping skills to share please expound on this list.
In my experience thus far here is what I have found helpful:
- Question your thoughts. Many of them are bullshit, frankly. Try applying The Work of Byron Katie to a stressful thought. Or just take them lightly. Some of them are quite hilarious. Tell a new story if the one in your head is bumming you out or worrying you. If it’s a story about the future you may be right or not, but even if you are, why experience that now?
- Accept. Accept each moment and the reality of each moment. It’s pointless to argue with what is right now. After you see and accept the reality of a situation you can then decide if you want to take any action, but first dropping out of resistance and struggling makes it much easier to choose wisely.
- Don’t take anything personally. Everyone is being perfectly themselves and it has little to do with you. Focus on and take care of yourself. You are responsible for your own happiness.
- Let go of expectations. But only if you want to be happy. (Click and Tweet it) You may choose to be right instead (wink, wink). Our expectations of others don’t actually change them, it’s not loving, and it results in frustration, at least. A favorite Al-Anon slogan of mine is “Expectations are planned resentments.” (Hurts going down, I know.)
- Move and feel the body. There is a wealth of wisdom and guidance in the body that many of us cut off by only living in the head and listening with devotion to thoughts (see #1). Drop down into the body. Do it right now. It only takes a few seconds. Bring your awareness down below the head, below the neck, and feel, on the inside… the throat, the chest, the belly. Allow whatever is there to be there. Check in there often especially when making decisions, when relating with other people, when looking for answers or solutions. My body tells me when something is fishy, when someone/thing is right for me, when I need to rest, and a myriad of other things practical and spiritual. She likes to move and stretch, to hit the punching bags and to lie in savasana, to hug and to be held, massaged, and sometimes cracked and adjusted on a table. What does your body like or need?
- Laugh. This the wusband had down. It’s probably what helped keep him alive and kept us together for so long. The most stress-filled times were often diffused by humor. I try to make my yoga students laugh or at least smile when they look like they have begun to struggle or take the whole thing too seriously. “If you have lost your sense of humor, that’s too far,” I often say. In life too, perhaps. If we’ve lost our sense of humor we may have gone down a road too far, taken a thought or belief way to seriously, or maybe we’re temporarily lost in general… and we can look back later, and laugh.
If you have any items to add to this list, please share.
And if you found this musing helpful, please share with it your people.