Self Care vs Coping

Self Care vs Coping.png

Ever since my attention was brought to the difference between self care and coping during my training in Peer Counseling in 2008, I have looked more carefully at the activities I engage in "to relax".

As a person with a sensitive nervous system, following a rigorous regimen of self care has proven to be essential in my life. A lot of trials and errors and multiple falling off the wagon and bouncing back have occurred; yet I always (sometimes begrudgingly) come back to my self care practice. Ongoing self care is essential if I want to live the life I feel called to live.

Ok, so what's the difference between self care and coping?

Well, what's the difference between journaling after a stressful day and eating ice-cream straight out of the tub? (There is a bit of an ice-cream theme going on today...).

Self care practices build our reserves up whereas coping strategies simply tide us over. Coping allows us to deal with difficulties in the short-term while self care maintains and replenishes our reserves in the long-term.

Coping strategies have an important role to play in time of crisis, but they contribute to draining us over time as they usually involve covering up the painful emotions we can't deal with in the present.

Occasionally taking our mind off a triggering event is fine, while consistently numbing out thoughts and feelings will have disastrous consequences in the long-term, as emotions must be processed to be eliminated. If they are not, their energy will get stuck in our organism and eventually lead to a lot of physical, emotional, and relational problems.

I'm looking at you, tension headache, panic attack, short temper,...

Although self care activities can certainly “feel good” in the moment, they usually require intention, commitment, and therefore (Here we go again!) some sacrifice, since their purpose is not to gratify us in the present moment but rather to build long-term reserves that we will be able to rely on in times of crisis.

Given my love affair with self care, there will be a lof of chatting about this topic on The Thread... Stay tuned!

Journaling Questions:

  • What self care practices are already part of my daily/weekly routine?
  • In what ways do I rely on them to live my life to the fullest?
  • What triggers me to shift to coping mode?
  • What emotion(s) do I try to avoid feeling when this shift occurs?