How I’ll Find Happiness in 2011: Developing Strategies for Coping

In my sixth month of exploring The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky as a part of my journey on finding happiness in 2011, the month of June was dedicated to the act of developing strategies for coping: practicing ways to endure or surmount a recent stress, hardship or trauma.

This post is a month late. And I am grateful for that.

I was not looking forward to June or July in relation to this book project. The book notes the sixth and seventh strategies focus on facing the stress, adversity and crisis that occurs in your life. Coping is what people do to alleviate the stress or suffering caused by a negative situation. You can cope by using:.

  • Problem-focused coping, or solving your problems by setting goals, making a plan and making it a priority.
  • Emotion-focused coping, which include behavioral strategies (like reaching out to a friend, going for a walk, finding distraction) as well as cognitive ones (like reinterpreting the situation, acceptance or turning to religion).

I didn’t take long for me to realize my tendency to deal with stress by finding distraction. I don’t like unhappiness. I don’t like arguments. I don’t like being uncomfortable. If it’s not the status quo, I am uneasy and am always doing one of two things: trying to fix it or ignoring it.

My original plan for this post was to share my thoughts on two days of workouts without music: one Friday morning 3.5 mile maintenance run around my neighborhood, The other, about a Saturday morning yoga session. Then my grandfather was admitted into the hospital. He had been fading since July 2nd, but – surprise, surprise – I was pretending that it wasn’t happening. He continued to deteriorate, I continued to disassociate until his very last days.

On Sunday the 17th, my grandfather passed away. In my last effort to ignore reality, my cell phone was charging upstairs, away from where I was blogging that morning. But you can only hide for so long. This came true when my dad arrived at my house to tell me the news first hand. No more avoiding reality. Time to face it head on.

On Monday the 18th, I could have gone into the kitchen, kept busy and pretended like it was another day. Instead, I worked from home where I was constantly reminded of my grandfather. In that day spent crying in between emails, phone calls and research at my kitchen table, I decided to make it a priority to find acceptance with the situation. 

I took some time to remember him and all the wonderful things he taught me.  In that day, I wrote the post sharing those lessons, which I would eventually read at his service. Those words, that post and this blog allowed me to come to peace with his passing.

I previously said my grandfather would never want me sitting around, moping the day away. At the same time, I believe he would have wanted me to face my issues head on. In that, I’ve realized my new form of coping has a more problem-focused approach. Instead of ignoring or distraction, I can solve my problems by setting goals, making a plan and making it a priority.

That new view also comes with a  new intention: I AM PRESENT. It’s a primary lesson in yoga: to stay on your mat, in the moment. To not think about what stressed you out before walking in the room or worrying about what you have to do when you leave. To really feel at peace, you need to continue that practice off the mat and into your everyday life.

I’m trying to embrace being present at all times in a few ways – including some of the tips that Angela recently shared on her blog. Funny how just remembering to BREATHE brings you back into the present moment! Am I the only one who forgets to breathe on a regular basis?! It’s not an overnight change, but I see it slowly making a difference in the management of my anxiety and the progress of increasing happiness in my life.

What does the next month have in store? July was pretty heavy, so we’re going to skip that scheduled strategy for now – I promise to come back to forgiveness!  I will focus on August’s task of Increasing Flow Experiences: Doing more activities that truly engage you, where you completely “lose” yourself, which are challenging and absorbing.  This should go well with my new mantra!

How do you stay present in this crazy life?

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5 comments

  1. Jess says:

    I have been trying to limit how much time I spend online or on my phone or whatever when I’m at home. It’s not always a stellar performance on my part, but I’m making an effort to give a go at staying in the moment more often than not. So easy to miss out on the little joys in life if I’m not present for much of it. A constant struggle especially with social media thrown into the mix!!

  2. jobo says:

    Beautiful post. And very honest. And poignant relative to your grandfather. I too avoid or distract rather than face things I’d rather not. I hate being out of my comfort zone too, and fight it even though in the end, I know that when I am uncomfortable is when I am growing and learning the most. Annoyingly true ;-) I love your stay-present mantra and I need to keep to that as well, it’s easy to forget.

  3. Bess says:

    What a wonderful post… I too tend to use distraction to cope with stress though I have recently been allocating a little time every day to guided meditation and I’m finding it’s helping my mindset a lot as well as curing me from my tendency to breathe fast and shallow all the time.

    You are an inspiration to so many people… just know that :)

  4. Jeff Hershberger says:

    Well written, you really got to the core of something. To answer your question, I’ve had less success with staying present and more success with figuring things out later (usually when I’m doing something completely unrelated) and catching the moment of clarity when it comes. I write myself a note so I can think about it more. I’m lousy at being in the moment, but eventually I figure things out.

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