Positive and Negative Stress Coping Skills
As you read this page, I want
you to be looking at your child, your spouse, and YOU. It is important
you do not leave yourself out of this one. In fact, first you are
going to concentrate on you. We are all human, and every human being
uses these skills. So be honest with yourself.
Yes, everything on this page applies to your
child as well. It applies to anyone who is human. That means it
applies to you, your spouse, your children, your family members, strangers,
It is going to be real easy to
see the coping skills your child or spouse use. They will stand out
like a sore thumb. You will find yourself saying, "Yep. That is what
my kid does. Yep. I told you. Hey, my spouse does that."
You will have a big desire to tell your child this and then expect him/her
to stop using negative coping skills. I'm sorry to say it won't work
that way though. Your child will probably rebel against you if you approach
it that way. But, you should
have your spouse read this page as well.
Both you and your spouse should read this page,
identify your negative stress coping skills individually and sit down and
discuss them together. Then pick some positive coping skills you would
like to work towards to replace the negative ones. If your spouse does
not want to do this, that is ok, you still need to do this.
Yes, I know, your child uses mostly all
negative coping skills and the behavior is driving you nuts! You think
some of these skills are because your child has been diagnosed with Reactive
Attachment Disorder, ODD, Bipolar, etc. and they are part of that disorder.
At times it can sure look that way. But these skills are not part of RAD or
other diagnoses, they are negative stress coping skills. I'll say that
again. These behaviors are responses to an overload of stress and are
negative stress coping skills. So when you are told or think your
child does this because he/she has RAD or some other diagnosis (other than
PTSD), you are being misled. Your child does this because that is how
your child learned to cope with stress. Even a small amount of stress
like deciding between a hamburger or chicken nuggets can cause your child to go
into a negative stress coping response!
It's kinda like which came first, the chicken or
the egg? Well in the case of RAD, ODD, etc., the stress came first and
keeps building and growing bigger and bigger. If a person remains in
high stress situations for a long time, the body forgets what to do when out
of the stress. You must re-teach your body what to do and how to calm.
This is an involuntary function of the nervous system. Again,
this is an involuntary function of the nervous system.
Stress hinders a person's ability to attach. If
you want your child to attach, you first have to learn the extent of your
child's stress and work to calm his/her stress. A child will
only be able to attach when that child is calm and safe.
If you have been living in a lot of stress from
parenting these children for the last few years, then you know exactly what
I am talking about. You have been so stressed out that it is very
difficult to relax and enjoy life anymore. You may even have developed
PTSD by now! The majority of parents do develop PTSD! Well, with
that said, it is time to take care of yourself and time to get you out of
the vortex and heal the PTSD.
I know, you just want
to stop the behavior in the kid right now and then work on yours, as most of yours
will disappear then. I know.. I know. But you can't do it that way.
In time you will be ready to help your child turn negative coping
skills into positive ones, but right now you have to concentrate on
yourself! You can not even concentrate on your spouse! You have
to concentrate only on yourself right now. You can discuss this with
your spouse, Hopefully your spouse will do this for him/herself as well, and
then the two of you can discuss this and begin to recognize the coping skills in
each other and work with them.
Then start observing the negative coping skills
your child and the people around you display (at the school, at work, at the store,
neighbors, etc.). Just observe. In the beginning, just
observe and contemplate. Remember, your main focus at this point is to
recognize your own negative coping skills and to pull yourself out of a
negative coping skill the minute you recognize one. When you recognize
one in someone else (your child included), for right now, just observe and
contemplate. Don't forget, just observe for right now. Just recognize
the behavior for what it is, a negative stress coping skill.
Right now you just have to take care of
yourself. You have to find your negative coping skills and work to
replace them with positive coping skills. Yes, you will begin to
recognize the stress coping skills in your child. When this happens
remember, you must remain calm and not allow the stress coping skill to pull
you in the vortex. For now, just recognizing it in yourself, your
child, and others is a big step! You are going to first start with your
own and concentrate on making your life as calm as you can, even though you
live in a chaotic atmosphere with people constantly using negative stress
coping skills. It is going to be tough, but you can do it!
Most people cope successfully with 98% of their
stressors. We make hundreds of adjustments each day and manage most
situations quite well. Wow, that means it is only 2% of your stressors
that are driving you nuts! Oh, that is encouraging! That puts it
in a more manageable perspective. That simple 2% has grown very large
and damaging. So all you have to do is start working
on reducing the impact of that 2%.
Usually no single strategy will be effective in
managing all of life's challenges. That is why we need a variety of
coping skills. Most people use three or four favorite coping styles
over and over again (copers to rely on regularly to get through most tough
Every one of your coping mechanisms work, or
you wouldn't use it again! Yes, this is true for your child as
well. Every one of his/her coping mechanisms works and reduces his/her
stress. This is why no matter what you do, your child keeps doing what
he/she does! His mind/body needs immediate relief of the stress, and
coping skills provide that. His unconscious mind will continue to do the
same thing no matter what you do. This is why
consequences have so little effect on the child. Also, remember here, that
every one of your coping mechanisms work too, and your unconscious
mind will try to keep using them.
But some copers have a high cost.
We call these negative copers. They bring immediate relief from
tension but the positive effects don't last long, and the negative side
effects are often quite serious.
Most negative copers are effective short-term
stress relievers, but they create additional problems if repeated
over a long period of time or in response to too many stressors.
Below is a list of stress coping skills. A
coping skill can be positive or negative. Negative coping skills cost
you every time you use them. They will mask the problem.
Negative Coping Skills
(Drink to change your mood. Use alcohol as your friend)
(Pretend nothing is wrong. Lie. Ignore the problem)
(Abuse coffee/aspirin/medications. Illegal drug use.)
finding (Have a judgmental attitude. Complain. Criticize.)
(Develop headaches/nervous stomach/major illness. Become
(Stay up late, sleep in. Buy on impulse. Waste time.)
(Hope it gets better. Procrastinate. Wait for lucky break)
(Get even. Be sarcastic. Talk mean)
Stubbornness (Be rigid. Demand your way. Refuse to be wrong.)
(Yell, mope, pout, swear. Drive recklessly)
Go on a diet. Use food to console yourself, ice
cream, chocolate, comfort foods, etc.)
(Smoke to relieve tension. Smoke to be "in".)
Withdraw (Avoid the situation. Skip school or work. Keep
feelings to self.)
(Fret over things. Imagine the worse)
Identify your negative coopers. What do these copers do
for you? What does it cost you when you use them?
Positive Coping Skills
is the easiest to learn and provides the fastest results!)
Getaways (Spend time
alone. See a movie. Daydream.)
Hobbies (Write. Paint.
Remodel. Create something.)
Learning (Take a class.
Read. Join a club.)
Music (Play a instrument.
Sing. Listen to your stereo.)
Play (play a game. Goof
off. Go out with friends.)
Work (Tackle a new
project. Keep busy. Volunteer.)
Pet therapy can be very helpful to adults and children. If using this
to help a child, make sure the child is supervised at all times with a pet.
Never leave a child alone with a pet. In an unsupervised situation the
child could easily become stressed and hurt the pet.)
Balancing (Balance time
at work and home. Accept the good and the bad.)
Conflict Resolution (Look
for win/win solutions. Forgive readily.)
Esteem Building ( Build
good Family feelings. Focus on personal strengths.)
Flexibility ( Take on a
new Family roles. Stay open to change.)
friendships with other families. Make use of the community resources.)
Togetherness (Take time
to be together. Build family traditions. Express affection.)
Along with improving your ability to relax, you must assess diet and other
strains on your body.
physical fitness, job, swim, dance, or walk. Aerobic
exercise can reduce anxiety up to 50%)
- Good nutrition
(a well balanced diet will improve your ability to appropriately respond
- Sleep (Get
an adequate amount of rest each night.)
(Reducing caffeine intake will help you manage your anxiety. 2 ½ cups of
coffee doubles the epinephrine level).
Affirmation (Believe in
yourself. Trust others. Give compliments.)
Assertiveness (State your
needs and wants. Say "no" respectfully.)
Contact (Make new
friends. Touch. Really listen to others.)
Limits (Accept other's
boundaries. Drop some involvement.)
Linking (Share problems
with others. Ask for support from family and friends.)
Imagination (Look for the
humor. Anticipate the future.)
Life planning (set clear
goals. Plan for the future.)
Organizing (Take charge.
Make order. Don't let things pile up.)
Problem Solving (Solve it
yourself. Seek outside help. Tackle problems.)
perspectives. Look for good in a bad situation.)
Time Management ( Focus
on top priorities. Work smarter.)
Biofeedback (Listen to
your body. Know your physical limitations.)
exercise (Pursue physical
fitness. Jog, swim, dance, or walk.)
Nourishment (Eat for
health. Limit the use alcohol.)
Relaxation (tense and
relax each muscles. Take a warm bath. breath deeply.)
Self-Care (Energize your
work and play. Strive for self-improvement.)
Stretching (take short
stretch breaks through out your day.)
Commitment (Take up a
worthy cause. Say "yes." Invest yourself meaningfully.
Faith (Find purpose and
meaning. Trust God.
Prayer (Confess. Ask
forgiveness. ray for others. Give thanks.
Surrender (Let go of
problems. Learn to live with situations.)
Valuing (Set priorities.
Be consistent. Spend time and energy wisely.
Worship (Share beliefs
with others. Put faith into action.)
The above are techniques that
are reliable stress relievers without the negative side effects. These
skills can be used over and over again for a variety of stressful
Now pick a positive stress coper
that you can do as soon as you recognize you are using a negative one.
Write the positive coper next to the negative one. Write "I will work
to replace "(name of negative coper)" with "(name of positive coper).
After doing this, post what you
are comfortable sharing in our forum under
stress. Talk about how you will change a negative response into a
positive one with others on the stress forum.