David Baxter PhD
Experiment with Your Coping Strategies for Better Resultsby Douglas Cootey, A Splintered Mind
Sept 19, 2022
Earlier this year, I admitted to myself that my current coping strategies weren’t fighting off my depression as effectively as they were before. Had they simply stopped working, or had something fundamental changed inside of me? The answer was complicated.
Obviously, my coping strategies weren’t working since I spent more than half of the days each week struggling to keep my spirits up, but for the longest time, I was too sick to do anything about it. I just limped along waiting to get better. The problem with that plan was that I wasn’t getting better. My depression was fueled by chronic illness. Waiting to get better to act was like waiting to see a doctor about a broken leg after it heals.
My coping strategies were based on basic cognitive behavior therapy principles: Identify the trigger. Implement a solution. Experience relief. They were also based on the belief that I could regulate my moods. They worked great for years until I came upon a new vector into depression.
The pandemic, and then experiencing COVID–19 personally, showed me that my coping strategies didn’t compensate for long term discouragement. It’s hard to feel positive and upbeat when you’re sick everyday. It’s hard to go out for a walk when you have a respiratory virus during a snowstorm. It’s hard to change the scenery when you are quarantined.
A curious thing happened to me, however. Although there were more than a few days where it could be said that I wallowed in misery, and although I muttered and complained about my lot in life more than I am comfortable to admit, I didn’t stop being me. My need to solve my mental health issues didn’t park itself in the shed and gather dust, leaves, and cobwebs throughout the Winter. After some time, I realized that I needed to change my approach. I chatted with others more, I began new projects while quarantined, I started exercising daily in very minute amounts, and I stopped feeling guilty about being sick.
I kept trying to move forward with as much vigor as I could summon. As the expression goes, I threw whatever I could at the wall over and over again to see what would stick. I found quite a few projects that stuck. In fact, I ended up with a fairly bad case of Multi-Irons Syndrome, as I like to call it. Although I now have to go through the tedious process of pruning all these conflicting projects (I don’t have time to do them all), I am so very glad that I am recovering to the point that I can start pruning. I’m even grateful.
We all deal with depression in our own way. Some seek therapy, some seek meds, and some seek both. I won’t tell you which method is the best one for you. Only you can determine that. One size does not fit all.. As for me, I began to almost desperately reach out to any project or idea that caught my fancy. Making plans and projects is an act of hope. I am relieved that even at my bleakest, I was still counting on getting through the hardships to bring new ideas to life. Now I’ve been to a Post COVID clinic and have a healthcare ToDo list that exhausts me to just think about, but I am hopeful again, which is a nice change.
But where does that leave you? If you are struggling to manage your depression due to the pandemic or, like me, if you are dealing with Post-COVID (Long COVID), you may find yourself suddenly turned into a glass-half-empty type of person, especially if that glass was formerly filled with health and stamina. Chronic fatigue can sap you of cheer just as much as it does energy.
My advice is to not give up. Turn to your coping strategies and start adapting them to your new circumstances. Get wild. Keep trying. In my case, I forgot which aspect of depression my coping strategies were addressing. When I decided to fight back, even if each and every new coping strategy ended in failure, the act of trying was an act of hope. You need to exercise hope like a weak muscle—carefully at first, but then with greater and greater gusto. You are your own best advocate, so keep advocating with yourself for yourself. Find reasons to keep looking forward despite all the setbacks.
When your coping strategies fail you, it is important to rethink them. Eventually, you will find a remedy that is perfect for your situation. The alternative to is fossilize and mope, perpetuating your pain. Let’s all keep pushing forward instead.