A coping strategy is an action that one resorts to, when faced with an unpalatable situation. Something that you find unbearable, but still have to bear it for a time, which seems too long. It maybe just half an hour or months and years. So then, you find some activity to do, to help you pass the time, during unbearable and tough times.
In a way, sabar, patience and tolerance becomes easier, when handled with some coping strategies which help you pass the time distracted with some attention grabbing diversion.
A funny incident:
There was this high-end international conference going on in Lahore, and Nadiya, (my daughter) was the Coordinator there. It was a tense situation where the cardiologist from Indonesia was to operate on a patient, demonstrating the use of certain type of stents, that the company was providing.
The process was to be watched by a team of cardiologists at the conference room. As she stood at the front porch of a five star hotel with the boss to receive guests. They weren’t arriving. There was actually, nothing they could do but wait. It was a very tense situation, as the guests were VIPs and one wondered why the delay? As she stood outside, with her boss, feeling the tension. He turns round and says, ‘Let’s have fish!’
Fish was the last thing on her mind at that moment. But they went and had it, till the guests finally arrived, and they did finally receive them! She had seen her boss do such surprising actions several times in her time in that office. She realized, it was his coping strategy during a tense situation.
We all have our own type of coping strategies:
It is also smart thing to do. Instead of making life miserable for yourself and others, in a tense and unbearable situation where really nothing can be done, why not do something harmless and distracting?
Back in 1971, when my father became a POW, we were living in the home of my mother’s sister-in-law and brother-in-law. We had no home, and lived with them during a very dark and unhappy time in our lives. My mother chose to do embroideries of trolly sets, luncheon sets, bedcovers and duchess sets.
She would do intricate embroideries for her home, and for me whenever I do get married (I was in my early teens then). It was something which kept my mother busy, doing something constructive. It diverted her from thinking about the grueling situation we were in. It was a creative activity which kept her mind and hands busy. There were even some folks asking my mother if there was any point in doing all this work, considering that her husband may never come home! (Some people can be so callous!)
Be tolerant of other folks’ coping strategies:
Sometimes we see others doing some silly activities, and you wonder why they are behaving this way. Before judging them, or coming to conclusions, do check if they aren’t doing these as a coping strategy. Then it will all fall into place. Perhaps it maybe something that you know about, or not. Whatever the case, we need to try to understand the behaviors of others in context of their circumstances. It is important for us to be understanding, tolerant and caring of others.
When you find someone else’s behavior ‘unreasonable’, just consider the fact, ‘is it a coping strategy?’
All my life, I have been trying to help others. Finding myself ill, I needed to still do things for others. So, I felt better, by sharing the special prayers with fellow patients. (I guess, it also helped me to cope better, and feel more like my usual self. In hospital I would take a break during my chemo for a walk, and during that time, I went and shared photocopies of these prayers with fellow patients.
It also helped me to continue with my food drive, as the activity motivated me to stay as well as possible. It helped me feel better, even though almost everyone asked me to stop it.
We all are living in a world, where we have to accept and cope with many unreasonable facts and realities. Sometimes, day in and day out. Some of them may be unbearable for us. Then what do we do? How do we actually cope?
Songs about it
Remember, there used to be an old song, ‘dar lagay to gana gaa!’ (If you feel scared, start singing a song!)
That is what I’m talking about. Another is
‘Yeh tum jo itna muskara rahay ho,
kiya gham hai jis ko chhupa rahay ho!’
(‘You are smiling so much,
what is the sorrow that you are trying to hide?’)
It helps to understand:
There are things you do, to distract yourself from unimaginable trials that you have to bear on a daily basis. So, what do you do, to make the process easier? My daughters living abroad, couldn’t stay away, and not only paid up for the chemo cycles, but also came to me, to be with me. Here, you see Nataliya who went with me for most of the radiation sessions.
Waliya was with me from day one, her sisters came over to give her a support in caring for me. Nadiya came, in spite of Covid19 with a two-year-old toddler, to stay four months. Keeping an eye on things for me. All this helped them feel better, and it helped me get well. This is the best kind of coping strategy, which helps you feel better, and is a solid step in improving things in that situation.
Different types of Coping mechanisms:
I’ve always found painting to be very distracting. It can be painting, reading, walking, swimming, throwing parties and most of all being busy with social media. Normally, these are fine things to do. You just watch out and make sure these don’t get out of hand.
Is your coping strategy destructive?
Be aware about your coping strategies. The ones mentioned above, are harmless types. However, there are the dangerous ones like having extra-marital affairs, drinking, drugs, and over eating, which are not only dangerous for your personal wellbeing and relationships, but highly addictive and destructive. So, it pays to step back, and look at yourself, and find out the motive behind your actions. Once you know it is a coping strategy, make sure it is not going to land you in a bigger soup than the one you are already in!
Know that a coping strategy only needs to be distracting and harmless, not destructive.
Take help from psychologist or psychiatrist:
Once you realize that things are getting out of hand, that your coping strategies are ending up spoiling your relationships, or getting dangerous. Then do take help from a professional. It can be from a counselor, psychiatrist or psychologist. If you do not like taking medications, then you can let the psychiatrist know. I’m sure he or she will respect your wish. However, if he or she feels that it is inevitable, then take least possible medication for the shortest time possible. Do whatever it takes to get back to terra firma.
If anyone wants to talk to Naila Mir, you can send a text to her WhatsApp number, and arrange an appointment for an hour. She has online sessions too. She is perfect for us, Pakistanis, (whether we live abroad or in Pakistan,) because she understands our cultural background and the pressures we face. Mobile No. +923005263323
Stay blessed my dear Reader, take great care of yourself, specially when you are going through a tough patch in life. 🙂