We all cope differently
Taylor Swift dropped two albums during the pandemic and I lost my hair. No, really, I did. Try not to be jealous.
In 2020 as the world grappled with the pandemic, Taylor let her creative energy take over and she dropped two albums.
Folklore and Evermore have been the backdrop to my writing. It’s what I have on repeat as I share my words of wisdom with you. I’m listening to Folklore now. Thanks for the muse, Taylor.
It’s really hard not to be jealous of a 31 year old superstar who has the energy to write and produce enough songs for two albums, while I was trying to not grimace at my reflection in the mirror. We all handle stress differently.
Taylor put her energy towards her creativity, I put mine through surviving a cancer diagnosis.
I’m pretty impressed actually. While the rest of us were surviving and trying not to fall into the pit of despair, she worked and it paid off. Good work, Tay!
A different lens
We all experience life through a different lens and different challenges are presented to us.
We all suffer through and handle stress and trauma in different ways. I would categorize a forced quarantine and a lockdown as trauma inducing. It wasn’t that way for everyone, but for others, it was traumatizing to be suddenly cut off from their network of friends and family.
Taylor chose to work and channel her feelings through her work. We cannot compare ourselves to her or even to one another.
The mother who is struggling to get her kids through online schooling, is going to look different from the person who lost her job because of the pandemic, or to the medical professional who is confronted with the possibility of contracting the coronavirus on a daily basis.
It’s going to look different from the teacher who is trying to teach her classes in a completely different way, to the mom who is now forced to work from home in a makeshift office, to the mom who was told 6 weeks before the pandemic that she has breast cancer.
I fall in the last category. Bummer.
Coping, productivity, and surviving are all normal trauma responses. We all deal with trauma differently. When the world shut down because of the pandemic, it was traumatic in varying ways. And we all dealt with it differently.
Swift chose to cope through her work.
I coped through exercise and taking each day one at a time. I had no choice. The future wasn’t clear to me. Exercise made it easier.
I wasn’t going to be running a marathon anytime soon, but any day I made it around the block was a good day. Sometimes it was a slow walk clinging for dear life onto my husband’s arm, other days we could walk miles and miles.
I also watched a lot of shows and movies when I was too ill to do anything else. On those days, my kids joined me and kept me company so that I wouldn’t be alone.
Other people took the unexpected break from being social to learn a new skill. Who else learned how to bake bread or took up knitting during the pandemic? Okay, so not me. I was too busy trying to remember my name through the chemo fog.
For others, it was working on a puzzle, getting together binging on television shows, or participating in a virtual game night with friends.
Others coped through avoidance, shying away from the effects of the pandemic. We tend to shy away from things and situations that make us hurt.
There’s a difference between coping and surviving. It isn’t fair to compare my pandemic experience with Taylor Swift’s. She was living and being productive and I was in survival mode. Neither way was wrong. We did what we needed to do to get through the hardest months.
There are two different approaches to approaching a stressful situation. There are problem-based strategies and there are emotion based strategies.
Don’t know which strategy is better, ask yourself these questions: Do I need to change my situation or do I need to find a way to better cope with the situation?
If you can change your situation and remove the component to your life that is a problem-based coping strategy.
If you can’t change the environment or the situation, then you need to find an emotionally based way to cope with the situation that takes care of you.
What is a healthy coping strategy?
Healthy coping strategies allow you to take a reprieve from the stressful situation, but it also can clear your mind so that you can approach the situation from another angle.
It can be difficult when you are already highly stressed, anxious, or frustrated. However, taking a break to regroup can help you focus on the situation at hand.
Be productive — cleaning out clutter, focusing on work, finishing a project that’s been on your to do list.
Get creative — Paint, work with your hands, journal, learn a new musical instrument, learn how to knit. All of these are activities that will soothe your mind
Exercise — I always find that I am able to look at situation in a new light after a good run. A run unkinks my brain, clears up the fog, and offers me time to think about the situation. Then I’m able to face the issue head on and with a clear mind.
Seek professional help — Asking someone to help, whether it be a therapist, an organization consultant, a trainer, sometimes all we need is a push in the right direction. Sometimes we just need another perspective. It’s absolutely okay and healthy to ask for help!
Here are unhealthy coping strategies to avoid
Sometimes escapism is nice. We’ve all done it at one point or another. It provides a reprieve for the stressors in our life.
However, escapism and avoidance should not be a long-term solution to the stressful situation at hand. It will only make things worse.
If you don’t confront the issue at some point, it’s going to come back to you. It’s going to have a hold on you and you will not be able move past the point to healthiness.
All of these techniques are an escape. There is a point in which you will need to confront your situation. Escapism is nice and sometimes necessary, but it shouldn’t be a permanent state.
Overindulgence (food, alcohol, and drug use) — Overindulgence will lead to being unhealthy. It’s much easier to see solutions to a problem with a clear mind.
Sleeping too much — Too much sleep makes you groggy and it’s hard to function. Come up with a routine, wake up in the morning, and tackle your to-do list.
Spending too much money — money cannot buy you happiness. It’s a quick shot of endorphin and then it’s gone. Then you are left with debt and wasted money.
Avoidance — the longer you avoid a situation, the harder it is to face it.
Make a decision
I’m not saying that you need to bust out with two fully formed albums in ten months, but I am saying, look at your situation and decide which direction in which you want to go.
Can you change your situation? Or can you find a way to deal with you situation so that it doesn’t bring you so much angst. Putting your head in the sand is only going to help for so long.
The pandemic isn’t going to go away for a while. What are some productive changes you can make to make it more bearable?
Me? I’m following the doctor’s orders, I’m taking my cancer medications, I’m exercising daily, and escaping with a good book or show. Most importantly, I’m taking things one day at a time.