I was flying out and of course, when in a hurry, the drive to the airport took longer than expected. Once there the airline host was a jerk demanding that I check in my carry on and pay $40 unbudgeted dollars. In the midst of my frustration, my actual checked bag’s zipper broke, so I caught myself wanting to curse the host off and just scream. I then thought, “I want a beer…and a cigarette right about now.” I proceeded to play with the idea of which one I’d settle for given I’d have to buy either one. After a few minutes of pondering I finally realized I was exerting my energy into finding external outlets to calm myself down. My options where just pleasure seeking instead of solution focused and to add to it they would also cost me money.
I usually do not smoke or drink on a regular basis, yet those were the coping “options” I came up with. Under stressful circumstances us humans can confuse pleasure as a solution to pain. Pleasure comes in different shapes and forms. Researchers have done extensive work on how humans tend to externalize during times of stress, engaging in activities that involve sex, shopping, binge watching, gambling, adrenaline rushes…anything. Don’t get me wrong, none of those activities are bad but anything, including people, can become unhealthy outlets. If we forget our own power and choose to assign it to something or someone outside of ourselves, we might remain powerless and frustrated.
So please, be mindful of how you self soothe and self empower in times of stress or anger, particularly paying attention to the coping skills you decide to apply during those times. Ask yourself why are you choosing whatever it is you are choosing to feel better. Consider, will the problem or situation go away by me _________ (fill in the blank).
I realized that drinking a beer or smoking a cigarette would not have solved anything. Turns out the root of my frustration was internal, an accumulation of events/feelings which resulted in me wanting to get away from it all together. The real valid question I had to ask myself was “Can I change my approach about this so that it doesn’t spoil the rest of my day/week/month?”
For those of you wondering if I smoked a cigarrette or drank a beer, well, I disregarded those two options and just called a friend to vent. I brought my power back to Me. Venting and speaking my truth allowed ME to validate MY experience granting me the calmness I needed. Releasing empowered me as I realized I have me all the time, so I need to take care of me.
Now you give it a try. Run an inventory of your coping skills in times of stress, anger or just negative emotion. Think of the last time you felt like yelling or telling somebody off and answer the next questions.
- What actions/behaviors do you resort to in times of negative emotion?
- Are your coping skills beneficial?
- If others are involved, do you remain assertive in times of stress?
- Do your coping skills empower you or do you externalize your power?
- What is the benefit to that?
- Is there a consequence?
- Is the way you release or express negative emotion consistent with your value system? (Ex. of values: honesty, respect, wellbeing)
- Are you allowing yourself to validate your experiences through compassion or do you react from judgment and self blame?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on these. On the meantime, remember that if you care for you, soothing shall follow. We all go through it. Embrace and empower youself as many times as possible.