There are many events that happen in life that get in the way of our best health. Those events can be physical health issues, abuse and violence, loss of loved ones, mental health issues, relational struggles, and many family problems. When we try to maintain our emotional health to handle these events, it can be like riding a wave. Sometimes we are up on top enjoying the ride, and other times we are crashing. The water is all encompassing, and we are desperately trying to hold on and make it to shore. When we are struggling, we can develop unhealthy ways of coping that become obstacles to our best health and recovery. Some of the obstacles can be:
Isolation: We try to do everything by ourselves. We shut down and shut others out. When we have been hurt, the tendency is to turn away from others. The best thing to do is to develop a good support system. This can be through family, friends, support groups, and faith-based groups.
Saying I Can't: I can’t because of (insert reason/label) this injury, diagnosis, label I have been given or have given myself. I often hear "I'm Bipolar," "I'm diabetic," etc. These are diagnoses, areas of struggle, and labels. They do not define the whole person.
Taking the Victim Role: There are many events in which people are victimized and experience terrible tragedies. We are not minimizing this. There are ways to heal and recover from these events, yet the scars may always be there. The victim we are talking about here is the person who continually blames others and/or events in life and fails to take personal responsibility for his/her own actions.
Perfectionism: People who strive to be perfect usually struggle with control issues and are trying to manage themselves and everyone around them. They may also develop an all or nothing, black and white attitude. How exhausting! What works better is accepting that we all have faults and character defects, and giving each other a little grace (sometimes a lot).
Unforgiveness: When we have been hurt, many emotions can come out. We can be angry, upset, and stressed all at the same time. What helps is learning to forgive. Often that forgiveness can happen even without the other person admitting she/he has wronged you. If we do not forgive, we can become bitter and resentful. Dr. Laura Schlessinger recently posted the Facebook meme, "We either get better or we get bitter."
Comparing ourselves with others: This can lead to "I'm not good enough" thinking, or to thinking we are better than others. Either attitude is detrimental to our best health. It is good to remember we are all born with gifts and talents. One is not better than the other, just different. I like to look at it as we all have a piece in the puzzle of life. We are all inter-connected and important.
Lack of Gratitude/Humility: When we don't take time to reflect on the good things that are happening, we can get stuck thinking life is always bad. Humility helps us appreciate the good things and keeps us from becoming entitled. Entitlement is often associated with the Millennial generation, but it is definitely cross-generational.
Escapism: Turning to alcohol, drugs, gambling, food, shopping, sex, or any other thing to avoid dealing with life's difficulties. In the long run, none of these will be beneficial and will end up hurting you and those around you. There are many ways to learn to cope with life's events that do not involve self-destructive behavior.
There a number of things we can do to cope and develop a healthier lifestyle. Some of these include: connecting with others, learning conflict resolution, having fun, exercising and relaxation, sharing gratitude and love, helping others, becoming more self-aware, accepting the limitations of self and others, regulating mood, and developing positive emotional habits.
If you are struggling with any of these obstacles, one of our caring therapists at VCC would love to help you develop your best health.