Like many people, I spent years pretending I was coping. Painting a smile on my face day-after-day. Showing up. Doing what was expected. Being polite, going out of my way to please people, trying not to upset anyone.
When people asked if I was alright, I’d answer ‘yeah, fine’, with no thought about it.
The unease in my stomach, the palpitations in my chest, the headaches and sleeplessness nights were always put down to different external reasons. Something I’d eaten, or not eaten. The fifth cup of coffee, or not enough water. Sitting too long at a computer, not taking enough exercise.
They all made such perfect sense when taken individually. But in combination. Over the years. The patterns clearly showed that, although these could be seen as contributary factors, they were not the cause.
When I look back, I can remember the time my thoughts about my personal ability to cope changed. It wasn’t just once. It was prior to each time I had a period of severe anxiety or depression.
And that is the cause.
The belief that you can no longer ‘cope’.
Several years ago, I started to recognise that I am not alone in this.
There is also a point at which other people switch from accepting the various physical hypotheses as adequate and look for other answers for their malaise.
It is at that point they start to admit to themselves that they perhaps are not coping.
It is at this point people will be more amenable to support from family or friends or contact professionals like myself, and many then seek therapy for the first time.
That is why the most common phrase I hear in assessments is; ‘I can’t cope’, I worry I won’t cope’ or I didn’t cope’.
At this point of realisation, the individual feels incredibly vulnerable. It can, for some, be the first time in their life that they have admitted any aspect of themselves that they may perceive as less than perfect, or indeed a weakness.
Because of this perceived fragility many will not seek the support or help they so desperately need.
To reduce this from happening and to help people as early in their journey as possible, I have listed five symptoms to look out for which indicate that someone may not be coping as well as they believe, and they could then make changes before things become worse and they need further input from a professional.
Lethargy – Feeling tired all the time. Even if you’ve had ten hours sleep the night before, feeling like you could still sleep another ten hours and not feel awake and alert.
Motivation – Before ‘I can’t cope’ comes ‘I can’t be bothered’ ‘I can’t be a#*ed’. You stop doing the things you used to find fun, or things you know you need to do. Everything just feels like too much effort.
Irritation – You are getting irritated by everything, even the little things. The kids knock over their drink. The other half is home fifteen minutes late. The dinner you spent an hour preparing isn’t appreciated. The house you tidied, even though you didn’t feel like it, is messier than Boris Johnson’s hair in five minutes. Argh!!
Forgetfulness – you have an inability to remember just about anything right now. Paradoxically, it’s more likely that you haven’t been able to concentrate long enough to absorb the details, as your head is so full right now with lists of everything you are frightened you might forget to do!
Overindulgence – As a form of escapism and avoidance, when we fear we may not be meeting a certain standard or expectation, we can turn to substances and experiences. Some people use alcohol, others may choose junk food, others illicit drugs, or smoking, but they all serve to create a short-term relief from a longer-term issue, and therefore are not a sustainable solution.
If you recognise any of these symptoms or feel that you can’t face things because they feel too much. Or conversely, you can’t stop doing what you do because there is just too much to do. Then it would be advisable to consider if you are coping. And if you whether you need to do something about it.
If you would like to know what you can do to and learn how to cope, I’m running a workshop on Tuesday 30th November at 7:30pm.
It’s called Coping with Christmas, Covid, and Kids – An EPIC Stress Solution Strategy.
I will be teaching my simple 4-step system for overcoming overwhelm to turn Christmas Fear into Christmas Cheer. And prevent any of those disasters of previous years from spoiling your festivities this year.
There will be a workbook and a recording so even if you can’t join on the night, you can still benefit, and you will have the tools for other occasions as well.
If you are interested, here is the link.