One of the essential foundations of bullying prevention is ensuring that your child has a toolbox filled with safe coping skills.
So what are coping skills and what is the difference between safe and unsafe coping skills?
Coping skills are those behaviors that we use to help us get through significant moments of stress or fear in our lives. For instance, some of us use food to cope with stress when life seems to be getting out of hand. This coping behavior can be both a safe or unsafe way of dealing with the pressures of life. Sitting down and eating a whole bag of potato chips day after day will begin to take a toll on your weight and pocketbook. After many years of using food to get through the situations in life, we may find that we have gained forty or fifty pounds of unwanted fat. This would be an example of unhealthy coping behavior.
What we as adults and children need is a list of coping skills that are termed safe or healthy to get us through the stresses of life. Having a long list of healthy coping skills helps to ensure that we will not have to turn to unsafe coping skills to get through difficult moments in life.
Instead of eating or drinking too much try using one or more of these behaviors:
- Ask for help- Reach out to someone safe.
- Inspire yourself- Carry something positive (poem) or negative (photo of a friend who overdosed).
- Leave a bad scene- When things go wrong get out.
- Persist- Never, never, never, never, never, never give up.
- Honesty- Secrets, and lying are at the core of PTSD and substance abuse; honesty heals them.
- Cry- Let yourself cry; it will not last forever.
- Choose self-respect- Choose whatever will make you like yourself tomorrow.
- Take good care of your body- Eat right, exercise, sleep, safe sex.
- List your options- In ant situation your have choices.
- Creating meaning- Remind yourself what you are living for: Your children? Love? Truth? Justice? God?
- Do the best you can with what you have- Make the most of available opportunities.
- Set a boundary- Say “no” to protect yourself.
- Compassion- Listen to yourself with respect and care.
- When in doubt do what is hardest- The most difficult path is invariably the right one.
- Talk yourself through it- Positive self-talk helps in difficult times.
- Imagine- Create a mental picture that helps you feel different (Remember a safe place).
- Notice the choice point- In slow motion, notice the exact moment when you chose a substance.
- Pace yourself- If overwhelmed, go slower; if stagnant go faster.
- Stay safe- Do whatever you need to put safety above all.
- Seek understanding, not blame- Listen to your behavior, blaming prevents growth.
- If one way does not work try another- As if in a maze, turn a corner and try a new path.
- Link PTSD and substance abuse- Recognize substances as an attempt to self-medicate.
- Alone is better than a bad relationship- If only people who are receiving help are safe for now, that is okay.
- Create a new story- You are the author of your own life; be the hero who overcomes adversity.
- Avoid avoidable suffering- Prevent bad situations in advance.
- Ask others- Ask others if your belief is accurate.
- Get organized- You will feel more in control with lists, to do’s and a clean house.
- Watch for danger signs- Face a problem before it becomes huge; notice red flags.
- Healing above all- Focus on what matters.
- Try something, anything- A good plan today is better than a perfect tomorrow.
- Discovery- Find out whether your assumption is true rather than staying “in your head.”
- Attend treatment- AA, self-help, therapy, medications, groups- anything that keeps you going.
- Create a buffer- Put something between you and danger (time, distance)
- Say what you really think- You will feel closer to others ( but only do this with safe people).
- Listen to your needs- No more neglect- really hear what you need.
- Move toward your opposite- For example, if you are dependent, try becoming more independant.
- Replay the scene- Review a negative event; what can you do differently next time?
- Notice the cost- What is the price of substance abuse in your life.
- Structure your day- A productive schedule keeps you on track and connected to the world.
- Set an action plan- Be specific, set a deadline, and let others know about it.
- Protect yourself- Put up a shield against destructive people, bad environments, and substances.
- Soothing talk- Talk to yourself very gently (as if to a friend or small child).
From Seeking Safety: Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy for PTSD and Substance Abuse by Lisa Najavits, Ph.D.