How to Live: Protective Coping Skills
Finding a way to stop, or at least postpone suicide is an essential step in saving lives—maybe including our own. Yet, in the long run, FINDING A WAY TO LIVE is the best way to prevent suicide. In a crisis, we may find relief from unbearable pain. (Please see resources listed at right.) Yet, beyond relief and survival, after the initial crisis, there may be time to step back and look at our life more broadly. We may discover that certain of our coping skills--or ways of being in the world--are diminished. Certainly, none of us has a perfect grasp on every area of living. Each of us may benefit from considering ways to change or deepen our presence in the world.Adapted with permission from “Primary Coping Skills to Prevent Self-Destructive Behavior”—by the Link Counseling Center’s National Resource Center for Suicide Prevention and Aftercare.
Learning to practice unconditional self-acceptance may be the most important coping skill for dealing with daily stress, periodic loss and the emotional turmoil of being human. A strong commitment to self is possible with development of a belief that each of us is lovable, capable and valuable—separate from what we think, feel and even from what we have done and whatever has happened to us. This can be a real challenge, but it is possible.
Relationship, Friendship and Social Skills
No one is born knowing all this. Yet each of us can learn how to get into relationships—a variety of different relationships—how to maintain them and how to end them, without being destructive.
These coping skills include being able to discuss difficult issues, knowing when and how to acknowledge painful emotions and also how to set boundaries when we need privacy or time to recharge. Together, these are important for self-expression, connecting to others, contributing to society, and knowing--and asking for--what we need.
Many people believe the secret to success is to avoid any failure at all costs. But learning to survive the genuine suffering of failure--and sometimes even to benefit from it—may be more helpful in the long run. We can learn to re-envision obstacles, setbacks and failures as opportunities to strengthen our resiliency, creativity and determination.
The Process of Grief
It is empowering to discover that emotions are human and “normal”—even strong, disorienting emotions that accompany loss and may overwhelm us with their intensity. We can learn to get through this process. We find hope when we learn we can survive grief and, in time, come back to life.
Creating a Support System
To avoid ongoing loneliness and isolation, we learn to build social support into our lives. Friends, family, mentors, counselors and others become resources in times of stress. During a crisis, our reflex may be to withdraw or push people away. Yet, even if we are alone and feeling hopeless now, it is not too late to begin building or rebuilding some support into our lives.
We benefit from developing our own reliable approaches for dealing with daily stress and periods of extreme turmoil. Without these, we may become overwhelmed and discouraged or fall into deeper despair and hopelessness. We may be susceptible to substance abuse or other destructive behaviors. Sometimes in a crisis, it helps to remember what worked in the past. At other times, all we know fails us. Yet even this may be an opportunity, however painful, to learn new ways of coping and living.
Making Decisions and Choices
Learning to make wise choices—at least choices we can live with--is an essential tool. Gaining confidence in this ability helps us think creatively about alternatives and validates an essential sense of our own power and responsibility.
Some people go through life drifting from one pursuit to another without any genuine sense of purpose or direction. Finding something we love and believe in—whether it is a career, our relationships or another activity—can bring great rewards.
Spirituality, Religion and the Search for Meaning
Loss often shakes up our understanding and challenges our beliefs. We may struggle to find a reason or the strength to continue through difficult times. We may see only one acceptable way of believing--which we have lost or which we were never able to accept. Or we may search through a variety of religious, spiritual or existential possibilities for filling that void. Through discussion, reading, or contemplation we may look at our reasons for living, the meanings of life, death and suffering, and our spirituality or other philosophy of living. Some people find a new answer--or experience a renewal of their previous beliefs. Others find the very process of searching renews their hope and strength.
Gaining Perspective through Laughter
Learning to laugh regularly—perhaps especially at ourselves, with love--is a gift which eases stress, softens heartaches and enhances joy.
We can learn the skills of reflective listening, looking openly at alternatives, and knowing how and when to engage external resources for help. These are essential elements of learning to care for others and for ourselves.
Many people come to terms with anger by seeing it as a natural and valid human emotion. We can find healthier, more productive ways of expressing anger and steering through its strong currents.
Emotion, Spontaneity and Impulse Control
Some of us are constricted and struggle to allow any spontaneous experience of life. Some of us respond impulsively, with little thought about the consequences. Most of us have probably had some experiences with both extremes. Finding ways to deal with all our emotions--that allow us both to live purposefully and to feel alive--can be tremendously helpful.