Optimize Your Life

Episode #27: Adaptive Coping

Show Notes:

Hello and welcome back to optimize your life with me, Dr. Sharon Grossman and today we’re to be talking about coping and more specifically about different ways in which we cope, some of which turned out to be adaptive while others are more maladaptive. And obviously what we want to aim for or those more adaptive coping strategies.

So when I say adaptive and maladaptive I want you to think about ways in which you currently cope with stress, with difficulties and challenges in your life. Are you somebody who shoots right in and tries to problem-solve? Do you try to make light of the situation and use humor to help you cope? Do you pause before you react and really think through what you’re going to do or say before you do and say it? If so that is an example of adaptive coping and these are really fantastic ways to manage your stress. But they’re not necessarily easy to do and what we tend to do more of the time is cope maladaptively. And so when I say that I want you to understand why we do it. It’s not something to be ashamed of because this is just how we’re kind of wired and in order for us to cope adaptively we really have to be very mindful, very focused, very intentional and all of that takes work. It doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. I know you do it some of the time, but in order for us to do it more of the time and for us to get better results and more success in our life and to really optimize our results, then we have to consider how we cope with stuff the majority of the time.

So here’s what we tend to do when we’re dealing with stress. We try to get those quick results, the quick shift in how we feel typically. So if you’re experiencing a lot of anxiety, you’re going to do things that are going to immediately reduce your anxiety. Or if you’re really stressed out, you’re going to do something that’s going to help you feel less stressed out. 

So for instance, if you have social anxiety and you’re going out with a bunch of friends, you might drink in order for you to not feel so anxious. If you are somebody who has a lot of stress at work or in your life in general, what I find a lot of my clients end up doing is they’ll come home and they’ll either reach for that glass of wine or they’ll smoke marijuana in order to “take the edge off,” as they say. They want to relax, they want to feel calm, and so they’re using some sort of external substance to help them. 

It could be that you’re not coping at all and you’re feeling really stressed out and what you do is you end up maybe getting into road rage when you’re on your commute back home. It could be that when you’re in relationships, instead of just allowing the other person to be who they are and having empathy and compassion for them, you hold on to resentment. 

It could be that you spend all your money when you’re feeling stressed out so you’re using shopping as a way to get some relief. It gives you a sense of control and so does all the kind of maladaptive coping that we tend to gravitate to. It gives us a sense of control how I can feel right now. And I think that this is really really important to consider because — yes, right now we can change our mood. We can alter the way that we feel in this moment. But what are the consequences of not learning to really manage our stress? 

One of the things that I want to share with you is that when you have maladaptive coping as your way of being in the world what you’ll notice is that it end up reducing your overall level of functioning and sometimes even your productivity. 

So for all of you high achievers out there, I know that this is not where you want to be. I know that you want to produce. You want a function in addition to feeling good. And this is where are you really need to think about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

When it comes to stress, we have to think about “how can I break things down so that I am not feeling negatively about my circumstances?”

And one of the see all about stress is that it really comes down to perception. So once again, it really boils down to how you think and that’s going to determine whether or not you feel stressed out. 

So I’ll give you an example. When we talk about stress what it really is, what it boils down to is this equation of how we perceive our situation and if we perceive it to exceed the resources that we have to play with, then we feel stressed out. And the reason that we know that this is the definition of stress in essence is because maybe on certain days you’re faced with that situation and you feel stressed and other days you don’t. I know sometimes women when they are in their menstrual cycle they are more overwhelmed and more stressed out about everyday things then otherwise. And this is true for us when we’re sick. This is true for us when we haven’t had a good night’s sleep. The same circumstances can feel stressful on day one and not stressful on day two.  

The other thing we know is that you can be in the same situation as 10 other people or even just like one person. Have you ever been in a situation with one other person and they’re really stressed out about it and you’re just like “I don’t understand. What the big deal?” The circumstance hasn’t changed. You are both dealing with the exact same situation but you each have a very different take on it. That is because you have a different perception of it.

So part of adaptive coping, essentially, is looking at your self-talk, your perception, your beliefs about what is possible. And often times our confidence level, our self-efficacy as we know it, has to do with our beliefs and our thinking about ourselves being able to cope with a certain situation. 

So there is something to be said for actually managing your thoughts. There is also something to be said for reprogramming those subconscious beliefs. And I shared with you in the last episode that I have a new membership program that is focused in on priming your brain, so I want to share how this really can work for you. 

If you are somebody who tends to feel really stuck in terms of your stress level or in terms of your anxiety and you tend to use food or alcohol or substances or shopping or anything like that as a way of coping with your stress, then I want you to know that there is a much easier way to get to the place that you want to get to. You want to feel calm and confident and you want to do it in a way where you can feel proud.

So what happens when we turn to these things like food, for instance, is we take the edge off in that moment but guess what happens? Then we end up with all of this excess weight and we really have a hard time getting it off because this is our coping mechanism. 

Or if you are somebody who has social anxiety and the only way you know of how to be in a social setting is by drinking, it’s going to be really hard for you to be in a social setting without alcohol. Otherwise you would have done it already. 

But when you kind of look back into what is driving that anxiety in the first place, there is some underlying belief and until you shape that belief to align with how you want to feel in that social setting, you will have a really hard time being in that setting without your maladaptive coping. 

So we can try the control our mind. We can try to have that mindfulness and all that is really really strong and really positive but it’s also hard work. And for people who want to go a little bit easier route, who want to get quicker results, what I can promise you from over 20 years of being a therapist is that when you start from the level of the beliefs, you have much quicker outcomes. 

And so I want to invite you to check out ThePrimingLab.com where I share all the information about this membership site that I’ve created just for you. I really have tried to make it as amazing an experience for you to get the results that you want and the people that are in that group are going to really change your life because they are amazing people. They are really so gung-ho about living life to the fullest and they want to learn all of the tricks about how to be most optimal. And so because you’re listening to this podcast and because you care about optimizing your life, this is the best thing I can share with you. So go on over to ThePrimingLab.com and I hope to see you on the inside. And for the rest of you, I will see you next week. Enjoy.

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