I may be betraying my trade as a training professional to admit that, personally, I’m not much for counseling and support groups. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an avid believer in the potential efficacy of these types of experiences that often offer objective and confidential support. Also, I’ve gone whenever the proverbial ‘you-know-what’ has hit the fan in my life, so I hope this is a testament to my faith in the process.
All I mean to say is that talk-focused group support isn’t my personal preference. Outside of my closest family and friends, I generally don’t want to talk about ‘it’. ‘It’ being things like grief, personal woes, existential dread…you get the picture. At times I can be a real introvert, and when I am hurting I hate speaking in front of people and meeting new people makes me anxious. Usually, when I do open my mouth I feel like I’ve said too much too awkwardly. For all these reasons (and more), I gravitate towards methods that allows me to process my experiences without having to say much to entire groups of people.
I’m definitely not alone in this. Many people prefer outlets that allow them to remain taciturn about their life. What I’m here to say, is this is A-OK! Although it seems like talk-type-counseling is commonly recommended for training, it is by no means the right way or the only way. It’s important to remember, there are many healthy ways to appreciate and even cope with life. Though people may assume otherwise, silent or independent coping is not synonymous with bottling things up, withdrawing, or isolating. Actually, many times the opposite is true, as outlets like writing and art allow people to express themselves, connect, and share in different ways.
Below I am going to discuss a few ways a person can cope without talking-it-out. This is only a start, I could spend all day trying to make an exhaustive list and still not be done. Also, if you would like to share your go-to coping tools in the comments below, please do!
Touching and Affection:
Most of us have understood since we were kids that being touched by the people we trust is pleasurable, but did you know that human touch is a need? Not only do we crave it, but scientists confirm that touch and affection, which produces oxytocin — a hormone associated with expression, touch, hugging, maternal nurturing, social attachments, childbirth and sex — is also indispensable for healthy relationships.
When it comes to human touch, it’s important to identify your own boundaries or agreements. Within our own tribe and community, we have identified the agreements we share and even provided information about our own lack of sexual orientation. This, of course, does not necessarily mean a lack of need for physical touch from the people we trust.
In fact, science is proving that many humans suffer from social isolation, yet can often react positively to physical contact. This is because when we offer asexual touch, many hormones are released including one called oxytocin in our bodies. Simply put, when we have enough of this natural chemical, we can effectively reduce our stress levels to lower blood pressure and decrease worries of anxiety or depression.
Journaling and Writing:
In my work, I often connect with depressed people who are struggling to get a handle on certain grief-related emotions and experiences. When a person feels stuck, overwhelmed, or confused, I often suggest journaling (or other forms of writing).
Research has shown that journaling has benefits related to physical health, mental health, sleep, grief-coping, etc. Anecdotally we know this practice helps to…
- combat avoidance
- process experiences and emotions
- connect with positive memories
- organize thoughts
- calm down and de-stress
- shift perspective
- relieve anxiety
Best of all, journaling is a low barrier coping option; it can be private, confidential (if you keep it that way), cost-effective, and accessible. Though people will often create a barrier for themselves by saying “I’d like to journal, but I’m not a good writer” the truth is that one need not be a good writer to journal.
In case you need the reminder, journaling is for your eyes only. Journal entries don’t have to be a certain length, they don’t have to follow rules related to structure, spelling or grammar, and, unless you’re writing your memoirs, the end product is irrelevant. It’s the doing of the thing that matters.
Aside from the general benefits of reading and connecting with stories, I can think of three ways that reading helps people cope with life. (1) Reading informative and educational blogs, books, and articles can help a person to learn, conceptualize, and intellectualize their experiences. (2) Reading other people’s experiences through memoirs and fictional stories helps to normalize grief, put experiences into perspective, creates a sense of universality (i.e. I’m not the only one), and instills hope. (3) Reading offers escape and respite.
Photography, Drawing, and Other Artistic Expression:
It’s no secret that I appreciate photography as a tool for coping with life. Almost everyone has a camera via the phone, and we can photograph symbols, abstract images, and literal interpretations of people and places. The process of creating the images will force you to spend time reflecting on emotions and allows you to feel closer to the people you love. The results may not be perfect, but they tell the world something about how you’re feeling.
If you have other creative talents, use them! Though, it isn’t really necessary to be “good” or “talented” to use a certain art form in a therapeutic way. As an example, I love drawing as a way to get my thoughts out on paper, but I’m terrible at it. Mostly what I wind up doing is a journal/doodle hybrid and it’s a mess to me, but some of the best artists were doodlers and overall, it feels good to make a mess when you stop worrying about who will see that paper!
As you wish,
This is part of a Community series, ending with a Question to consider. As you progress, feel free to leave a Reply or Comment here. Thanks for reading and sharing.