We were having dinner the other night and our daughter had notes written on her arms. I don’t know why it bothers me, I mean she could dye her hair blue and have a Mohawk and I wouldn’t care, but writing on her arms and hands bugs me. So I investigated, turns out she was attempting to reminder herself of things. And I further queried if she would be embarrassed if her Dad wrote on his arms, she said ‘yeah’ but he’s an adult. Right, but why does that matter, and then she said ‘because that’s the only way I know how.’ Boom! 

Correct, she doesn’t know what other tools to use to reminder herself of things she needs to remember. And that made me think of coping and coping skills. How do you learn them? Who teaches you? When is a good time to learn? How do you know which ones work for you? What does it look like if you haven’t learned how to cope? Where does it show up in your life, your relationships or your work?

A lack of coping skills or tools can look like angry outbursts, over emotional reactions, short tempers, poor listening skills, high levels of distraction, not meeting timelines and an inability to manage workload or time. Or it can look like many other things. It is highly possible that you work with, work for or manage people who lack the skills to cope with the stressors in their life. So what are some basics that can help you and them;

  1. Talking It Out – learning to express your feelings verbally can be a very intimidating for people. Why does talking help? It benefits people because they feel validated and heard. If they don’t want to talk to you as their boss it is important to ensure that they can identify someone who they feel comfortable sharing with. If the act of verbalizing their feelings is too overwhelming to begin with then journaling is a safe place to start. As a follow up you can invite them to share parts of their journaling to help them become more comfortable with expressing their feelings. This is an important foundational step for building coping skills.
  2. Problem Solving Techniques – finding solutions for your own problems is an important tool for the toolkit. This can be as simple as brainstorming ideas, reviewing past actions in similar situations and assessing outcomes for what worked, what you can change. Talk through possible consequences both positive or negative. These steps help people learn a method of how to approach a problem. Learning to dissect your own problems increases confidence, its important that you allow them to try and solve their own issues, its important that they know you believe they are capable of solving their own problems.
  3. Stress Relievers – we are all different, so we all have different things that will help us relieve stress. For some it maybe reading, or listening to music. For others its running or doing something active. Sometimes its a combination depending on the kind of stress. Identifying what works for you to decompress is part of your tool kit. If you don’t know what will work, try something, and keep trying until you find a good fit. Excessive eating, drinking, sleeping or other remedies are destructive and only tend to delay the stress, or exacerbate it. There are other ways that won’t hurt you, but help you. 
Not being able talk about it or identify and solve your own problems doesn’t give stress an outlet so it shows up, well, everywhere. Its up to you to work on your tool kit, if you have never learned how to cope this should be a good start. If you have team members who are showing signs of stress these three things are a way to start the conversation. 

Knowing what you need to do to help yourself relieve stress is a part of taking care of yourself. And taking good care of yourself is part of being an adult. It is also the best way to be an example to others. There is no shame in feeling overwhelmed or at the end of your rope. There is no shame in asking for help. 

You are responsible for you, if your stress is negatively affecting others around you then its your job to talk, solve and relieve that stress. And if you see stress on someone by way of actions or other clues please provide them a safe place to start the conversation. Sometimes all any of us need is a moment to be heard. Sometimes we just need to know we are not alone.