September highlights two important areas of mental health: it’s Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, as well as National Recovery Month. Suicide Prevention Awareness Month brings forward the conversation - how prevalent is suicide? What are strategies we can use to help those with suicidal thoughts and actions heal? National Recovery Month recognizes the state of substance use and addiction in the country, as well as evidence-based treatments to recover from substance use. What strategies can be implemented to help both those struggling with substance use and those battling suicidal thoughts?
Coping skills are the strategies we use to placate intense, uncomfortable emotions. Coping skills can be maladaptive, such as abusing substances or harming oneself, or beneficial, such as going for a jog or connecting with friends. Coping skills can be used for any mental health concern, but are especially important to develop in those with suicidal ideation or substance use concerns.
What are some coping skills you can implement today? Try these three from the pros at Higher Life Pathways!
Grounding exercises are techniques which connect us with the world around us and ourselves. These help us to direct our attention away from our intense emotions until they have a chance to feel less overwhelming.
One grounding technique you may have heard of is the 5-4-3-2-1 method: name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste. This technique helps us by directing our brain to a game of iSpy instead of spiraling out of control.
A second grounding method is more physical - grab a bucket of ice water, and put your hands in the water. This may shock your system into halting your feeling of overwhelm and redirecting your attention to your hands. If this isn’t enough, dip your whole head in the ice water. Another option is to bite into something sour, like a lemon - again, the intention is to make your brain stop mid-thought and think about a physical sensation, like cold ice or sour taste.
Visualization is the practice of closing your eyes (or simply not focusing them on something) and making a mental image in your head. The mental image should be something clear enough that you can describe. If you want to practice your visualization skills outside of developing coping strategies, you can practice imagining a fruit (like a red apple) in detail, then imagining the word “RED” in that color.
Visualization can be used as a coping strategy in several ways. One way is to visualize your breath. Take a seat and place your hands on your stomach. Breathe in deeply enough that you can feel your belly expand. Breathe out, and start again.
Now, pair your breathing with visualization. Imagine air, or even light, being inhaled into your stomach. Hold your breath and imagine the air or energy circulating in your stomach. Release your breath and imagine the air or energy drawing out any anxiety, sadness, or other intense emotion out of you. Repeat this until you feel calmer.
Mindful movement is moving your body with intention. Mindful movement is helpful for coping in several ways. Physical activity, even just jumping or dancing, helps our body to complete its stress cycle. Gentle movement, like stretching, gives us an excellent opportunity to develop self-awareness - how does it feel when I move this way, or bend that way?
Try to move mindfully and joyfully today. Pick a movement that you like, whether that be weightlifting, jogging, dancing, yoga, Tai Chi, walking - it’s up to you! While you’re completing your movement, check in with yourself. Feel the difference in your body as your weight shifts, or as you stretch, or as your muscles contract and expand. Take silent time to admire how much your body does for you.
We hope this blog post taught you three coping strategies that can help you when you’re feeling overwhelmed! This is a reminder that help is never too far away. You can now call 988 to reach a trained counselor at any time to assist you in a mental health crisis. If you are in danger of harming yourself or others, you can visit your local emergency room. If you are not in a crisis but could improve your mental health, reach out to Higher Life Pathways today. We look forward to hearing from you!