Strategies for Self Care: Managing and Coping with Stress, Part One

A Three Part Series on Self Care

Jocelyn, Staff Writer

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Imagine one day, you are leniently strolling down your neighborhood sidewalk at the crack of dawn, roosters wailing in nearby prairie farms and flocks of geese squawking overhead. As you breathe in, the aroma of fresh daisies and buttered pancakes drifting out of someone’s windowsill relaxes your mind.

Although, your tranquil vibes are suddenly cut short when you realize you forgot to pay your mortgage, didn’t take your beloved puppy out for a bathroom break before you left (and even worse, they aren’t house-trained!), and forgot to pack your favorite lunch for work, a delectable peanut butter and jelly sandwich with Doritos on the side. What should you do?

Perhaps you want to stomp your new expensive shoes onto the crumbling concrete, and shriek in despair? Well, this is not the most beneficial decision within the long-term outcome. But then, what else can you do other than express your distress aloud and release it to the public? Well, maybe you can try to take advantage of some more positive coping mechanisms in order to calm yourself down in an efficient manner? But what if you can’t recall any skills to utilize?

Fortunately, this is the right article if you’re seeking information and ideas with how to cope! Whether you need a little pick-me-up and you’re feeling under the weather, or you need to negotiate something difficult with your immediate family, friends, or teachers, these self-care techniques will provide you with a new outlook on solving problems in more effective ways.  This article is the first in a series to help you with self-care techniques.  

For our first installment, we are going to discuss some Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, or DBT skills. Its purpose is essentially to calm and balance thinking between the emotional mind and the wise mind by using positive coping skills rather than self-destructive mechanisms. For example, rather than calling yourself worthless after a friend rejects your relationship and begins ignoring you, you could write out your aggression and sadness in a therapeutic, personal diary, or release the bottled-up tension through crying. With that being said, DBT is one of my favorite categories within the umbrella of therapy and self-care, mainly because this technique is done as a means of untying and rebounding the disordered mind into a more rationally-thinking brain which may remain at peace for an extended period of time.

Now, let’s dive right into creating a tool to help support developing coping skills, called a DBT house, which is smothered with symbolism, as the house represents a comfort zone and happy place you can always refer back to on challenging days, or when you’re under the weather. So, here is the set-up: First, you draw a house approximately the size of the whole sheet of paper, containing three equal floors, and a relatively spacious attic. Then, underneath the house, you draw a “foundation” (a decent-sized rectangle underneath the DBT house, which is what the structure will balance on), or simply leave the ground beneath the house as is. Next, on the roof, illustrate a little chimney, with a large puff of smoke blooming out of the rustic bricks, while on the right side of your “property”, depict a billboard displayed for imaginative neighbors to observe. Finally, in the middle of the first floor, draw a tall door, and within the middle of the third floor, a separating line.

In further exploration, answering these questions below will spark your creativity and actually propel you into this activity. Depending on each fraction of the household, write or illustrate the answers with your responses. Make sure you can easily understand what the picture demonstrates, and that you can read your writing without confusion, because you may want to keep this for future help (and I recommend this too!).

  1. First, underneath the home or in the foundation: Which specific values do you stay true to?
  2. On the first floor answer these questions: Which negative coping skills/behaviors are you willing to change (left side of the door)? What would you wish to see a difference in regarding your life (right side)?
  3. Afterward, in the door: What secrets and insecurities do you shelter from others, about you, other people, and otherworldly matters?
  4. For the entire second floor: Which emotions would you like to feel more frequently, or feel in a healthier manner?
  5. In further detail, on the third floor: On the left side, answer, What things do you feel happy about? In the right side: What do you desire to feel happy about?
  6. On the fourth floor/large attic: Describe or draw what a fulfilled life/ a life worth living means to you.
  7. Now, on the left side of the house, writing upwards or on that “margin”: Who supports you in life?
  8. Next, on the slanted, right side of the roof: Which people in life protect you?
  9. In the smoke cloud, write or draw ways you tend to cope with your feelings or want to cope, or how to blow off steam.
  10. And, finally, in the billboard, depict visually or verbally, things you are confident in or proud of and would like to/ try to share with others.

Overall, this is a very fun way, not only to spark creativity and allow your coping skills to span into a wider variety but also to explore the ways in which you function and feel like a human while making a house of happiness and deep emotions.

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