Coping with life at times is challenging. Astronomically challenging at times. Like when there is a pandemic, environmental crises, and concerns for the future of all sorts. There is a myriad of things we can do to maintain our best selves and continue to function. The truth is that most people only use a few strategies at best. Even worse, is when we only use one or two strategies.
I invite you to consider making a list of everything that you do maintain good mental health. Just like dental hygiene, we need to practice mental hygiene routinely and repeatedly every day. Once you create your list, assess it using the DARES acronym. If you don’t find you have a good balance in every area then, it may be time to make a concerted effort to increase your coping capacities.
D for Distraction
Distractions are great. They offer a break from present reality. They can be enjoyable. It’s like taking a mini vacation in your day. Immersing yourself in a good series, gaming, a light hearted read, are all great escapes from reality.
A is for Activity
Moving the body allows the opportunity for the body to process the chemical dump that stress and worry can leave. Whether it is a quick walk, a sport, or just kicking a can around the neighbourhood as the body moves so does the chemical hangover of stress.
R is for Relaxation
True, in the moment relaxation is different than the zoning out you might do watching Netflix. The components for true relaxation are situations and experiences that allow you to connect deeply with your own self. It might be some quiet time in the bath or a hammock, a massage, or even house cleaning can be relaxing if it allows you to tune inward.
E is for Expression
When we are able to find outlets for what’s inside to be represented outside of us, that’s expression. Journal writing, painting, dancing, axe throwing, kickboxing are all examples of expression. The more you give in these moments the better you get back.
S is for Supports
Find community. Folks with shared interests, people who deeply listen, a great park bench where you are sure to find a lovely stranger to chat to, a good phone support line, a support group online or better yet, in person. We all need at times to practice the parenting maxim “use your words”.
Having done this with many people over the years I have sadly found that many people use only distraction. Keeping a couple of distractions is fine but I dare you to round out your strategies with a little something from each category. Do each of them every day for even just a few minutes each. Watch how you experience more and more you being at your best.
Come on, I dare you. I double dog dare you!
In gratitude and thanks to a past student of mine who shared this DARES acronym with me, many years ago. She attributed it to a Physician colleague of hers.
Sadly, sharing it now I cannot credit either of them personally. I welcome either of them to reach out should they read this. It is brilliant and has been supportive to many people. email@example.com