Throughout our lives, we all face stressful situations. In 2020 there have been numerous stressful events that have impacted all of us in some way. Read more as our psychology team share their steps on "coping ahead".
A stressful event could be trying to cross the border between NSW and QLD with the recent border restrictions in place. This seems minor in nature however it can lead us to feeling out of control and distressed if we are not prepared for it. Enter the Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) skill; ‘Coping ahead’. Briefly DBT is considered part of the "third wave" of cognitive behavioural therapy, and DBT adapts CBT to assist clients to deal with stress.
Coping ahead refers to formulating a plan for yourself to help you deal with a stressful situation that you may encounter. When I am working with current or ex-serving members of the ADF, I encourage them to draw on the planning skills they developed within the military. The aim of ‘coping ahead’ is to think about how you can apply the skills you have learnt with your psychologist to help you prepare for a stressful situation. The process involves rehearsal and we can do this in our heads or with a support person.
The first step of ‘coping ahead’ is to imagine and describe the situation that maybe problematic for you. This situation may be triggering for you even just thinking about it. For example, it may be going to the shopping centre with your partner or children to get the groceries. Reflect on how this situation usually goes. Previously you may have found going to crowded shopping centres as really challenging. Part of this step is to identify the emotions you have experienced and the feelings and thoughts you had while shopping.
The second step is to identify a skill you want to use to help you in this situation. You may have developed some skills with a psychologist that you can use in this situation. For example, the acronym STOPP (see below) is a skill I regularly teach clients. Take your time in identifying the skill you want to use. You may identify in step two that you have a skills deficit and therefore I would encourage you to access a psychologist to assist you.
Take a breath
- Breath in for your mouth and exhale through your nose.
- What thoughts are going through your mind right now?
- What are your focused on?
- What are you reacting to?
- What bodily sensations do you notice?
Pull back – put in some perspective
- What is the bigger picture?
- Can I look at this situation differently?
- What advice would my support person give me?
- Is it fact or opinion?
Practise What Works
- What is the best thing to do right now?
- What has worked before?
- Am I behaving in line with my values?
Step 3 of coping ahead involves rehearsing the situation. Think about how you will apply your chosen skill to the stressful situation you have identified. It may be helpful to write the scenario down on paper or rehearse it with a support person. Remember that this is a work in progress, and it is ok if it is not effective the first time. This process of coping ahead if used regularly and consistently will help you effectively manage the stressors life brings. If you would like to learn more about this skill and other skills, I encourage you to contact your local FRC.
Written by Psychologist, Chris McIntyre