What’s Your Coping Style? Strategies for Dealing with a Health Condition

I’ve seen hundreds of clients with chronic health conditions in my office and one of the most common questions they asked is, “How am I going to cope?”

Coping is a concept that all human beings can relate to. When we are under stress of any kind, we are looking for relief. We all want to be able to effectively reduce anxiety and restore equilibrium.


Not All Coping Skills Are Created Equal

Coping is effective when it helps reduce tension and fortify you. It can even bringing out certain talents or abilities in you that you didn’t know you had. On the other hand, coping can also be ineffective and even damaging if it limits your life or makes you feel like you are moving backwards, either physically or mentally.

Coping Strategies

We all have coping strategies, which are subconscious ways of dealing with stress. These can be truly useful at helping us through difficult times but some are definitely more effective than others. 

Here is a list of the most common coping strategies:

Denial: Many people negate the impact of their health condition as a way of trying to manage their anxiety. Negating the reality of your situation can be especially dangerous not just for you, but for those around you as well. Continuing to drive when your eyesight is failing is an example of putting others at risk through denial.

Regression: Some people tend to get passive or overly emotional in response to stress. If this sound like you, then you may be the kind of person who regresses under stress. This means that you become more dependent on others than you actually need to be. Regression can be useful in certain situations, like when you need to stay in bed and let others take care of you in order to get better.

But many times, regression can work against you. For instance, if you are recovering from a heart attack, you may be avoiding the physical activities you need to do in order to improve your strength and endurance. In this case, remaining passive and dependent is not serving you.

Compensation: When a health condition causes you to lose functionality in a particular area of your life, you may make up for it by becoming more adept in another area. Think of Steven Hawking whose body was totally paralyzed and decimated by Lou Gehrig’s disease. Until his disease, he never took his intellectual gifts seriously. It was only with the onset of the disease that he found the ability within himself to fulfill his potential. This is an example of a very constructive form of compensation.

Compensation can also work against you, however. For instance, some people become promiscuous to compensate for feeling less attractive as a result of physical changes due to their illness.

Diversion of Feelings: When you can learn to convert your anger and hostility about your health challenges into positive actions, this can give you a great sense of freedom and control over your life. Being able to divert negativity into constructive outcomes can help you realize your potential in ways you might never have thought possible.


How Do You Cope?

When you are confronted with the pain, discouragement and frustration that comes with a chronic health condition how do you cope? Do you curl up in a ball and cry? Deny it is even happening? Or do you actively confront your condition and find ways to gain a sense of control over your own destiny?

If you are struggling to find positive coping strategies to get you through, and you are looking for a therapist to walk with you every step of the way, let’s connect on the phone, so I can help you meet your goals much faster. 

You can contact me at the number below

Click on the orange button below to set up your free 30-minute consultation so I can find out about your goals and how I can help.

I look forward to hearing from you soon! 

For more information about Chronic Illness Counseling with me, click here.