5 Coping Mechanisms to Help you Deal

Ibis Eating Sweet Lemons

Ibis Eating Sweet Lemons

Most people I know are living in a state of uncertainty right now caused by the coronavirus and a downturn in economic indicators. I honestly don’t know how I feel about all of this, because yesterday I felt all the emotions—anger, fear, anxiety-until I accepted that this is the new “normal”.

I recently wrote a nonfiction essay reviewing all that’d happened within the past five years. I reminded myself that the chaos we’ve all been experiencing in gigantic and tiny ways is nowhere near what we’ve dealt with before—at least in my lifetime. We’ve acclimated to every abrupt change, every dogwhistle to attack the Other, and every shitty leader who doesn’t know how to bring people together. The coronavirus is an escalation and many of us worry what’ll happen next. Except, you can’t tell people not to be anxious. Ever try that? They only become more so.

With that in mind, I’d like to share five coping mechanisms that have worked for me in the past.

1. Mental Health Check-Ins

It’s hard to “see” progress you’re making, because unlike physical health there’s no bandage for depression. A mental health check-in is a way of mitigating that, because you “check in” on a semi-regular basis. There’s a lot of different ways to do this. You could use mood journalling and bullet journal graphs so you watch your progress over time. You could decide that you need therapy right now, and go the professional check-in route. Or, you could touch base with friends/lovers/family on a semi-regular basis to share how you’re faring. I’ve used a combination of tactics over the years, and I’ve often found that knowing I am not alone (and not the ONLY person who’s feeling what I’m feeling) is what works for me. Sometimes, that means I check up on people I haven’t heard from in a while, too.

2. Reduce Noise

I’ve mentioned this before, but as a former musician everything translates into a song for me. Every word as a tone, every Tweet is a tiny refrain that carries emotional weight. My head quickly gets “noisy” if I fall into a rabbit hole where I’m constantly watching for updates and I can’t create. There’s too much noise and not enough silence.

I’ve had a love-hate relationship with social media, because I’m never quite sure if I can continue on platforms where people’s mental health and safety is not taken personally. Yes, Twitter (less Facebook these days) is a frenzy of breaking news and unverified facts, but there’s so much misinformation mixed in with personal connections it’s often hard to know if I’m stepping into a minefield or not.

I know now I need to mitigate my usage for my mental health. Being online has its benefits and drawbacks because the websites and platforms we use are tools. Multiple studies have shown these tools have an affect on mental health, and as part of a plan to cope with the Chaos Timeline? It’s really a good idea to figure out your relationship to that.

The other thing I’d mention is that white noise and noise-cancelling headphones have been invaluable to reduce external influences. RainyMood.com and FocusMusic.fm are two, great free sites you can use.

Lastly, the opposite is also true. Sometimes, if you’re feeling stuck exploring YouTube! to find new songs or instrumentals is pretty awesome.

3. Drink More Water than Caffeine

Pretty self-explanatory, right? When you’re stressed or anxious hydration can be the first thing to go, which only exacerbates the potential for terrible mood swings or depression. If you’re like me and you’re also addicted to caffeine (I am never giving this up don’t bother trying), this can also mean you’ll dehydrate more quickly.

With body/diet your mileage will vary, of course, it is easy to forget the basics when you’re stressed out. As I’m sure your doctor/nutritionist will remind you, food does contribute to your overall health and well-being. My situation is going to be ten times different because of my physiology, so I don’t have advice to give here. I do favor citrus—especially lemon—when I’m feeling down, though, and I always feel better when I limit sugar.

4. Reframe Self-Care

Sometimes, chaos and unpredictability exacerbate my feelings of anxiety because I enjoy having a certain amount of stability to manage my expectations and workload. Ah-hah! Who doesn’t?

When life’s great, self-care is something I do once in a while. When I’m super stressed out, I add self-care to my To Do list. If I’m on “lock down” and recognize I’m being overwhelmed by the random and frenetic—I add a touch of whimsy so I don’t feel guilty about engaging in self-care. Sometimes I’ll assign numbers to the list of things I could do and then roll dice. Other times, I’ll write ten things on different notecards, shuffle, and then pick.

If self-care is stressful, here’s an easy art project you can do when you’re not at your limit. Grab a shoebox, use old wrapping paper to decorate the bottom and the top, and label it “My Happy Place”. Then, find some sticky notes or post cards and write down things you can do that you associate with feeling happy. These might include: watching a movie, re-reading a book, listening to your favorite band, baking bread, doing your nails, exercising, etc. After you’ve written these activities down, stick them inside the box. The next time you’re feeling like crap, go to your Happy Place, and pick a random card.

I know there’s a certain amount of guilt associated with self-care, and I can empathize with that. Self-care is part of stress management for me. I hope if you find yourself in a similar position you’ll get the help you need. It’s hard to earnestly focus on your health if you don’t think it’s important.

5. Learn a New Skill

To close this short list of coping mechanisms, I wanted to mention how beneficial learning something new can be for your mental health. When you’re in that terrible headspace, it can be challenging to find your way out of the shadows. Learning a new skill benefits me in a couple of ways. First, it helps me refocus my mental energy on something that’s not related to the source of my anxiety. Second, learning often includes progress-tracking, so I can see how I’m doing over time. That slows me down and helps me focus on the moment. And lastly, the act of learning is also a really good way for me to remember life goes on—even in darkness.

If this doesn’t work for you due to financial or time constraints, the other thing I do is read well-researched non-fiction. The voice is usually very calming and filed under sleep aids for me.

I hope you’re faring better than okay. It’s been an interesting past couple of years, and I’m sure there’s more changes to come. Hopefully, there’ll be good news on the horizon.

[Guest Post] Tools and Equipment for Dice Castle Adventure

My second installment in the Adventure to Dice Castle went live on Geeks Dream Girl recently. It’s dubbed Tools and Equipment: Adventure to Dice Castle.

Here’s one of the items I recommend:

8. Business Cards – You can find inexpensive business cards almost anywhere for first time buyers or through special deals. I wouldn’t order a lot of them right off the bat, but having a business card is definitely better than not having one. When you give them out, try to get the business card of the person you’re networking with. — SOURCE: Tools and Equipment: Adventure to Dice Castle

I really love writing this series because it’s giving me the chance to put freelance writing for the hobby games industry in a fun context. While today’s post is less of a parody than the one I’ll write for next month, it’s necessary in the sense that there are tools you’ll need to write, play and design hobby games.

‘Til next time!

[My Guest Post] Difference Between Marketing and Selling Your Books

This month at the How To Write Shop, I talk about the difference between marketing and selling your books. I got the idea for this post after my discussions at WisCon, because a lot of authors are starting to take on more of a retailer role than a marketing one. Internet retail is a whole ‘nother ball of wax, and I feel that it’s good to make the decision whether or not that’s something you want to do.

Here’s a quote from the article:

I look at marketing as a way to build awareness of yourself and your work. Sales, on the other hand, is focused on the exchange of money for goods and services. Although they often go hand-in-hand, they’re two different things. Saying “buy my book” isn’t a marketing technique; it’s the hard sell. Telling your readers what your book is about, on the other hand, falls under that marketing umbrella. –SOURCE: Difference between Marketing and Selling your Books at the How To Write Shop

Hop on over there and give it a read. While you’re on the site, be sure to check out other articles, too. There are several new contributors and they are broadening the scope of the site. If you’re even remotely interested in becoming a professional author or want to relate to those who are circumnavigating the upheaval in the industry, check it out.

[Guest Post] Print versus Web Writing

The following is a guest post by a blogger and freelancer I met online. Maria shares her views on writing for the web versus writing for print.

Let’s get this out of the way: they’re not the same thing. Saying the two writing styles are identical and interchangeable would be about as right as saying the same thing about twins (who would then find all sorts of wicked ways to confuse, humiliate, and aggravate you until you learned your lesson).

Storytelling versus Information-Spewing

Creative writing professors and experts expound on the importance of storytelling. If the piece of writing didn’t take you anywhere, what’s the bleepin’ point? Did you meet anybody interesting? Did someone get hit by a bus? Did anyone get to throw a pie? If none of these happened, it’s not a story, it doesn’t belong in print, and it should be shoved into an encyclopedia or diary.

Meanwhile, web surfers aren’t looking for stories—usually. They’re looking for facts. How many euros does it take to take a train from Florence to Rome? What movies feature alien invasions? Where can I get a turducken (a dish with a chicken in a duck in a turkey)? Unless someone faithfully reads your blog, they’re going to find your post in a keyword search, which means they’re on a mission and unless you answer their question in the first few sentences, they’re going to go searching elsewhere.

Think of it this way: when you write for print, write for someone sitting in front of a warm fire with a cup of tea. This reader wants to learn about you.

When writing for the web, write for a mouse-clicking kid on a sugar high. This child has absolutely no interest in your life story. He or she will only read 18% of your writing, so there’s no use adding pretty adjectives or exciting adverbs.

Consider SEO

Whether you’re blogging for money or not (or blogging at all), you’ll need to consider key words when writing for the web, even in document titles and headlines.

Let’s say that instead of my current title, I’d called this post, “They’re Not Twins: Why Writing for Print and the Web Are Different.” What’s wrong with it (excepting its banality, for which I hope you forgive me)?

    1. It’s too long. Unless you’re going to tongue in cheek, keep titles and headlines short. None of this, “In Which We Learn about the Ways Writing in Print Differs from Writing for the Web” nonsense.
    2. Even if you’re a blogger and you have many devoted followers, some people will arrive at your site through a keyword search. How will your SEO improve without keywords? Place them at the very beginning of each title and headline. Twins have nothing to do with this post.

Exceptions Are Inevitable

Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Many blogs and sites have long, deep posts meant to tell stories and relay emotional and psychological journeys. These are, however, a minority on the web. Most people on the Internet want one of four things: information, social contact, sensationalism, or laughs. If you can’t offer any of these quickly, take a breather and work on your craft. Read others’ web writing and see what you can learn.

Bio: Maria Rainier is a freelance writer for onlinedegrees.org and blog junkie. She is currently a resident blogger at First in Education where she’s been researching both the highest paying jobs and the lowest paying jobs on the market. In her spare time, she enjoys square-foot gardening, swimming, and avoiding her laptop.

Semantics, Word Choice and Personality

Lately, I’ve been obsessing about semantics, how we choose our words, and what effect a personality type has on both. Take self-promotion just as an example. To tell an introvert to get out there and “Sell yourself!” might make someone feel uncomfortable. Turn that around for a second and say something like, “Help someone know more about you.” Same thing. Different words.

No, this idea isn’t new. It’s a different take on the old adage, “Doesn’t matter what you say, just how you say it.” There’s two sides to the application of this powerful idea. There’s the writing side, where we have to make decisions about the words we use. There’s also the semantic side, where we interpret meanings of words that may illicit a response or a reaction.

For one example, consider the dreaded “critique.” I don’t know one writer who doesn’t love to write. I do know, however, a lot of writers who have no idea how to critique or receive criticism — especially when it’s a rough draft. If you’ve experienced this, you know what I’m talking about. They nitpick the placement of a comma. They argue with you about how you feel when you read your story. They write one draft and think it’s finished. Here, too, semantics and word choice come into play. There’s a huge difference between saying, “I did not care for this story, but someone else might.” versus “This story sucked.” Sure, different people critique poorly for different reasons; they’re insecure about their own work, they’re envious, they’re inexperienced, etc. It may be hard, but I find you have to balance “what was said” with “what they meant.” In most cases, I find the reason why someone gives you a bad critique is because they don’t understand the difference between a critique and a review. Of course, you have to mull over comments in a way that doesn’t drive you insane. After all, you have to have confidence in your work or you wouldn’t write.

A lot of writers are introverts by nature; I’m guessing this affects how we react emotionally to words and what we write. I feel that it’s tough to be an introvert simply because there are so many words associated with this personality type that have negative connotations. We’re loners. Outcasts. Freaks. If you’re a writer trying to pursue a professional path, though, we’re often forced to be both. (I am an introvert by nature and an extrovert when I have to be.) Sure, my writing changes depending upon what mood I’m in. What’s fascinating to me, though, is experiencing this simple idea from the reader’s viewpoint.

By being able to understand what their personality type might be, our writing functions as an emotional catalyst for our readers. Yes, marketers do this all the time, but this idea doesn’t just apply to ad copy or non-fiction. Often, the most popular stories aren’t the ones that are written the greatest; they’re the ones that can reach a reader on an emotional level. Maybe, for the rest of us to do the same thing, we just have to find the right words to do it. Maybe, for us to do that, we have to ask ourselves what touches us.

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