As you’ve seen in the past weeks’ posts, there are a great many coping skills available to us to deal with the demands and challenges of life.
Let’s jump up to the 30,000-foot view to categorize some of these. We are complex beings, with thoughts, emotions and behaviors all working together. Our thoughts, emotions and behaviors also influence each other reciprocally. We can use our thoughts to affect our emotions, our emotions certainly affect our thoughts, and our thoughts and emotions also influence, and are influenced by, our behavior.
Anxiety is a good example. It’s an emotion, but the way we think about things can raise or lower our anxiety level. We can also use behavior (exercising, relaxing, meditating) to lower anxiety. The purpose of what are called cognitive-behavioral techniques is to change our “cognition” (thoughts) in order to change how we feel and behave. Our emotions also affect our behavior (and our sense of well-being) at a different level than our thoughts. As we saw with the Awareness wheel, we can use a certain method (behavior) to be more fully aware of and to communicate our thoughts, feelings, and intentions.
The good news about this complex interplay of thoughts, emotions, and behavior is that by working on one of these, we can almost always affect the other two. We have many ways of helping ourselves! There is also a synergy of the three where the sum is greater than the total of the individual parts. If we “move the needle” in one or two areas, then we can begin to turn vicious cycles of negative thoughts-emotions-behavior into virtuous cycles of improvement and well-being.
In the next weeks, we will look at each of these areas in turn and identify coping skills we can use in each area. Ready? On your marks, get set, let’s go!