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If How I Cope Isn’t Hurting Anyone, Then Let It Go

Mar 8, 2021

Once you’ve exhausted the traditional self-care strategies (meditation, gentle movement, getting outdoors, plenty of sleep, fuelling your body, a balance of alone time and social interactions), coping strategies can get downright personal.

Maybe it's because many of us are taking all of those aforementioned mental health breaks that we’ve been advised to and we're still burning out.

Or perhaps we just need a change in the self-care scene.

Either way, I’ve learned that during stress — pandemic or otherwise — we all have certain strategies that ground us and others that might cause, well, more stress. With some families spending even more time together than ever before, it can be very enlightening to see how individuals react to the strain: what fills our cup and what decidedly drains it.


This dad felt too tightly wound during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Then he unclenched. Read that here


In short, my coping might look different from your coping, but that doesn’t mean that one is better than the other. Just because something is different doesn’t mean it is worth less. My want for a clean kitchen may be every bit as valuable as my kid’s need to play video games, or my partner’s desire to read car blogs. What can be challenging is when those different strategies bump up against each other and cause more stress, not stress relief.

I don’t personally play video games. I never really have, except for a game or two of Space Invaders when it first came out. They don’t interest me in the slightest; however, I’m learning that for some people, they can be a way to connect with others. It doesn’t float my boat, but I’m learning to think, “Hey, that’s so cool that those video games are so important to that person,” rather than scoffing “what a waste of time.”

I like to journal, try out different forms of expressive writing, and occasionally write a bit of my novel as a stress release. For some, that sounds like a whole pile of agonizing homework. But I’ve learned to do what works for me, rather than what society says is the “in pastime” of the moment. Kids might love video games, or they might get a lot out of art. Some might enjoy running around outside, while others prefer making up dance routines in the basement.

"I enjoy thinking of how his stress levels plummet with every car or trout discussed."

All of those options are good — can’t we allow our kids to try out a bunch of different activities and hobbies, keep the ones that work and compost the rest?

My partner is interested in cars and fly-fishing, and likes reading articles and watching documentaries about both topics. It’s his form of meditation, and while I’m not very interested in either, I love imagining how his brain floods with feel-good hormones when he does what he loves. I enjoy thinking of how his stress levels plummet with every car or trout discussed.

Plus, when he needs to ground himself and decompress via those means, I can be out on a nature hike or watching Gilmore Girls, two other modes of burnout prevention that I’ve embraced. And I don’t really care if other people detest my choice of TV show or athletic pursuit, because — guess what? — it’s all just for me. We’re allowed to be selective when it comes to our own self-care strategies. I’m pretty sure that always giving way to someone’s else’s preference in those precious moments of downtime is going to cause more stress, not relieve any.


Feel like you didn't sign up for this pandemic parenting business? This mom agrees with you. Read here.


To cope, I may also arrange for a safe way to get my house cleaned, because restoring order in my household when I have so little control in other areas is sometimes such a tangible relief I could practically cry. If someone else gets that, wonderful, but it’s not a requirement for me to feel better.

For a few years now I’ve really been striving to be intrigued about people’s preferences and passions and not dismissive of them just because they’re different than mine. My motto to be curious, rather than judgmental, is another coping strategy. I’m not sure how I missed learning that an original quote, “Be curious, not judgmental,” is actually attributed to Walt Whitman.

I learned that nugget of information from the dynamite show Ted Lasso — another wonderful mode of stress release, in my opinion. It definitely works for me. Let’s allow everyone to cope in their own ways. Be thoughtful of other people’s interests, and skip the judgement. We’re not the Supreme Court of parenting or society. Let’s be open, kind and appreciative of various ways of wading through this messy age, one step at a time.

Article Author Janice Quirt
Janice Quirt

Read more from Janice here.

Janice Quirt is a writer who moved from the big city to Orangeville in 2014 and never looked back, claiming a need to take the scenic route through life. Her blended family includes five kids, a wildly overgrown garden and a whole lot of coffee. Janice cherishes creative writing as a treat, right up there with overstuffed tacos, '80s mixed tapes and walks on beaches scattered with dunes. 

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