How to Cope When Life Gets Tough
It may seem like the sky is falling when the whole world is having a meltdown due to the conversations and information regarding COVID-19. The fears, anxiety, and the stress that comes with a pandemic can be difficult to deal with and recover from. I get asked all the time how I cope being married to a police officer. Women have expressed to me that they could not be married to a cop because they could not tolerate the stress that comes with the career. Dealing with a pandemic and living the law enforcement wife life is not exactly the same but they both present the same sense of fears, anxiety, and stress in our lives. Giving us the urgency to find peace and recovery. There is one thing police wives do best and that is, adapt. They offer support with effort in maintaining a flexible lifestyle all while practicing resiliency.
Being married to a police officer, raising three kids with two dogs I have managed to keep somewhat of my sanity by doing a few simple things. So how do we mentally stay stable without freaking out? Over the years I have developed some tactics that work for me and our home. Here are some simple suggestions to help you stay afloat when life gets tough. I personally use all these techniques and have found them very beneficial in my life. Hope these simple yet practical ways help keep you standing and moving forward.
Write- Write it out! Take a moment to write about your concerns and worries (I usually write it out as prayer) but there is no right or wrong way to do this. Writing is the key here. Writing about your concerns grounds you and helps you to acknowledge those emotions while being present in those feelings. When you are done expressing yourself on paper/iPhone/tablet make yourself a list of positive things that you are currently experiencing. If you can’t think of any, take a moment to gather yourself by starting with a simple list (homemade meal, favorite TV show, recent trip, relationships, family, job….). Reading your positive list gives your mind a physical reMINDer confirming that what you are experiencing is good. It can help your mind and heart develop a form of gratitude.
Music- David Bowie said it best when he sang, “Put on your red shoes and dance.” Music can help transform your mood and your attitude. Singing and dancing can help uplift or calm your current emotional state. Put together several playlists of upbeat and calming tunes. I personally use “Alexa” for this. I have several playlists ready for how I may need help with my mood or how I want my home to feel that day. Music can help you set the tone for your home. Prepare several playlists that can help you with that.
Social- Submerge yourself with positive people. Being in a social atmosphere can uplift your mood and energy. Just sitting amongst a positive crowd can change the way you feel. Having a positive community is a great asset. Now with everything going virtual this is your time to scout for positive social sites. Join a Bible study group, book club, virtual run club, plug into positive social media outlets that encourage you. Start a text chain with friends that are supportive and fun to chat with. The positive energy that is exchanged even if it is through text, Zoom, or FaceTime can help lift any downward spirals of doubt, grief, or negative feelings into positive good vibes.
Volunteer- Helping others gives you a sense of purpose. Volunteering naturally connects you with others. It increases your self-confidence and provides you with a healthy support system. Connections are naturally made within your community of volunteers which can help alleviate depression, anxiety and stress. Many nonprofit organizations are still in need of volunteers even in this COVID-19 crisis. Call your local organizations and ask how you can help. Don’t forget that checking in with family, co-workers, neighbors, and friends is another great way to offer your help. Volunteering your time can be as simple as setting aside time to call someone weekly and check in on them. I usually set time aside during the week to call or text certain women in my life to check in on them. Connecting with someone by phone or text can help relieve stress and anxiety for both parties involved. We were hardwired to help others so take advantage of your hands, feet, and heart and help when you can.
Wind Therapy- Wind pressure can help your mood. The cool or warm pressure of wind hitting your body naturally releases endorphins giving you an all-around feeling of well-being. Have you ever stuck your hand out of the car window while driving? What about rollerblading or running on a cool brisk morning? How about that motorcycle ride on a sunny day? The smells, sounds, and air pressure can make the world of a difference when you’re feeling down. When time permits and the weather is good my hubby and I like to go on motorcycle rides. So, get out and get moving! Take a drive with the windows down, run, ride and feel the wind press against your body and watch your attitude grow from gloom to bloom.
Dogs- When you see a cute puppy your brain naturally releases oxytocin (it is the love, bonding feeling) and serotonin (the mood booster). With this knowledge why not access these good ol’ feelings daily. Adopt a pet, visit with someone else’s pet, volunteer at an animal shelter. You can even capture these good vibes by scrolling through social media feeds that share cute dogs, cats, farm animals. My life changed when my Standard Poodle, Levi, came into my life. He is my fur baby and little did I know how he would positively change my daily mood and our home environment. Everyone in our family naturally gravitates towards him for unconditional love.
Outdoors- Get outside! I can’t express enough the benefits that come from being outdoors. My number one reason is it reduces cortisol (stress hormone) in the body. We have been ordered to “Shelter-In-Place” during this COVID-19 outbreak. This doesn’t mean don’t go outside. More than ever we must be outside for our sanity and to maintain good mental and physical health. Take a walk, run, or sit in the sun (all while abiding with your state orders of course). As a family we take the time daily to walk or hike outdoors. Now that we are working, schooling, and socializing through our devices, we must take advantage of what the earth has to offer us, a free natural therapy session. Take the time and opportunity to mentally and physically calm and heal yourself through nature.
Hugs- Hugs are very beneficial for your mental health. I am a big hugger and you can’t get by me without getting a hug. I love hugs…ahhhhh. Your mind will release oxytocin if you hug someone for more than 20 seconds. Did you hear that? Hugging helps release that good (it is the love, bonding) feeling. With social distancing in place you must carefully consider who you hug. Good thing is you can hug anyone in your home. If you can’t hug anyone around you, you can still feel connected by having a conversation with a loved one. Hearing your loved one’s voice also releases that natural oxytocin in you. So, hug or make a phone call to a loved one and pass on the happy connection of life.
Research- I love to research. I love to self-educate in an array of different topics. Sometimes being in the unknown can be overwhelming and it can trigger our thoughts to spiral out of control. If you’re feeling doubt, fear or simply don’t understand, do yourself a favor and do some research on your topic/concern. Of course, be mindful to not get caught up in the web of internet nonsense. So where do you start and who do you trust online? Research the source, then navigate from there knowing that their work is credible. This takes time but, in the end, you will feel confident where you stand in what you know and mentally be able to take on the unknown and be in the know.
God’s Word- I find comfort in reading and studying the Bible. I use it to help navigate every part of my life. I grew up with Jesus but really didn’t find him as my Lord until my husband got into law enforcement. It was the moment I realized that his job was no longer in a controlled environment and I could not rest knowing that a day on his beat was unpredictable. I was filled with an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and helplessness (that is a terrible place to be). I was tired of feeling out of control, scared, and stressed. Surrendering my heart and life to God was the best decision I ever made. Self-discovery through God’s Word was what I needed to find out who I was and what kind of woman I was becoming. I surrendered my anxieties and stress (feelings that a police wife often has when her officer leaves for work) knowing that my Savior has complete control. Do I still deal with stress and anxiety, absolutely! You may ask, why surrender your life to God? Well, the blessing that came from all of this was the gift of true peace that surpasses all understanding. If you are in a place where stress and anxiety has taken over your life, I want you to know that burden is far too great to carry daily. Take a moment, sit, acknowledge, and receive freely the gift of peace, grace, and unconditional love that can be found in Jesus Christ.
– Crystal Ienni