Unlearning coping strategies that are bad for you


“There’s nothing wrong with being driven. And there’s nothing wrong with putting yourself first to reach your goals. The other stuff still happens.”

-Shonda Rhimes; –Fortune profile

When you have a bad day, I mean it is horrible, how do you soothe yourself? When you’ve just spent hours cleaning and your family undoes your work in less than 10 minutes, how do you calm yourself? When you’ve spent countless hours working on a proposal or project – and your peers are harsh and overly critical with their feedback, how do you cope?

During our wrap up discussion of Shonda Rhimes’ Year of Yes, we dove deep into what Shonda had to share about putting food on top of her challenges, fears, and issues.

Shonda shared how she was busy building her empire, raising babies, and keeping herself  safe by saying no to deepening her relationships, getting support at home, and taking excellent care of her body.

Instead of pausing, reflecting, and making adjustments, Shonda kept moving forward and putting food on top of any discomfort – because the food brought her a moment of comfort. And after so many moments of comfort – Shonda was living in a body she didn’t recognize. She was too embarrassed and felt too much shame to ask for a seatbelt extender on an airplane. She had a hard time physically playing with her children. She was not saying yes to effective self-love habits.

Once she started saying yes to her right things – putting food on top of her fears, discomfort, and challenges was no longer her go-to coping strategy. By unlearning this, Shonda was able to say yes to more physical activity, taking time off, working with her healthcare team, and creating self-love habits based on love.

Things can go well for all of us – and then in one instance, it’s a crap fest. It’s not fun. It’s stressful. It’s blah blah blah on top of more blah blah blah.

When this onslaught of challenges show up full force, it may be easier to cope by using food, alcohol, or any other unhealthy coping strategies to get us through.

Instead of staying stuck in this unhealthy cycle, use these 4 steps to unlearn coping strategies that are not based on self-love.

The first step to unlearning these unhealthy self-medicating activities is to be honest with yourself. Think about the last three major challenges you experienced. How did you take care of yourself? What did you do to cope? List any unhealthy self-medicating activities you engaged in.

The second step is to make a list of better and more supportive coping strategies. Think about the things you love and that make you feel loved. List any tools, books, music, activities, etc., that would provide healthier options for coping with stressful situations.

The third step is to check-in with your support team (e.g. family, friends, life coach, mentor, healthcare professionals, etc.). Shonda talks about the people on her support team and how they are there to keep her making decisions based on love. They remind her of her best self and the things she’s doing when she’s taking the best care of herself. They gently help her pause and remember the unhealthy patterns she had to unlearn – and how she can use that as motivator. They help her take actions and utilize the coping strategies Shonda created on her on terms.

The fourth step is to unlearn mean self-talk for those moments when you may have a slip up. Unlearning your unhealthy self-medicating patterns will take some time. Be compassionate with yourself in those moments when you don’t make the absolute best choice for coping. Reflect on what happened. Forgive yourself. Seek out your support team. Get back to saying yes to your right things.

What are your self-medicating strategies? Which of these do you need to let go? What’s your plan?

Share them with me here.

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