Posted by: Patient Advocate Summer Katz, M.A., NCC, LMHC
Have you ever heard yourself saying, “Oh, I can put that off until tomorrow?” Or, maybe you’ve told yourself, “It’s not that big of a deal. I’ll get around to it next time.” Perhaps you’ve even said, “What’s the point? It’s not going to fix anything anyway.”
The above statements all cater to hesitation, procrastination, resistance and ultimately avoidance of our identified task, goals or responsibilities. The truth is that we’re all at least partially responsible for giving into “avoidance coping,” because avoiding something is often a normal reaction to stress.
Many people tend to default back to avoiding because it is simply easier not to focus on the trauma or stressor. But more often, it’s because we intrinsically desire a life of simplicity and convenience. Of course, experiencing simplicity and convenience tends to cater to procrastination because we give in to the desire of “putting it off until later” in order to participate in something that is ultimately more enjoyable and less stressful.
In an effort to succeed at working through (not avoiding) a stressor, first understanding “adaptive and palliative coping” can help us identify the ways in which we react or respond to situational, as well as ongoing circumstances in life. Adaptive coping, or problem-focused coping, involves an individual altering the stressful transaction between the environment and that person by attempting to change themselves or the environment. Palliative coping is defined by a combination of avoidance, wishful thinking and emotion-focused coping. It was the avoidance version of “palliative coping” which I was highlighting at the beginning of this blog.
Even in these definitions, there are many factors to acknowledge in understanding how we learn and choose to cope, which may occur differently based on each situation. One factor to distinguish is how we define the actual impact of the stressor.
At this point, the impact of that stressor (which has not yet happened) is just a perception; how we perceive the outcome of that circumstance. The stressor may a one-time thing, or something that happens chronically.
For example, there is certainly a difference between the need to cope with a trauma, such as being in a car accident, versus the need to get through the everyday stressors of life (such as, for some, the necessary treatment routine to combat the ongoing symptoms of a chronic medical condition).
Our response may be that it is overwhelming, or in the case of a trauma, it may lead to shock and perhaps an inability to even articulate our thoughts.
However, chronic, daily stressors can develop in us a similar mentality- that “this is too much,” “I can’t cope with this” and that “I’m over it.” The positive step to move forward then is to challenge the irrational, “shut-down” reaction in order to pursue and ultimately succeed at your goal.
After challenging your reaction, next define the goal. For example, say the goal is to live a desirable life with abundant quality. To make this goal happen, we must then create smaller steps to work toward this goal. One of the steps, in the case of a patient with a chronic illness, is to work toward becoming more compliant in the daily (treatment) regime.
Along the way, we may ask why is it important that I reach that goal? This brings us back to understanding the benefits of the step of adhering and following up with the treatment plan. One of the benefits is that consistency in adherence will to lead a better quality of life.
Next, think about how you will pursue and how you can actually reach your goal?
The process ultimately leads back to, “How do I change this habit of procrastination and avoidance?” What if the answer means that we have to consider the opposite question, which is, “How can I participate in more adherence and compliance to my treatment routine?”
If we solely focus on the problem, then we’re actually engaging more in the PROBLEM. We need to challenge any defeatist thoughts by considering the areas where we are making an effort and can be successful. If we begin to focus on the solution, are we then engaging in the SOLUTION? That’s a rhetorical question of course, “hint, hint.”
Here’s another strategy for reaching your goals: Take a moment and recognize your strengths. What are the best things about you? Now stop and reflect on what it took for you to develop these strengths. And what were some of the things you had to practice in order for these pieces of your life to be maintained so well?
I’m sure you know where I’m going with this… The trick is to apply the same principles from the areas of your life that are so strong into the categories of your life that you would like to be improved. It’s possible that if you practice these similar strength-based techniques in areas such as your treatment regimen, your overall health status can benefit and ultimately you will experience a much improved quality of life.
Referencing my personal motto, “It IS what we make it,” confronts the quite different standard of, “It is what it is.” This perspective may certainly help to adjust the “I’ll get around to it next time” to a more motivated, “What I do with right now impacts what I want for tomorrow.” With this, the question to you becomes… “What do YOU want to make it?”
Summer Katz, M.A., NCC, LMHC Licensed Mental Health Counselor
*Disclaimer: This blog is provided for informational purposes only (including brief topic exploration or reflection) and should not be used as a substitute for professional mental health or medical treatment. It does not necessarily represent the views of HHCS Health Group of Companies, Cystic Fibrosis nor Freedom Pharmacies.