How to Truly Support Yourself: Trade in your Coping Tools for Thriving Tools

I spent the first three days of covid 19 self isolation eating licorice.

Food, especially anything sweet, like candy, is my unconscious and conditioned go-to during times of stress.

And what I was quickly reminded of after a few extra pounds, a sore tummy and an increase in mental fog and anxiety, is that gummies will not solve my problems. They taste amazing and help me cope in the short term. But in the long term, they actually take me away from my ability to focus, follow through and thrive.

We are always looking for ways to soothe ourselves and feel safe and stable. And by design we do this largely unconsciously and automatically. Usually we have some way of comforting ourselves that was developed during childhood. For myself personally I remember eating ice cream every time I was upset about something as a child or teen.

As children, we often have limited ways to take control of our external environment. As adults however we have an expanded set of tools to choose from. I will offer these up in a future article but for now I encourage you to develop some awareness around whether the things you do to support yourself are actually working for you.

The way I see it, there is a distinction between having coping tools and thriving tools.

Usefulness over Time

A coping tool is something that feels good in the moment but makes things worse in the long term. A thriving tool is something that makes you feel better now and also over time.

Automaticity

A coping tool is automatic and unconscious, usually developed in childhood. A thriving tool initially takes awareness and deliberate practice, but with effort and repetition, it can become an automatic habit as well.

External vs Internal Focus

A coping tool usually involves going outside yourself in some way to make yourself feel better. Common ones in our culture include shopping, eating, drinking, and distracting. These are ways we turn outside ourselves for support.

A thriving tool is about going inward, developing practices of self awareness, presence, clarity, courage and curiosity. Thriving tools remind us we can rely on ourselves.

Alignment

A coping generally takes time and energy away from our purpose and our authentic selves. A thriving tool deepens our connection with what we care about and who we truly are.

The first step is to develop some sort of awareness around whether you are practicing coping tools or thriving tools. If it’s the former, there is no need to immediately drop everything. Instead cultivate compassion and gratitude for what has helped in your past AND set an intention to cultivate thriving tools to propel you into your high potential future.

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