In times of transition and stress, we look for coping mechanisms. We need something to gives us a shot of dopamine to calm our frazzled nerves. What’s your drug of choice?
Mine is Amazon Prime. When I’ve got a case of the blues, nothing makes me feel better than one-clicking a two-day delivery of a $20 trinket that I really don’t need. I get a warm and fuzzy feeling knowing that my snuggie or chia pet is on its way.
However, consumption is not a long-term strategy for happiness. Don’t get me wrong, I love capitalism and all the luxuries it affords. But consuming food, alcohol, clothes, travel, toys and “stuff” will eventually lose its shine. There’s got to be something else.
I’ve concluded that we can balance consumption with two other coping mechanisms: Creativity and Contribution.
We were born to make things. Do you draw, sing, play, write, compose, cook, plan, style, build, plant, or journal? This is because your natural impulse is to create something that didn’t exist before. In times of transition and stress, your creativity can be a great coping mechanism. Take a moment now and list the things you do to let your creativity flow. Most hobbies qualify in some way or another.
Invest in yourself by allowing time in your day to create. It will give you that boost of dopamine you crave. Don’t feel guilty about the time spent. The stress reduction and perspective gained is well worth it. Furthermore, a clearer mind will lead to better decisions.
Giving back to the people and causes that matter most to you is a third coping strategy. Think about it. Focusing on others puts your own stress into perspective. Giving back in an altruistic way creates a positive feedback loop. You’ll feel better about the small difference you make. You’ll feel better about yourself as a person.
It’s important to be mindful of all that you already do. Take stock of the contribution you’re making to your community, pat yourself on the back and feel good knowing it makes a difference. Remember, contribution doesn’t have to be time spent with an official charitable, civic or religious cause. It can be random acts of kindness to family members. The key is that you are giving without expecting anything in return.
Balancing the 3C’s
Anyone of these 3 coping mechanisms can become a problem if you are out of balance. Obviously, hedonistic consumption leads to all manner of vices. However, time spent solely on creative activities become boring and insignificant. Contributing to society can become codependency. It can lead to burnout and resentment if you are always just giving.
So the key is balance. After spending time contribution to others, spend some me time at the spa or alone with your journal. It’s the contrast, the give and the take, that makes the 3Cs effective in making the most of your transition.
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