Learning to Cope

In my last post (Peace of Mind?), I encouraged readers to leave the safe and secure borders of feeling at home and strike out into unknown territory. At that time, I promised to say something about coping. Rereading my post a few days later, I realized that I had done nothing of the sort and still owe my readers an explanation.

Sometimes, it is not a good idea to go beyond the boundaries of the familiar. Sometimes daily life itself is overwhelming and it’s more important to learn how to cope with things as they are. In those periods of your life that you’re sleeping poorly, having trouble getting out of bed in the morning, or bursting into tears at small futile events, going on a Hero’s Journey is not the issue. Coming home to yourself is.

Often, it’s a matter of pinpointing what it is that’s keeping you unbalanced and doing something about that. I went through a period of ill-health about a year ago and it took me several weeks to discover that, if I took good care of my body, eating the right foods, spending enough time outdoors, I wouldn’t feel as depressed.

It may be a matter of too many stress factors in your life at the same time. Changing jobs, moving house, losing an important person – these are some of the life events that can cause stress. Even positive life events can cause stress if they’re combined with other stress factors.

Highly sensitive people tend to get more easily overwhelmed by health issues, stress factors, and life events. It’s a lot harder to keep a sense of balance and firm ground under your feet when your perception is being bombarded by sensory signals.

One generally can’t do much about the circumstances surrounding one’s life. Things happen. They always do. But you can change your perception of these things. One friend described it this way:

Imagine: you’re walking down the street, nodding and smiling at everyone you meet. They all nod and smile back. Then one man passes you without smiling or even meeting your eyes. You can tell yourself, “That man doesn’t like me.” Or you can tell yourself, “There must be something wrong with that man.” Actually, you’re free to interpret the man’s actions in any way you wish. You’re even free to not interpret the man’s actions at all.

I like the fairytale of the Frog Prince. The princess was quite upset that she was going to have to kiss the wet, ugly frog. She only did so because she was forced to (either by her sense of honor or by her father, the versions differ). But, by confronting her distaste and kissing the frog, she was able to transform the entire event.

Kissing the frog

Kissing the frog

The stories you tell yourself influence how you feel about yourself and the world around you. If you are feeling overwhelmed by what’s happening in your life, it’s good to take daily quiet time and practice letting go of the stories you tell yourself. Can you change the situation you’re in? If not, can you change your perception of it? Can you be with things as they are?


  1. Mary Lou Gillette

    Dear Maddi,
    Thank you for addressing those of us who are treading the waters of life and searching for firm footing! Sometimes life comes rushing into our lives in a way that changes us dramatically. The comfort zone is no longer in sight and coping is essential to find it again! Your book shows us how well you know the long journey back to firm ground. Thank you for marking the trail!
    Much love to you! Malou!

  2. Madeleine Lenagh

    Thank you for these words, Malou. I wish you a good journey as well.

    And I just thought of another bit of advice about coping: take walks! Spend as much time as possible in nature, just observing all you see, smell, hear, etc. Walk in nature as much as possible, it is the most healing and grounding thing I know.

  3. Hi Maddi your words always so right and deep. Yes I think you are right that often our own interpretaion about the thought from other people
    determines our judgment about other people.
    Do you know the Story from the man with nail but without hammer.

    the story of the hammer
    a man wants to hang a painting. he has the nail, but not the hammer. therefore it occurs to him to go over to the neighbor and ask him to lend him his hammer.
    but at this point, doubt sets in. what if he doesn’t want to lend me the hammer? yesterday he barely spoke to me. maybe he was in a hurry. or, perhaps, he holds something against me. but why? i didn’t do anything to him.
    if he would ask me to lend him something, i would, at once. how can he refuse to lend me his hammer? people like him make other people’s life miserable. worst, he thinks that i need him because he has a hammer. this has got to stop!
    and suddenly the guy runs to the neighbor’s door, rings, and before letting him say anything, he screams: “you can keep your hammer, you bastard!”*
    from the situation is hopeless, but not serious (the pursuit of unhappiness), by paul watzlawick
    I think it meets a little bit your metaphor of the walk.
    It is often difficult, for us to see and understand us and other people . But there are sometimes persons like you, who open our eyes and give us the feeling, That We Are Not Alone with our doubts and misunderstandings.

    Thank you again so mutch for sharing your thoughs .

    (hopefully my words are comprehensibility It is very difficult for me to say it in English.)
    BTW The princess has never kissed the frog in the original versions, they threw the poor guy on the wall (Grimm)or cut his head. ; / Because she was a very self- conscious girl !

    With good thoughts for you
    Michèle Kemper
    Mi KE

    *don`t show this word our “D”. ; )

  4. Madeleine Lenagh

    LOL! Thank you, Michéle for this wonderful story. And for your take on the original Grimm.
    And try this thought: your words are exactly as comprehensive as they need to be. I’m sure everyone who reads your comment know exactly what you mean to say!

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