One year my roommate formed the rhythm of making muffins when she was having a difficult time. Sometimes from scratch, sometimes from a pouch, always eaten with coffee or tea. Life was rich, beautiful, and often painful that year. We ate a lot of muffins.
My go-to has always been to clean or organize when dealing with unpleasant emotions or life events. I can remember doing this forever, back to when I was very young and cleaned the house while my mom napped under the dark quilt of depression.
I have since added several activities and rhythms that I can turn to: journaling, going on a walk, gardening, deep breathing, yoga, talking with friends, drinking something warm, and making muffins.
I find it helpful to have a mix of coping mechanisms. Some that are so engaging there’s not space for other conscious thinking and others that allow both the front and back burners to simmer. I often do these same things when life is peachy and I find this helps strengthen their effectiveness when being used as a life preserver to survive.
Having a go-to coping strategy can also communicate to those in your home that you’re wading in something difficult, without the bothersome burden of having to explain before an explanation has been found. Yes, I am cleaning out this closet again I’m just feeling a lot, alright?!?
When I turn my mind and body toward muffins, cleaning, or digging in the dirt, I am telling myself: It is okay to be feeling/thinking the way that you are. Let’s indirectly engage it so that the quicksand doesn’t begin to form and then we’ll enjoy these muffins/clean house/tidy garden. If what feels heavy right now still feels heavy after that, we’ll figure it out.
Needing to utilize a coping strategy isn’t a crutch or a sign that you’re weak. Rather, it is accepting responsibility for yourself and whatever in your life is feeling heavy or sad or just too much – and taking action to get yourself what you need. That sounds pretty strong to me.