Learning how to ‘un-cope’


So many of the clients I work with are champions at coping. In truth, they are a bit too good at it! You’re probably much the same. It’s likely you’re a master multitasker, adept at juggling your own individual blend of work, family, relationships, study and myriad other commitments so that your days and nights are busier than a milliner on Melbourne Cup eve. You might register feeling under pressure, stressed or overwhelmed. Sometimes, after years of feeling this way, it just becomes kind of normal and in some ways it is, because you’re so used to it.

Interestingly, the word cope is derived from the Greek ‘kolaphos’ which means to ‘cop’ a blow from a fist. So, being in coping mode all the time is like fighting a bare-knuckled brawl with life. Perhaps it’s time for a different relationship with life that’s more harmonious, sustainable and joyful? I’m not suggesting you opt out and go live in a cave – far from it! There is actually a delicate balance between a life full of the things that bring satisfaction, meaning and purpose and slipping into a state of near constant stress and overwhelm. Key to the art of staying in balance, in my opinion, is learning the subtle art of ‘un-coping’.

To ‘un-cope’ is to take time to step away from the stream of busyness, information overload and constant requests that fill our brains and wind up our nervous systems and instead ease into states of spaciousness and rest. Yes, you can give yourself permission to do that!

There are lots of ways to ‘un-cope’ and they characteristically involve removing yourself from the demands of daily life. You might go fishing or dust off the watercolour paints, get into the garden or go for a bushwalk. The subtlety of the art of un-coping is attaining a mindset of non-achievement. So, if you’re on a bushwalk, resist the urge to try and reach your destination in record time but instead drop into a state of appreciating and noticing the beauty of what’s around you.

Let’s also be clear that being able to cope is a wonderful thing; we all need it and there’s nothing wrong with being good at coping, just as long as it doesn’t become your default state AND you know how to turn it off when you don’t need it – like when we’re trying to sleep or relax. In fact, if you can switch on, wind up and cope when needed and then unwind, relax and recharge when appropriate, then you have the foundations for exceptional wellbeing and a life lived to the full.

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