Mainstream Living

Employee Tip - Coping Skills Go Both Ways

Here’s a scenario you may have encountered during your time at Mainstream Living.  A member has not showered in several days.  You approach this member asking him to take a shower, and he refuses.  You insist and provide reasons why showering is important, but the member continues to refuse.  Ultimately, voices may rise, there may be arguments, and even a door slammed.  But even with reasoning and arguments, the conversation leads nowhere.   

From a staff perspective, it is obvious that the member is having a difficult time coping with being asked to do something he does not want to do.  It is clear that this member needs to work on his coping skills.  After all if he can’t handle something small, how will he handle a misunderstanding in the community, or a supervisor asking him to do something while at work?

But there is another component at play here that has to do with coping skills. The member is supposed to maintain proper personal hygiene, and staff is taking responsibility for making that happen.  When it doesn’t happen, staff can get frustrated.  In this case, personal hygiene is important in a lot of areas of life and staff would like the member to look at the big picture, and not just the moment.  But is the staff member setting an example?  By constantly prodding the member with frustrating suggestions, staff may be missing the big picture as well.  By following the member to his room and sticking to the argument, the staff member is failing to effectively use coping skills to deal with their own frustration surrounding the situation.
Upon reframing this scenario, we might even come to see that the member is using coping skills more effectively than the staff.  The member recognized his emotions were getting the better of him, and he removed himself from the situation.  Perhaps while in his room, he would take deep breaths, or find an activity to help him calm down so that he could approach the situation in a more level-headed way.  Staff, on the other hand, could not let go of the frustration of the moment, and rather than give the member space to cope, staff continually pushed the issue.

In this case, staff could have taken a lesson from the member.  After things had calmed down a bit, staff could approach the member and ask if they could talk about what had just happened.  Rather than demanding that the member take a shower, staff could ask the member how they could approach the situation differently next time.  Maybe the member will have an answer or maybe not.  You may find yourself surprised at the results. The important thing is that both the staff and member took time to cope, and to process their emotions.  This is just one scenario, but the methods described can apply to a lot of different situations.  The thing to remember is that we all need to step back from situations, give space for our emotions, and use coping skills.

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