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Today I read some research on the coping strategies that help stressed parents of kids on the autism spectrum improve their quality of life. Now, we all know that scientific research isn't the only way to 'know' something and that study designs are limited by factors like time and money. Within the frame of this imperfection, it was interesting to note the research findings. Seeking social support strategies and escape/avoidance strategies were the only two types of coping strategies that helped stressed parents improve their quality of life. This doesn't mean that the other strategies weren't helpful at all. More than likely, they prevented quality of life from getting worse!
I get the need for social support. No argument there, but I was surprised that escape helped. And yet, why should I be? All the mindless television, social media, addictive behaviors and the like point to the fact that avoiding the struggle helps somehow. The authors were quick to point out that long term avoidance will likely lead to other problems that will then reduce quality of life. When I think about my own life, I find tons of anecdotal data that support their findings. I leave for a weekend and return refreshed. While I'm away, I focus on not attending to anything. I call it my 'no fixing' time. I leave things be. I let go.
Whether with junk tv, or on vacation, letting go seems to provide a key to coping and improved quality of life.
Perhaps that why there are so many invitations in the scriptures to 'come away'. God is calling us to our own set of healthy, beautiful, escape/avoidance coping strategies. We get to shift our perspective and just stop focussing on the stuff that overwhelms us. We get to run away, to hide, to be safe. Our Heavenly Father knows what we need and He's on it. And, unlike the unhealthy coping copycats, running away into our Father's arms has no long term negative side effects. We focus on Him, He handles our stuff. It was too big for us anyway. We focus on Him, we become like Him, better able to cope. We emerge with wisdom for the season, and peace that guards our hearts and minds. Psychologists would say the coping strategy is buffering us from the harmful effects of stress. Yup! Our God does that for us. He's a good Father.