Life’s not always great or even good at all times, but how do humans push through? People cope in various ways – some are helpful and healthy, while others are not.
We develop coping techniques to deal with stress and challenges that come in different forms. In a psychological sense, we have coping mechanisms, which are cognitive and behavioral approaches for managing internal and external stressors.
Internal stressors include fears, insecurities, negative self-talk, and frustrations about your skills or appearance. Meanwhile, external stressors include events that may be out of your control but can affect you mentally, emotionally, or physically. All these can lead to developing habits that help you cope. However, not all coping methods are always positively helpful, healthy, and sustainable.
It’s important to evaluate your coping mechanisms and how you utilize them. Some of the approaches can develop into serious health problems or may even cause harm to people around you.
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Identifying Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms
To address unhealthy coping mechanisms, you must first analyze and identify your behaviors based on your primary stressors. What stresses you most, and what is your initial response whenever you experience it?
Assess your overall behavior, including how you think and care about yourself and how you respond to other people whenever you are in a stressful situation. Look at patterns in your behavior where you seem to think you are trying to cope and make yourself feel better. This can include sleeping and eating habits and engage in various activities.
Some people tend to sleep or eat more when they are emotionally stressed or worn out. Meanwhile, others eat or sleep less, or they try to engage in other activities, like partying, gambling, and alcohol, as well as the use of other substances to take their mind off of stressors.
There are also more unnoticeable unhealthy coping mechanisms that you might be doing, causing you more harm than good. This includes self-isolation, romanticizing the past, overthinking and worrying, and avoiding optimism or anything positive. This might seem less harmful, but it can significantly negatively impact your health in the long run.
Coping Mechanisms You Should Avoid
Humans are built to respond, cope and fight when challenges are faced to them — though every method’s different per person. And coping mechanisms help one put survival skills to work in order to be more resilient and get through life better.
However, it is important to note that not all mechanisms that seem to make you feel good are necessarily healthy for you. Here are some unhealthy coping mechanisms you should watch out for and how you can avoid them:
Sleeping Too Much
When you are stressed or when you want to avoid daily problems, it is tempting to use sleep as a temporary escape. But the truth is, sleeping does not save you from anything, nor does it let you escape.
When you wake up, all the problems and challenges, as well as your negative emotions, will still be there. Oversleeping can also lead to diabetes, heart disease, and obesity, among other serious health problems. If any, sleeping did not resolve any of your troubles but just added to them.
Use sleep to rest and allow your body to rejuvenate. Schedule sleep and still try to follow it even on bad days or days when you are stressed out. If you experience sleeping problems related to stress or other mental health conditions, it is best to seek help from a specialist.
A wide variety of drugs and compounds – legal and illegal – are designed to act on a person’s nervous system and brain. These drugs ultimately affect the way you think and feel.
Stimulants, like Adderall and Ritalin, are legal drugs with a medical purpose but are often misused. In 2019, over 45 percent of young adults who used prescription stimulants misused them. In addition, there are also illicit stimulants are still being used by people to stimulate their nervous system.
Sedatives or tranquilizers are intended to help users relax. This includes barbiturates, benzodiazepines, opioids, and sleep-inducing drugs – all of which may also be misused and can lead to addiction.
Drug usage can often help improve someone’s health when prescribed and used the right way. But it can lead to addiction as people use the substance as a coping approach that seems to be a temporary solution to their problems.
Anyone dealing with or developing drug addiction must seek help from professionals to help avoid using substances as a coping mechanism. There are drug and substance abuse rehab centers, as well as specialized institutions focusing on specific drug problems.
Like experienced benzodiazepine treatment in New Jersey, which can provide the help you need to avoid substance abuse and mitigate other symptoms and psychological conditions that are brought on by hard substance dependence.
Many people also rely on food for comfort when in an unpleasant situation or dealing with grief, stress, frustrations, and other negative emotions. In fact, 27 percent of adults eat to manage stress, and 34 percent of them overeat or eat unhealthy food. On the other hand, 30 percent of adults skip meals when stressed.
Your gut often tells you how to respond, but it doesn’t mean it is always right. Eating too much and indulging in comfort food that is rich in fat and sugar is sure to spike your energy and probably make you happy for a moment. But it does not resolve real-world problems. Overeating can even lead to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, sleeping problems, and other health complications.
Moreover, not eating when stressed can also cause serious health problems, malnourishment, and vitamin deficits. You will lose energy, thus disabling you from facing your problems and negative emotions head-on.
A healthy diet is always the way to go if you want to take better care of yourself and power your coping skills. A balanced diet can help you gain the energy you need and regulate your moods better.
Drink plenty of fluids and also do some exercise along with it to help you improve your overall well-being. You can also incorporate healthier food items that are more relaxing and calming into your diet. This includes tea, dark chocolate, fruits, and nuts, among many others.
Healthy Coping Mechanisms
What happens when you try not to do the only thing you know you can do when things get difficult? You can’t just stop bad coping habits and not have a backup plan. Healthy and more sustainable ones must replace unhealthy coping methods. There are actually plenty of simple methods to practice healthier coping approaches that you can start, like practicing mindfulness and looking at life in a more realistic yet optimistic way.
Dealing with emotions and everyday problems in a healthy way. Everything that’s happening around you – both positive and negative – is meant to be processed and not avoided. You need to find the best ways that will allow you to process this. This may be through talking with family and friends, or a therapist, through writing or other forms of creative outlet and other hobbies.
Focus on a task you’re running away from and determine how much it should be affecting you. Try to resolve it and ask for help when needed. You should also take better care of yourself and focus on your well-being, as you need this to put your coping skills to work the right and healthy way.
Make That Change
Coping mechanisms are part of being human. We are all programmed to react and always prioritize survival. Therefore, it is only imperative to adopt coping approaches that will help us survive linger, rather than having temporary fixes that will accumulate into bigger problems in the future.
Take care of your well-being and be mindful of how you cope. Address unhealthy coping methods and make sure to change them into healthier ways, not only to allow you to cope but also to learn better from all the challenges and stressors you faced and will be facing.