Healthy Coping Mechanisms

healthy coping mechanisms

10 ways to Build healthy coping mechanisms to help Manage Stress

Healthy Coping Mechanisms – According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, it is estimated that 40 million adults — or 18.1 percent of the population are suffering from some form of anxiety. This trend is not expected to change in the near future. Instead, it is going to increase more as society becomes more digitally connected and there are more events taking place. For adults, there are more stress factors due to health issues, work, family and the environment.

What is Stress?

There is the misconception that stress is not a natural human response. The truth is that stress is a natural event or force on humans. Stress factors are meant to trigger the flight or fight response, responsible for keeping humans as a species on its toes and alert against danger. In modern times, the threat is not necessarily physical. It can be emotional or psychological. The stressor may be less of a threat of danger and more of a trigger or pressure to perform. Examples of stress include school work, projects, and exams for children; for teens and young adults, it can be the dynamics of the growing mind and body, including sports and dating; for adults, it can be the work environment, social life, expenses, family and others.

There is another reaction for stress, which is not widely acknowledged. This is called the “freeze” reaction. It is akin to the “deer in the headlight” reaction where a person freezes and is unable to react to the situation. It is not a denial of the situation but disbelief that something is happening, or that the person is not able to comprehend the circumstances. Due to the magnitude of the stress, the person cannot move or react. A corollary to the freeze reaction is the body’s sighing which denotes a reboot of the system. This is not an acceptance of the situation, but instead is the body’s way of considering the stress as part of the environment.

Stressors can be anywhere and everywhere depending on the person’s age, life and lifestyle. There is a need to find relief from stress and anxiety. People do not simply overcome stress, but they are able to adjust and adapt to it. There are coping mechanisms to properly manage and reduce stress.

Coping Mechanisms for Stress

Coping Mechanisms for Stress can be Negative or Positive

The term “coping mechanism” was first described and applied by psychologists Susan Folkman and Richard Lazarus. As described by Folkman and Lazarus, coping mechanisms are not static rules or behavior but rather a personal reaction to a threatening situation or environment. A person can use one coping method with one stressor or circumstance, and another completely different method with a different stressor. The description also implies that there is no exact rule about what a coping mechanism is. This ability to cope can be a negative or positive behavior which may or may not help the individual in the long run.

Coping mechanisms are a person’s response to stress, and sometimes it can be self-harming. Unhealthy coping mechanisms help release or vent stress almost immediately. However, these destructive behaviors can lead to health problems, side effects or even aggravate stress.

These include harmful practices like:

  • Drugs and other substance abuse, excessive alcohol, and stress eating
  • Overworking
  • Social withdrawal
  • Denial- ignoring strong feelings and avoiding problems
  • Blaming oneself or others
  • Overeating
  • Emotional outbursts at family and friends
  • Oversleeping, or a problem with sleeping

The above types of behaviors can create other problems or worsen problems and do not address the root causes of stress. While a drink before bed is considered normal, it can affect their sleep. Does alcohol affect your sleep?  Contrary to the popular belief, yes, it does. Some of these negative coping behaviors can lead to life long problems like addiction and can exasperate mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders. The above unhealthy coping mechanisms are knee jerk reactions to developing situations. The person does not think of the consequences of their actions but instead is seeking stress relief. 

To achieve a healthy coping mechanism usually requires a conscious effort by the person. This requires that the person know how they react to stress in their daily life.

There are three common reactions to stress:

  • Overthinking a problem
  • Overreacting to a problem
  • Become emotionally unstable over a problem

None of these are great, but they are understandable. Understanding the normal reactions to stress can help a person to find a coping mechanism that they are comfortable with. When a person finds what works for them in diffusing stress, the chosen coping mechanism becomes a natural reaction where they can easily fall into it with regular practice.

Coping Mechanisms to Manage Stress

10 Healthy Coping Mechanisms to Manage Stress

For those who overthink a problem, they can focus their logic and analysis into developing healthy coping strategies. Challenging the assumptions and beliefs about the stressor can change the way a person thinks about it. Treating it as a problem allows the person to use skills and techniques for problem-solving in a creative and logical manner. If an impasse occurs in the analysis, the person can take a break from thinking about that stressor. This further empowers the person to create some distance from the issue. Alternatively, solving the problem can become a goal or project on its own.

Here are the 10 coping mechanisms for managing stress:

Ever wake up from the most amazing dream and feel bummed when you realize you weren’t just kissing your secret crush? Or maybe it’s a nightmare, complete with a madman chasing you, and you wake up scared, sweaty, and relieved it’s not real. Believe it or not, there are things you can do to affect the imagery that flows into your dreams. Here, six science-backed ways to set yourself up for dreamier zzz’s.

#1 - Use of a support structure

This includes cognitive behavioral therapy as well as talking to a medical professional who is in the position to provide advice about stress and in some circumstances medication. A more common way to build a support structure is to find a support group or establish a group of friends to talk to on a regular basis. In time, they become familiar with the stressor and can provide insights and possible solutions.

#2 - Humor and an alternative point of view

The stressor is only one point of view, and there are others to consider. Some of these perspectives can be humorous and help to lighten the situation. Looking at the funny side of life can help to prevent things from becoming dark and grim.

#3 - Meditation

Strictly speaking, this is not a logical nor analytical tool. However, what meditation can do is to bring focus to a situation and prevent the mind from wandering towards unproductive and anxiety-inducing thoughts. Spending time in a meditative state is one of the ways to cope with anxiety by countering runaway thoughts. It slows down the thought process and blanks the mind. The slow and deep breathing associated with meditation allows the mind to focus on small steps and not go too far into future thoughts. Meditation can also be a great addition to your wind down session at night. 

#4 - Weighing the pros and cons

Those who overthink their stress can look at the issues around it. Thinking about the pros and cons can put their minds at ease, as they gain a better understanding of their environment and the stress surrounding it.

#5 - Physical exercise

Exercising helps the body to release tension in both the body and mind. This is one of the most effective methods of engaging in stress management. Maintaining physical health goes a long way in adaptive coping. It can be a gym workout, an exercise class, swimming, a weekend hike, or playing a sport. Exercise has been known to result in elevated endorphin (“happy hormones”) levels.

#6 - Studying and learning a new skill

Those who feel anxious because they don’t know have enough experience or knowledge about a subject are better off studying it. This is a proactive activity which helps them prepare for the stressor, as they put their new knowledge to practical use.

#7 - External help

Although this is more applicable for those in management, this can also work for almost everyone else. If you are completely lost about a particular subject, asking for help (“teamwork”) can relieve a person of the stress that has built up. With external help, you can become more clear and knowledgeable and resolve the problem at hand.

#8 - Talking to a confidante and friends or maintaining a journal

One common and effective method to control emotional over-reactions is to discuss a particular stressor with friends. They can sympathize or empathize and help to relieve the stress by listening or by offering creative solutions. In lieu of friends to talk to, writing in a journal can also help a person put into words their feelings and the emotions that they are experiencing. Putting these thoughts into words may help a person to better understand their environment or condition.

#9 - Faith-Based or Philosophical Teachings

Turning to faith can sometimes help. This may not necessarily mean going to church. It can also mean incorporating philosophical teachings into a person’s daily life and applying daily affirmations and gratitude through these teachings.

#10 - Music

Whether listening to music, dancing or playing an instrument, music can help to calm a person. Music is naturally relaxing and can be used similar to meditation for reducing stress. Pouring emotions to music may help to release the tensions from daily stressful events.

No matter your stressors, finding effective coping techniques is vital to your health and well-being. Finding what works can take a while, but once you do, you’ll feel like a totally new person. Good luck!

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