Healthy and Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms for Stress
Stress: It’s an issue that everyone deals with but not an issue that everyone knows how to cope with. When we’re dealing with massive amounts of pressure, some of us may choose to turn to meditation or a friendly chat while others may opt for a cheeseburger or a drink.
How we choose to deal with stress has a major impact on both our mental health and our physical well-being. Are you making the right choices when it comes to coping with stress? Do you know what some of the wrong choices may be?
Regardless of which choices you are currently making to deal with your stress, let’s take a look at some of the unhealthy and healthy coping mechanisms for stress:
Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms
In order to identify some of your unhealthy behavioral patterns and foster awareness around them so that you can create change, we are going to tackle the most commonly used unhealthy coping mechanisms first.
People who are not coping properly may be found taking part in behaviors such as:
Excessive Drug/Alcohol Consumption or Abuse
Let me make it clear that “excessive consumption” and “abuse” are the key terms in this section. Enjoying an occasional glass of wine every now and then to unwind is not an unhealthy habit.
Binge drinking, chain smoking, or using drugs as a form of escapism to cope with your current stress levels is, however, unhealthy and dangerous. These coping mechanisms could lead to a path of addiction, severe health problems, and even death.
If you’re using any of these coping mechanisms, reach out to your primary care physician and a mental health specialist immediately to work through your issues.
Turning to Large Amounts of Junk Food for Comfort
It’s not unnatural for people to turn to sweet or sugary foods when they’re experiencing high stress levels. In fact, you can blame cortisol for your cravings for these junk foods.
No matter what you may feel, however, it is important that you fight these urges to feed your stress. Excessive junk food consumption can actually increase stress levels and negatively impact your health. You may also develop an eating disorder as a result of using food to cope with your stress.
Pay attention to these urges and take preventative measures to ensure that you reach for healthier foods instead of ones that will harm you down the road.
Oversleeping or Sleeping Very Little
Much like using drugs or alcohol to numb out the situations in your life that are causing your stress levels, oversleeping is another form of escapism that allows you to avoid the stress in your life.
What you’ll find, however, is that your stressors are still there when you wake up and they will continue to get worse as you continue to avoid them.
On the other hand, there are those who may stay up in order to cram more work into their day and become dependent on caffeine to do so.
Either way, neither of these coping mechanisms work to take care of the problem at its root.
It is okay to purchase things that you would like to use that will help you to unwind. Feel like a relaxing bath tonight? Purchase that bath bomb! Need a good laugh? Go ahead and get that copy of your favorite movie! Self-care is necessary.
However, too much spending becomes a problem when you are shopping to deal with your stress rather than just occasionally treating yourself. Not only will this have a major impact on your finances, but it will also cause extra stress that you won’t be capable of handling when you run out of funds to use on your shopping sprees.
Cut yourself off as soon as possible if you notice this habit forming and seek help.
In some cases, individuals may turn to harmful behaviors in order to cope with a stressful situation.
For example, someone feeling as though they are out of control of their lives due to stressful situations may decide to begin harming themselves or starving themselves in order to gain some form of control over their current direction.
If you can relate to the above, seek help immediately and call the local authorities if you believe that you may be a danger to yourself.
Healthy Coping Mechanisms
Now that we’ve reviewed some of the harmful coping mechanisms that commonly manifest in those dealing with high levels of stress, let’s take a look at some healthy coping mechanisms that you could use in place of the methods listed above:
Develop a Solid Support System
Everyone needs that someone or several people who are willing to listen and support them.
Simply talking about your problems is very therapeutic and if your friends are good listeners, they may have some helpful advice to provide you with.
Develop a solid support system so that you have people to vent to when things become a little too stressful.
Incorporate Some Movement Into Your Day
Exercise is an amazing stress reliever and the best part is that you don’t have to engage in hardcore workout sessions in order to reap the benefits!
All you have to do is make an effort to incorporate some movement into your day. Whether it’s walking, using the stairs, dancing around, or cramming some pushups into your work breaks, movement will help you better cope with high stress levels.
Find Time for Joy
You may be feeling high levels of stress because you are not getting enough “you” time in your busy schedule. The solution? Find creative ways to squeeze in activities that you enjoy.
Maybe you can doodle when you have a few minutes to yourself. Maybe you can watch a funny video or two when you need to take a break.
Whatever makes you happy, make time for it in your day.
Try Out Aromatherapy
Reconnecting with the senses allows us to feel more relaxed and ground us when our stress gets out of control. One great way to get back in touch with your senses is to try out aromatherapy.
Scents such as lavender, vanilla, and lemon all help to calm you down when you get too frazzled and put you back into your relaxed state. You can keep these oils on hand, use lotions, or even get an oil diffuser for your workplace so that you can remain relaxed wherever you go!
Speaking of reconnecting with yourself and your sense, meditation is a heavily-recommended coping mechanism.
Meditation allows you to focus on you without having to worry about any of the stresses of daily life. All you have to do is concentrate on your body and on the world around you. Your mind is free of all worries and cares when you are in the meditation zone!
For those who are new to this practice, there are plenty of guided audio meditations that will help you to start your meditation journey. You can also check out this guide
Coping with stress can be difficult but making the wrong choices when it comes to coping mechanisms can add that much more stress to your life.
Using the unhealthy and healthy lists above, you will be better able to identify what’s not working for you and what you can replace it with.
Keep in mind, however, that this is by no means an exhaustive list. There are plenty more ideas floating out there that will help you to healthily cope with your stress.
Stay calm and take care of yourself and you will be able to deal with anything that comes your way!