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Last Updated on January 12, 2021

The Healthy and Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms for Stress

The 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.

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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.[1]

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.

Retail Therapy

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.

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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.

Personal Punishments

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.

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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!

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Meditate

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:

Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly

Final Thoughts

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!

Featured photo credit: Alexander Mils via unsplash.com

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Dylan Buckley

Dylan is Lifehack's Motivation Expert specializing in self-development, with extensive experience working for life coaches and startups.

How to Help a Friend With Depression Learn to Love Life Again Mastering The Art of Happiness (9 Tips to Get Started) The Healthy and Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms for Stress How to Deal with Failure and Pick Yourself Back Up How to Do What You Love Successfully

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Last Updated on January 18, 2021

Anxiety Isn’t About Worrying Too Much, But Caring Too Much

Anxiety Isn’t About Worrying Too Much, But Caring Too Much

Are you the family worrier? The one who analyses every situation and measures all its innumerable outcomes? Do you find it difficult to say no to people? Are you anal about people not texting back? Do you think people don’t like you, and that all your relationships are simply doomed to fail? Do you imagine scenarios of loss and death? Do you have a hard time trying to let go of things?

If you have answered yes to more than three questions, chances are that you might be suffering from a form of anxiety disorder. And to those who pooh-pooh at anxiety, remember that it is much more than just worrying…

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1. Anxiety is the pursuit of perfection.

There’s a difference in wanting to be perfect at something, and wanting to be viewed as perfect. People with anxiety have a compulsion not only to do things perfectly but more importantly, they have a need to be thought of as perfect.[1] They want everyone to think of them as these beautiful overachievers who have so much in life – and when this doesn’t happen, they enter a cycle of negativity and vicious self-castigation. Every time you find yourself thinking that you will never be good enough, change the statement to you are good enough

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2. Anxiety is caring, a little too much.

We all love various people in our lives to varying degrees. Sometimes though, when our love enters the stifling territory in that we are smothering the other person with our love, concern and over-care – it makes us anxious. We want our loved one to be happy, to be safe and to thrive without harm. We do what we can to achieve this, many a time earning the resentment of the very person we are trying to “love”. Our extreme emotions can lead us to become overanxious and overzealous about the object of our affections and so we imagine drastic scenarios in which that person is hurt, harmed or even dead and start working up ourselves into a state of anxious frenzy or a panic attack.[2] The next time you are smothering someone with love, take a conscious step back. Notice your mistake, and ease yourself back a bit – everything will be okay is your mantra.

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3. Anxiety is trying to control things because we feel a spiraling loss of control ourselves.

Having anxiety is like being on a superfast train to nowhere. The thoughts and the regrets pile one on top of the other, turning the mind into mush and sending the heart into palpitations galore. We feel like everything in our life is falling to pieces and try as we might, we cannot sort through it all. Which is why people with anxiety tend to come across as control freaks. They keep the reins tight because if they lose it, they lose it epic.[3] Meditation comes in handy – just five minutes of steady in and out breathing can help you weather the storm much better.

4. Anxiety is being restless day and night.

Imagine having a mind in which thoughts run rampant like meteor showers. You are thinking about this and that, worrying about everything A to Z in your life and trying to reach a calm and restful place in the head. This continuous on-the-edge feeling is one of the main characteristics of anxiety.[4]. One of the best strategies to deal with the times you cannot sit still or keep your thoughts from racing is to go for a run…

Remember that anxiety means stress and too much stress can run you down, mentally and physically. Along with keeping up a good eating and exercising routine, seek professional help whenever you feel that your mind has become an anxious muddle.

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Reference

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