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Published on October 29, 2018

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

Reference

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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.

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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