A coping mechanism is the way we cope and react to a situation. There are so many different ways we cope, both healthily and unhealthy.
As we grow up, we learn to cope from those who influence us, typically our parents. And they learned from their parents. Hopefully they were healthy ways, but most likely they weren’t. A lot of what we know and learn is generational. Many unhealthy coping mechanisms develop from trauma and through stress related events. Healthy ones come from self-awareness and becoming mindful of how we cope.
I want to highlight some unhealthy and healthy coping mechanisms that might bring some awareness to how you currently cope, which may bring some encouragement to work towards developing different ways to cope. When we are in a certain situation our reactions are usually unconscious, so it can be difficult to teach yourself to react differently when put into these situations. But awareness is the first step. Then we can being to consciously utilize healthy ones.
Types Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms
There are many types of unhealthy coping mechanisms, these are just a few.
Avoidance – When a person avoids any situations or topics that could trigger and negative feelings or reactions. Examples of this are changing the topic during a conversation or cutting it off completely.
Isolation – This a form of avoidance by isolating oneself by not leaving their home and interacting in any social environments. An extreme version of this is becoming a hermit. By disconnecting oneself from any interactions they are able to avoid dealing with any of their trauma.
Self-Medicate – Self-medication is not limited to drugs and alcohol, but also includes eating and other forms of additions.
Compulsion – Compulsion is also another form of avoidance by becoming obsessed with something, such as shopping, or gambling, they don’t acknowledge what is really bothering them, but by masking it up with other issues to make them feel better.
Self-Harm – Self-harm typically involves causing physical pain so the person does not have to feel their emotional pain. It’s a distraction that the person feels a sense of relief when attempted.
Denial – Denial is completely dissociating from a situation to make themselves and others around them believe that what had really happened did not. Or that the situation wasn’t as bad as others make it out to seem.
Violence – Some people turn to violence as a form of coping. The person doesn’t know how to process or deal with their anger or the situation, so they become violent as a way to expel their emotions.
Types of Healthy Coping Mechanisms
If you read some of the descriptions of unhealthy coping mechanisms and could relate to one or more, I’d like to share a few healthy coping mechanisms to try incorporating.
Finding Support – Being able to talk about situations and what happens in your daily life is important. Having supportive family and friends are good to keep in relationship with for when you need support. Many times, people have to seek further support with a professional, such as a therapist to talk about their past, and/or utilizing a life coach to determine what is best for them to move forward.
Journaling – Journaling is a great way to release emotions and overthinking of certain things. There are different ways to journal, such as finding journal prompts or freestyle writing.
Meditation – Meditation doesn’t have to be spiritual. Through meditation a person is able to relax and scan their body to determine where they store negative energy. They can then attempt to relax to release the tension.
Praying – For those who are spiritual, it is important to pray and rely on their faith to help them cope.
Exercise – Through physical exercise a person is able to release endorphins that help release built up tension.
Find Self-Awareness – It is important to know how you function as an individual and how you deal with stress and your emotions. Becoming self-aware is one of the first steps towards becoming a better and healthier version of yourself. By working with a therapist or life coach they will help guide you towards finding different strategies and coping skills that may work better for you than what you are currently relying on. There are also many articles, books, podcasts, and videos that you can learn from.