Healthy Vs. Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms
Imagining a world before COVID-19 can be hard to do, let alone imagining that COVID-19 has disappeared. Being confined to our homes can be especially difficult because it likely means that daily routines have been interrupted. This period of uncertainty has led to a rise in mental health and addiction challenges for many people, even if they did not suffer from these issues before.
You should know that you are not alone in these feelings, and that there are both healthy and unhealthy ways to cope and manage your stress. Listed below are common ways we tend to think we are helping ourselves and other solutions that might prove more beneficial.
Some of the most common unhealthy coping mechanisms are:
- Avoiding issues. Though this might feel like an easier way to deal with current problems but pushing back your issues will ultimately find a way of reaching the surface again, possibly as a trigger.
- Sleeping too much. Very similar to avoiding issues this is another distraction that might feel better in the moment. Your body needs rest but also requires physical movement as well.
- Excessive drug or alcohol use. Drug and alcohol use can be a slippery slope. Stimulants and depressants may help to numb feelings, pain and subside those negative thoughts that are actively being avoided, but excessive use can lead to severe health complications, addiction, overdose and death.
- Impulsive spending. Retail therapy is often as simple as purchasing a small trinkets or gadgets but can often lead to severe financial problems within the family, hoarding or secrecy.
- Over or under eating. Your body needs nutrition and fuel to function throughout the day. Anything over or under the recommended guidance can cause severe health issues or sickness.
“It is easier to revert back to the unhealthy coping mechanisms—we do it automatically. We are all predisposed to relying on negative coping skills. It’s important to check in with yourself routinely to determine if you are employing healthy coping skills,” says Dr. Jessica Sullivan, Director of Centerstone’s Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic.
If you notice yourself feeling anxious, depressed, or just having a difficult time, try using these methods to help. Utilizing these methods will help you address your mental health challenges in a much more positive and long-lasting way:
- Facing the problem. Focus on what is making you feel this way, and then find solutions that will help you overcome it. Some solutions could be attending meetings, using a creative outlet, and more.
- Talking to a trusted friend or family member. Daily responsibilities can be mentally and physically taxing at times. Find ways to stay motivated by scheduling phone calls to decompress with friends, to have someone assist holding you accountable and to ultimately find safety in your thoughts.
- Participating in a hobby or sport. Creative or athletic outlets can be both stimulating and therapeutic. Making sure you are setting aside time to utilize these practices will allow a routine to take place.
- Learning what your triggers are. With substance use or other mental illnesses, it is useful to know what triggers your negative responses. Keeping track of how you feel with different situations and being aware of how you react will help set you up for success.
- Seeking professional treatment. Navigating emotions, triggers and addictions can be challenging without professional help. Helping yourself or your loved ones get connected to therapy can be beneficial to learning how to cope and process emotions and behaviors through a different lens.