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Healthy coping mechanisms for anxiety, depression and other mental health issues

What Are Coping Mechanisms

Stressful situations are unavoidable. Whether it’s an exam, a presentation, a meeting, physical health, mental health issues or something else entirely, we all deal with stress differently. While it is important to recognize that everyone handles stress differently, there are some general principles that apply to anyone who is stressed out.

The first step in dealing with stress is recognizing it. Stress is a normal response to certain situations. However, when you can’t handle your stress, you feel like your situation is unmanageable, or worse, it becomes destructive, that is, you end up doing something that could hurt you or others. In either case, it’s essential to identify what’s stressing you out and decide on a coping strategy.

coping mechanisms are mental, behavioural, or physical skills that allow you to cope with an unpleasant situation or emotion.

Most people have used them at least once in their lives. They include breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, meditation, deep listening, visualization, and even the ability to turn off your phone.

However, many of us don’t know what the best coping mechanisms are. I’ve done a lot of research on this topic, and it appears that it depends on your personality and whether you’re feeling anxious or depressed. 

Coping Mechanisms are very different from Defense Mechanisms Different?

Coping mechanisms are different from defense mechanisms because the goal of defense mechanisms is to protect the person. The goal of coping mechanisms is to help the person cope with the situation.

A coping mechanism is an attempt to deal with an unpleasant, traumatic, or stressful situation. For example, someone may use alcohol to deal with stress or other painful feelings. The coping mechanism can help the person feel better temporarily.

Defense mechanisms are attempts to control unpleasant emotions that we might be experiencing. For example, someone may use humor to distract themselves or ignore certain feelings. These defense mechanisms help the person remain in control of the situation, which is helpful when dealing with a stressful or traumatic event.

Coping mechanisms are often used in conjunction with defense mechanisms. For example, an individual might use alcohol to deal with stress. As the individual continues to use the alcohol, the defense mechanism of denial takes over, and the individual no longer notices the alcohol's effect on them.

Coping Mechanisms For Stress Can Be Negative Or Positive

Did you know that coping mechanisms can be positive or negative? If you’ve experienced any kind of trauma in your life, it’s likely you’ve developed some unhealthy coping mechanisms.

For example, if you were bullied or suffered through an abusive childhood, you might find yourself overeating, drinking too much alcohol, or spending all of your money on frivolous things. If you’re dealing with anxiety or depression, you might develop compulsive eating or exercise habits. And if you’ve lost someone you love, you might engage in substance abuse as a way of coping.

The key is to figure out which coping mechanisms are working for you and which ones are harming your life. In doing so, you can begin to adopt healthier ways of coping. It’s not always easy. However, once you understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy coping, you can begin to make better decisions about your life and the choices you’re making every day.

Maladaptive Coping Mechanisms to Avoid

 Getting stuck in a life of unhealthy coping habits can quickly turn your life into a persistent downward spiral. 

It's easy to fall into unhealthy patterns of behaviour if you don't develop strategies to cope with the stressors that cause you to feel like you're trapped in a cycle of pain and despair.

The problem is that a lot of negative coping strategies can mask themselves like a shiny layer of armour. And as you can imagine, this often makes them much harder to get rid of. They are often easier to use and have more immediate benefits than healthier alternatives.

 Some unhealthy strategies include:

47 unhealthy coping mechanisms to avoid like a plague

1) Using drugs and/or alcohol to numb yourself from the stressors.

2) Turning to food to comfort yourself or distract yourself from your pain.

3) Turning to sex and/or pornography to escape.

4) Engaging in risky behaviours.

5) Self-harming.

6) Denying your emotions.

7) Trying to force yourself to be happy.

8) Being too controlling or not allowing yourself to be happy.

9) Trying to be perfect.

10) Focusing purely on your past mistakes.

11) Turning to over-the-top religion.

12) Exaggerating the problems.

13) Lying.

14) Avoiding.

15) Blaming others always.

16) Taking care of everyone except yourself.

17) Isolating yourself from others.

18) Taking too many risks.

19) Giving up on yourself.

20) Hoping your problems will go away and not actively working on them.

21) Not trusting your instincts.

22) Avoiding taking control.

23) Staying in denial.

24) Not expressing your feelings.

25) Trying to control everything.

26) Letting others control you all the time.

27) Not focusing enough on yourself.

28) Trying to be someone else.

29) Trying to be something you’re not.

30) Thinking too much about the future.

31) Avoiding your fears.

32) Not having faith in yourself.

33) Being indecisive.

34) Giving up on things.

35) Giving up on people.

36) Giving up on love.

37) Not taking responsibility for yourself.

38) Always blaming yourself.

39) Letting your ego get in the way.

40) Not learning from your mistakes.

41) Getting addicted to self-pity.

42) Over-analyzing everything.

43) Taking things personally all the time.

44) Being afraid to let others down.

45) Giving up on relationships.

46) Believing everything you do is right.

47) Taking shortcuts all the time.

Healthy Coping Mechanisms Dealing With Stress Difficult Emotions

How can you tell if a coping strategy is healthy? The way to find out is to look at the emotion(s) it helps you manage.

If a healthy coping strategy is designed to help you manage difficult emotions, then it will work the same way every time:

• It is able to be employed at any point in the process, whether the emotion is triggered by a specific event or simply just exists in your daily life.

• It helps you identify that you're having a negative emotional response, and can help you deal with it in a productive manner.

• It helps you feel better afterwards, helping you to cope with those emotions, or to manage the negative ones.

These are the main characteristics of a healthy coping strategy, and if you're using any strategy that doesn't include at least three of these characteristics, then you may need to reconsider what you're doing and why.

Strategies for Developing Healthy Coping Mechanisms

To develop healthy coping strategies, you must first identify how you tend to react in certain situations. It’s essential to identify your triggers before they take control of your emotions, otherwise, you may end up doing things that are harmful to yourself. Here are some strategies for identifying triggers and coping mechanisms.

1) Identify Your Triggers

2) Build Your Resilience

3) Establish Your Routine

4) Create Your Support Network

5) Practice Self-Compassion

6) Build balance into everything you do.

7) Learn How to Take Care of Yourself

8) Practice Healthy Coping Skills Before a Challenging Time Arises

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 A master list of healthy coping strategies

Here is a shortlist of adaptive coping mechanisms

1) Positive reframing: This is a process of viewing an event or situation with a positive spin. It is a way of thinking about things. It’s an optimistic outlook. It’s a way of thinking that doesn’t blame yourself or others. And it’s a way of thinking that allows you to move forward.

2) Distraction: This is when you focus on something other than the issue at hand. It helps you calm down, so you can think clearly. And it keeps you away from stress and anxiety.

3) Affirmation: This is when you tell yourself that you are good and capable. It can help with depression and self-esteem.

4) Reflection: This is when you reflect on what’s happening to you. You might be able to change something. Or you might not. This process gives you perspective.

5) Self-compassion: This is when you look at yourself in a kind way. It is a process that lets you accept yourself, flaws and all. This leads to happiness and optimism.

6) Visualization: This is when you use your imagination to imagine a better version of a problem or the outcome of something. You use your brain to dream about a better future. It is useful for goal setting and motivation.

7) Mindfulness: This is when you are aware of your emotions. It’s when you pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, and sensations without judgment. And it’s when you don’t get caught up in the moment. It’s a good way to stay calm and clear-headed.

8) Humor: This is when you find something funny in a situation that isn’t. It’s a distraction from negative thoughts. It’s a way to lift someone else’s mood.

9) Exercise: This is when you go for a run, bike ride, or swim. It’s when you are moving your body. It’s a great way to get your mind right.

10) Prayer: This is when you ask for help or guidance. It is a way to connect with something greater than yourself.

11) Music: This is when you listen to music. It can get your heart pumping. Or it can relax you. It’s a great way to deal with stress and anxiety.

12) Gratitude: This is when you recognize what you have, instead of focusing on what you don’t. It helps you realize that the world is full of beauty and joy.

13) Rest: This is when you get enough sleep, and you give your body the time it needs to heal and rejuvenate. It is a natural remedy for stress.

14) Laughing: This is when you find humor in life. And you share the joke with others.

15) Loving-kindness meditation: This is when you think about yourself with kindness. You are aware of the people you are connected to, and the people that matter to you. And you think of them as your family.

16) Writing: This is when you sit down to write. You can talk to yourself. And you can let the words flow. It’s a great way to let off steam.

17) Deep breathing: This is when you take a deep breath and slow down. It can relieve stress and anxiety. It also helps you feel calmer and clearer headed.

18) Journaling: This is when you write out your thoughts. It’s when you create your own truth. And it’s a way to help you remember things that need to be remembered.

19) Meditation: This is when you sit still and focus on the present. It’s a way to stay in the moment. And it is an effective way to reduce stress and anxiety.

20) Mindful eating: This is when you focus on the food you eat. You notice it in its entirety. You can make mindful decisions about what you want to eat. And you can eat mindfully.

21) Mindful drinking: This is when you focus on your drink. You can enjoy it, or you can pay attention to the effects of alcohol.

22) Mindful reading: This is when you read in a way that helps you think about what you are reading. You can notice the details, or you can look for the meaning behind the text.

23) Mindful listening: This is when you are fully present when someone speaks to you. You are listening, but you are also paying attention to what they are saying

24) Proactive coping: It’s a proactive approach to dealing with stress. This approach involves taking control of what you can and doing so in a way that helps you cope with stress.

25)Social coping: This involves seeking social support from people you trust. It helps us to feel less alone. It is a way of thinking that focuses on the needs and feelings of others. Social coping helps you to deal with what life throws at you.

26) Distancing: It’s a way of thinking about an event or situation that helps you to separate yourself from it. It allows you to feel less emotional involvement. This helps you to avoid being overwhelmed.

27) Reinterpreting: When you reinterpret an event or situation, you take what happened and apply it to something else. You can use this to your advantage. When you find yourself in a similar situation in the future, you can think back to the time when you used this approach to help you cope.

28) Self-soothing: You can also learn to use self-soothing strategies. These include techniques such as relaxation and visualization. For example, when you feel anxious, you can practice relaxing breathing techniques. Or you can take a deep breath and imagine that you are in a calm, safe place.

29) Self-care: Self-care means taking care of yourself. This includes eating right, exercising, and sleeping. These activities help you to feel better and more energetic. Self-care is an important part of managing stress. You can’t be there for others if you aren’t taking care of yourself.

Some other essential styles of coping strategies

Emotion-focused coping strategies are a type of self-care strategy used by people who are experiencing emotional distress. Emotion-focused coping strategies include:

1. Denial – Trying to deny or ignore an emotion

2. Avoidance – Trying to avoid thinking about the emotion

3. Active engagement – Using coping strategies that engage with the problem

4. Passive engagement – Using coping strategies that disengage from the problem

Emotion-focused coping strategies are different from problem-focused coping strategies. Problem-focused strategies are typically used to deal with issues and problems that cannot be solved. Emotion-focused strategies are used when dealing with a problem or issue and can be effective at helping someone cope with a difficult situation.

For instance, someone might be going through a period of grief after the death of a loved one. The person might feel sad, lonely, or angry. These feelings are natural, and an emotion-focused coping strategy would help the person deal with the emotions associated with that loss.

However, these strategies are not useful in dealing with a problem or issue. Instead of focusing on what needs to change in the situation, an emotion-focused strategy would focus on the feeling. For example, the person may feel lonely when he is sitting by himself in the funeral home. This is an example of an emotion-focused strategy.

Healthy coping mechanisms for trauma

Traumatic events are difficult to deal with. Many people find it hard to talk about or discuss the event in any kind of detail. Talking about what happened may trigger painful memories or feelings. Some people may want to avoid the topic entirely, or might even feel ashamed or guilty. For many people, talking about a traumatic event is like opening a wound that never heals. These feelings may be exacerbated if the traumatic event happened in childhood. For some, even just thinking about the event can bring back those feelings. And then there are the long-lasting effects of being exposed to traumatic events. There may be physical reactions such as headaches, dizziness, muscle tension, or insomnia. Or people may be at risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

There are several strategies that can help individuals cope with trauma and its effects. These include:

• Supporting healthy behaviors that promote a sense of safety and security.

• Finding a therapist to talk about the trauma.

• Getting enough rest.

• Exercising, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough physical activity.

• Creating safe spaces for dealing with the trauma.

• Avoiding triggering situations.

Trauma survivors can experience overwhelming emotions and have trouble sleeping. They may feel physically sick, irritable, or anxious. There are several strategies that can help individuals cope with trauma and its effects. These include:

• Supporting healthy behaviors that promote a sense of safety and security.

• Finding a therapist to talk about the trauma.

• Getting enough rest.

• Exercising, eating a healthy diet, and getting enough physical activity.

• Creating safe spaces for dealing with the trauma.

• Avoiding triggering situations.

Healthy coping mechanisms for stress

Extreme stress causes many of the same physical and mental responses as any other high-intensity stress. When you’re experiencing severe stress, your body will release adrenaline into your bloodstream and your heart rate will increase, making you feel anxious, sweaty, and a bit shaky. Your muscles tense up, causing your arms to shake and your face to flush. If you’re really feeling the heat, your blood pressure may spike.

When you’re stressed for a long period of time, your body can get used to the adrenaline rush and the physical responses associated with it. Your mind becomes conditioned to respond to stress in this way, and your body may become desensitized to the effects of stress, meaning you might not feel as sick after you’ve had too much to drink.

When you've experienced emotional distress for a long period of time, your body can get used to the adrenaline rush and the physical responses associated with it. Your mind becomes conditioned to respond to stress in this way, and your body may become desensitized to the effects of stress, meaning you might not feel as sick after you’ve had too much to drink.

One way to counteract the effects of prolonged difficult situations is to use a stress management technique called yoga. While the effects of yoga on stress aren’t entirely understood, it has been shown to help people reduce their overall level of cortisol (a hormone released during stress) and lower blood pressure, while increasing muscle flexibility and improving sleep quality.

Healthy coping mechanisms for loneliness

Time with friends and family is the best antidote for loneliness. However, some people find it difficult to form friendships and meet new people.

Loneliness can be especially problematic for those who are elderly, socially isolated, disabled or suffering from mental health issues. While there are many causes of loneliness, a lack of social support and opportunities to develop relationships is often a cause of chronic loneliness.

While many people cope with loneliness by isolating themselves, others find ways to develop meaningful relationships. These coping mechanisms can include joining an activity group, volunteering or starting a friendship.

Healthy coping mechanisms for Panic attacks and anxiety disorder

When it comes to panic attacks and anxiety disorders, sometimes the best medicine is the mind itself.

Panic attacks are characterized by a sudden, unexpected, and overwhelming fear, accompanied by physical symptoms that include racing heart, shortness of breath, dizziness, and feelings of chest tightness. Anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive worry or fear. Both disorders can cause intense discomfort and disrupt daily activities.

Some therapist approved strategies for panic attacks and anxiety disorder include behavioural therapy and cognitive behaviour therapy. These therapies teach patients to cope with anxiety attacks in a variety of ways, including breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, and cognitive strategies.

Behavioural therapy teaches patients to manage their thoughts and feelings in a calm and deliberate manner. Some patients may feel that this is too extreme, but it can help patients control their anxiety and prevent future panic attacks.

Cognitive therapy helps patients identify and examine negative thinking patterns. This kind of therapy teaches patients to be aware of their own thoughts and emotions and to think about and challenge irrational beliefs.

Healthy coping mechanisms for depression

Depression is a problem that can affect anyone at any point in their life.

Depression can also be caused by a number of things, which means that there are a number of ways to cope with it. Many people with depression will feel depressed for a long period of time before they can seek help. It may even be something that goes on for years before people realise it's an issue. This is one of the main reasons why depression often goes undiagnosed.

It can be very difficult to manage, especially if you are experiencing problems in your personal life or in your job. In order to help you, here are some tips and tricks that you can try to stay away from depression and find a healthy way to cope:

-   Get plenty of rest

-   Take breaks every now and then

-   Stay active and keep yourself occupied with things you enjoy

-   Spend time with friends and family

-   Keep track of your mood levels

-   Find support networks where you can talk about your issues

-   Learn about your symptoms and ask questions to your doctor or therapist

Written by Adewale Ademuyiwa
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