We adopt multiple strategies in response to stress. Unfortunately, many of our coping mechanisms do more harm than good!
Discover how to adopt healthy coping strategies that really do make life less stressful.
Coping mechanisms are the methods we use to deal with stressful circumstances – pressures from the outside world, and pressures from within us. Coping mechanisms include the behaviors, beliefs, and strategies we use to reduce perceived threats:
- Threats of physical danger.
- Threats to our belief system.
- Threats to our sense of identity, worldview or ego.
We develop unique, and often strange, coping mechanisms for difficult times. Some of these are ‘automatic’ behaviors directed by our subconscious. Often we copy these strategies from people around us, especially our parents.
Some mechanisms are healthy and sustainable; others can damage our mental and physical health. It’s beneficial to recognize which coping mechanisms you use, as you may wish to change them for healthier, more effective strategies.
We’re going to look at two main categories of coping mechanism:
- Solution-focused coping mechanisms
- Emotionally-focused coping mechanisms
“Everybody resonates differently. And everybody comes with a good message afforded in a different way.” - Dr. Sebi.
Solution-Focused Coping Mechanisms
These are directed at the source of the problem, and attempt to deal with it directly. This is the most effective approach, but it’s not always possible, for example when grieving for a loved one, there is no ‘solution’ as such.
Finding solutions could involve:
- Adapting to the challenging circumstance.
- Asking for help from a reliable friend or trusted professional.
- Creating a to-do list of problems and potential solutions
- Discussing your problem with the person causing it.
- Establishing healthy boundaries with those involved.
- Learning new skills or knowledge to overcome the problem.
- Remove yourself from the situation that’s causing your problem.
- Solving the problem directly, like ending an abusive relationship.
- Time management so you have more time to deal with problems.
Emotionally-Focused Coping Mechanisms
These mechanisms are directed at the feelings that arise from the problem. Often we aren’t fully aware of the connection between our emotions and problematic situations causing them – hello blind spots!
Strong emotions distort our rational thinking and we struggle to understand what’s going on. The conflict between logical, emotional, and fear-driven thought processes creates mental chaos and we develop unhealthy mechanisms to try and cope. Which of these do you do?
Unhealthy Emotionally-Focused Coping Mechanisms
- Addictive behaviors (drinking, smoking, drugs, shopping, excessive TV or screen time).
- Attacking others, verbally or physically.
- Avoiding or denying the problem.
- Blaming others for the problem.
- Displacing the required course of action with something easier.
- Dissociation due to trauma the problem is put in a part of the mind that can be ignored.
- Distancing oneself from the issue and people involved.
- Emotional outbursts may provide temporary relief.
- Emotional eating or overeating to suppress unwanted feelings.
- Idealization focuses only on the positive aspects of the issue, ignoring the negative.
- Intellectualization overwrites emotions by explaining them away logically.
- Projection of the issue onto other people.
- Regression is adopting childish behavior to ignore the problem.
- Repression is not allowing oneself to feel the emotions caused by the problem in their fullness.
- Self-harming is the most dangerous and self-destructive coping strategy of all.
- Talking to others about your problem, but not taking any action.
- Trivializing is reducing the significance of a problem.
Please don’t judge yourself if you are using these methods, most of us are. We invite you to try something better.
Healthy Emotionally-Focused Coping Mechanisms
- Altruism is helping others in need, which can make you feel better about your problems.
- Asking for emotional support from a friend, family member, counselor or therapist.
- Changing your perspective of the problem; sometimes this can overcome the problem.
- Humor, because if you can laugh at your problems you’re practically bulletproof.
- Looking for the good things to come out of the challenging situation (this is not the same as idealization or trivializing).
- Releasing the emotions through crying or creative expression.
- Self-soothing through self-care activities.
- Sublimation is focusing your mental energy on fulfilling other goals unrelated to the issue.
Emotionally-focused coping mechanisms are not as effective as Solution-focused coping mechanisms because they don’t deal with the root cause of the issue. However, they’re still important because sometimes it’s not possible to deal with the issue directly.
Developing Positive Coping Mechanisms
Unhealthy emotionally-focused coping mechanisms make the problem worse - they create additional problems that need to be dealt with.
This is how you can level up your coping strategies:
1) Think about how you respond to different types of stressful situations - do you try and deal with the problem, or ignore it and hope it will go away?
2) Assess which coping mechanisms you use from the lists above, and add your own unique mechanisms.
3) Ask yourself:
- Which of these strategies deal with the problem in a healthy way?
- Which of these strategies deals with the emotions caused by the problem in a healthy way?
- Which of these strategies puts my mental or physical health at risk?
- Which of these strategies puts the mental or physical health of others at risk?
4) You should be able to clearly identify strategies that are effective and healthy, and those that are not.
5) Choose some new healthy coping mechanisms you want to consciously adopt and replace mechanisms that don’t serve you and those around you.
Dr. Sebi’s Full Spectrum Hemp products support a naturally healthy coping mechanism for challenging life events. CBD is a powerful stress buster known to reduce the symptoms of stress including muscle tension, fatigue and restlessness.
We don’t have control over the hardships life throws at us, but we do have control over how we respond to them. Make sure your coping mechanisms protect your health and happiness!