We use these when we’re thrown into new situations or relationships. A synonym for coping could be adapting, which makes coping mechanisms the tools or behaviors we use to make adaptation happen. They’re essential. They help reduce the stress that comes with a disruption in our schedule, environment, or relationships.
But like almost everything else in our lives, coping mechanisms can be unhealthy. If abused, they create a completely new stress factor apart from the one we’re trying to resolve. There are so many crummy ways to cope, but I picked two that I struggle with the most. I include the unhealthy examples, as well healthy ones, because when I’m really stuck and not coping well, I need to be reminded that what I’m doing doesn’t work and that there are better ways.
Isolation . . . even as awesome, talented, kick butt human beings with oodles of potential and brilliance, isolating ourselves from people who can listen and give us wisdom doesn’t prove anything about our independence and capacity to live a successful, responsible life.
If someone needs help in biology, and her school has a free tutoring center with students waiting (probably getting paid too) to help but the student would rather fail the course than use the resources available, we don’t call that admirable or smart. It’s failing to use available resources. It’s silly.Self medication . . . aka trying to “fix” the situation, or slap a band-aid on the wound, without really addressing the root issue. Avoiding discomfort doesn’t help in the present moment and can be damaging in the long-term. We all self medicate in different ways. Substance abuse often comes to mind first, but self medication can appear totally innocuous and legal. Food, over or under-eating, can be a way to self medicate. Unhealthy distraction, excessive busyness, entertainment can be other ways.
If I’m being honest, I feel guilty (and unqualified because I am) writing a post about how to find healthy, helpful coping mechanisms. I still, still struggle with falling back into old habits when life is messy. I actually started this post as a list of healthy strategies for myself to use right now. So as I write these, just know I’m learning too.
Talk to someone . . . I’ll preface this with a disclaimer. I totally fail at following this one. I don’t want people to be burdened with my burdens. I don’t want to be needy or look vulnerable. But unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, we’re not built to be solitary. We need other people. They help us sort through tough emotions and get some perspective when our worlds are in disarray.
Talk to God. Talk to your mom. Talk to your roomie. I guess you could talk to you dog, but he might not give you the resolution and comfort your looking for. But what do I know, I don’t even have a dog.
*pouts*Take time to do things you’re used to doing . . . life does change, but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy previously established pastimes or hobbies. Currently, I’m making sure I give myself time to read. That has always been a stress relieving (maybe escaping) activity, and it’s important for me to make time for that. Movement is another good one, but personally, I know I shouldn’t rely too heavily on this one because it can quickly become an unhealthy way of coping.
Establish a routine . . .We’re not talking about a stringent, rigid routine that causes stress when unplanned things pop up (that would belong in the unhealthy coping tools section), but having some structure in our day can be helpful. That way we can allocate time for productivity, rest, free time. It helps our day feel more manageable and less vague and frightening.Think in the now . . . a new situation is scary enough, but when we are dealing with all kinds of newness AND thinking about all the new things coming in the future, it sets us up for overwhelming worry.
So tell me…
How do you cope?
Do you ever struggle with unhealthy coping mechanisms?