How do you cope?

Coping mechanisms.

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. 20170920_092824There 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.20170908_141752Self 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*20170921_174531Take 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.20170923_131357Think 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?


12 thoughts on “How do you cope?

  1. talking to someone is a big one for me… that and using my individual coping mechs. like journaling/meditation/yoga/listening to music/ using essential oils! sometimes in the moments it’s tough to use our coping skills!


  2. Sitting down to write a list of healthy ways of coping with discomfort – and at the same time a list of activities that you know you enjoy and fill your soul – is extremely smart. I feel like I need this list of mine at the ready at all times, because when I find myself suddenly in a moment of distress, anxiety, discomfort, boredom – whatever it may be – I often forget what’s on my list! Its amazing how quickly we can “forget” those healthy things, and rather go straight to our more unhealthy, but engrained, habits. Probably because, as you said, those things are more immediate. Like covering up the bandaid. The healthy mechanisms may take longer to work, which can be really hard to then trust them. But we have to trust that in the long term, they are more powerful.
    Its hard.

    I know my healthy coping mechanisms are definitely talking to someone – calling a parent usually – or my therapist (which is great for those feelings of being a burden. Its their job!)


    1. It’s amazing how quickly we switch from okay to distress mode. I do the same thing. Those healthy strategies are quickly forgotten. And they are hard work but worth it.

      Talking with someone is hard for me (I guess they’re all hard), but it’s definitely the most helpful way to cope. I always, always feel better after talking with my dad.


  3. Talking to someone is so crucial; especially going to the Lord in prayer and talking to a trusted friend or confidant. My unhealthy coping mechanism is probably going off and feeling sorry for myself . . . I often, too often worry about the future, and I love that you talked about staying in the now. That’s one I need to remember more often too.


  4. Love this post, Vangie. And I appreciate how you bring up that coping mechanisms aren’t inherently bad. They’re normal, necessary even. Rather, we need to always evaluate whether our choice of coping mechanism is healthy or whether we’re relying on it so much that it gets in the way.
    Sleep. That’s my healthy coping mechanism #1. I try not to ever let myself lose more than in hour or two of sleep, no matter how much I have on my plate.


  5. I definitely I’m slowly learning to find more healthy, productive coping mechanisms.
    On the side of unhealthy ones, I typically use distraction/staying busy to avoid my feelings. Like some of the others, I’ve found that yoga helps me as does talking things out even if it’s just to get stuff off your chest. I also enjoy getting outdoors in the sunshine.


    1. Yoga is wonderful. I love that you mentioned talking as a way to get things off your chest. Sharing thoughts and struggles without receiving any advice from the person who is listening can be really helpful too. Just the fact that they hear you and are trying to understand how you feel is encouraging.


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