Healthy Coping Mechanisms vs Unhealthy

By Kendra Penski on February 17, 2022 in Blog, Therapy

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It’s the new year, it’s 2022 and yet it still feels like we’re in March of 2020. Covid-19 feels like a never-ending Groundhog’s day and it’s starting to take an emotional toll on us all again. It can feel like there is never a light at the end of the tunnel and that things are not going to get better at times. Henry Ford once said, “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” It is easy to fall back into our old patterns and negative mindset, however, if we can try to change to healthy coping mechanisms instead of unhealthy ones, we can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel again.

Healthy Coping Mechanisms for Long Term Benefits

Coping strategies are actions we take, these can be conscious or unconscious. They help us deal with stress, problems, or uncomfortable situations/emotions. Unhealthy coping strategies tend to feel good at the moment, they are short-term but have long-term negative consequences. An example of unhealthy coping strategies can be drug or alcohol use, overeating, procrastinating, sleeping too much or too little, self-harm, aggression, and social withdrawal. Let’s be honest, it is a lot easier to sometimes choose to withdraw or eat when we feel overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed, however, the long-term effects make us feel worse and possibly more depressed in the end, so it’s always better to use healthy coping mechanisms for long term happiness. 

Healthy coping mechanisms may not provide instant satisfaction or gratification, they can take more effort and work at times, however, they lead to long-last positive outcomes and feelings. 

Woman doing yoga outdoors. To represent healthy coping mechanisms.

Examples of Healthy Coping Strategies 

Examples of healthy coping strategies can be exercise, healthy eating, seeking professional help, talking about your problem, relaxation techniques (ie. deep breathing), utilizing social support, and problem-solving techniques.

Developing Healthy Coping Skills 

To help develop healthy coping skills, here are three discussion questions that you can ask yourself:

  1. What consequences might result from this unhealthy coping strategy I am about to use?
  2. What healthy coping skills could be helpful for me in this situation?
  3. What barriers might be preventing me from using healthy coping skills?

If you can address a problem you are currently dealing with and acknowledge the unhealthy coping strategies you normally want to use, this will allow you to address the consequences of the unhealthy coping strategy. This can then guide you to be able to reframe your mindset to try and use healthy coping mechanisms instead. This helps you envision the possible barriers to healthy coping mechanisms, but it will also allow you to visualize the expected outcomes of the healthy coping mechanisms and how they can positively impact your life.

Are you ready to try healthy coping mechanisms today? Contact us to talk to a therapist and learn more. 

By: Kendra Penski, LCSW