Life can feel challenging. There is plenty of pain and struggle to go around. And while we are wired for growth and positive adaptation–we are the ones who must tend to the parts of ourselves that need honoring. We must create room to heal as we live. As tempting as it may be to avoid or distract ourselves from the pain or loss we feel, we compound our problems when we do so. Our stresses mount or become more complex. And so does our suffering.
I thought it might be worthwhile to look at the components of healthy coping. What do they look like? How do they differ from unhealthy coping?
Healthy coping mechanisms
- encourage you to remain in the present moment
- invite you into an honest relationship with yourself
- succeed at lowering your stress levels
- benefit your body, mind, and relationships
- allow you to access a part of yourself that feels alive, vulnerable, and strong
- “give” to you in the short and long term
- incite self-knowledge and growth as you learn to face what lies before you
Areas that are common to healthy coping may involve emotional support, health and wellness, relaxation, and finding joy in small moments.
Some examples of healthy coping might include–
- listening to music that soothes or inspires you or allows you to emote
- taking walks in nature
- eating healthy whole food
- prioritizing sleep
- reading or listening to podcasts
- confiding in a friend
- processing with a therapist
- attending a support group
- watching a funny movie or favorite tv show
- journaling (especially helpful with grief)
- breathing deeply
- practicing yoga
- sitting in the sunshine
- learning something new
- receiving a massage or pedicure
In contrast, unhealthy coping usually involves temporarily masking painful feelings. If you revisit the list of characteristics around healthy coping, unhealthy coping often does the opposite of those things. They “take” from you in the short and long-term. They cost you and provide you with very little insight.
Examples of unhealthy coping
- compulsive spending
- using substances to avoid painful feelings
- excessive dieting or exercising
- zoning out for hours/days/months/years watching television
- overeating when we feel stressed
We all cope unhealthily from time to time. We are all human. No judgement here. Still, we all deserve healthy coping skills in our lives. And even more, we deserve the benefits of healthy coping. Self-awareness. Strength. A connection to ourselves. Self-sufficiency. Humility. Curiosity. Growth. A connection to those around us. More aliveness. Love and perspective. I do enjoy setting myself up with a list of my favorite healthy coping skills at the ready. I do some sort of healthy coping every day but will double down with more when I need to. Why? I have had the experience of going deep when things get tough instead of running way. And while it can be painful– it is also rewarding work. There are gifts that come to us only when we are open to being broken open.
What is on your list of healthy coping skills? What have you gained from your difficult times?