Healthy vs. Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

ngobrianMental HealthLeave a Comment

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Developing proper coping skills is an important aspect of life for anyone, but this is especially true of individuals who struggle with mental illness.. We have to cope with life no matter what, but part of behavioral treatment is to learn to cope in a positive way, instead of a negative way. Handling situations that are beyond our control can be particularly challenging, but as we develop positive coping skills, we’ll learn how to move forward in the face of adversity. 

Negative Coping Strategies

When struggling with mental health problems, it is common for young men to utilize negative behaviors, such as substance abuse, in order to deal with change, fear, stress, or other high-intensity emotions. Some negative coping skills to avoid include:

  • Catastrophizing: Using words like “always” and “never” to describe situations. You may also view problems as unsolvable, and assume that you shouldn’t even try. 
  • Projecting: Applying your negative feelings about yourself to others or to your life in general. For instance, you might assume that those closest to you don’t really care about you because you’re feeling bad about yourself.
  • Generalizing: Letting isolated occurrences affect your big-picture view. If you have a bad morning, and automatically assume you’re going to have a bad day, week, or life too, you’re generalizing. 

Positive Coping Strategies

There are stress management techniques that we can employ as positive coping mechanisms, such as staying active, eating right, getting plenty of rest, and taking the time to nourish our spirits. There are also thought patterns and mental exercises we can perform that keep negative coping mechanisms at bay, and help us to navigate life’s ups and downs in a healthy way. Positive coping mechanisms include: 

  • Practice Moderation: You can’t solve all of your problems now, and you can’t be all things to all people. Learning to say no to others, taking time for yourself, and making sure you are focusing on living a well rounded, healthy life is a healthy way to cope.
  • Skip Perfectionism: You’re not perfect, and neither is anyone else. Expecting perfection out of yourself and others only lead to disappointment and frustration. So cut yourself, and everyone else some slack. Relax, and find reasons to be happy instead of reasons to criticize.
  • Focus on the Task at Hand: When you feel overwhelmed by everything that lies ahead of you, take a deep breath, and focus on taking one thing at a time. Recognize your little milestones and successes, and soon you’ll be reaching your bigger goals.
  • Laugh it Off: Humor eases tension, and a good laugh will help you to shake off stress. Watch a funny movie, spend time with lighthearted friends, and allow yourself to find humor in yourself and in your daily life. 

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