Coping Mechanisms (EN)

Stress gets the best of all of us, sometimes. Coping mechanisms were created to help us navigate negative or stressful situations with a little more ease.


2021-04-15 2 min read

Whether an exam is fast approaching or quarantine loneliness sets in, all of us have faced stress and negative emotions at some point or another. Our brains are always prepared, however, and have developed strategies to deal with these particular events. We know them as coping mechanisms. These aim to help us navigate these emotions and minimise their impact on us.

Healthy Coping

Not all coping strategies are created equal, however. There are many types of coping mechanisms, and not every single one will work for you. This is why psychologists have divided them into two main categories: problem-focused and emotion-focused.

 Problem-focused mechanisms encourage us to deal with the problem at hand. They help us remove ourselves from the situation entirely. These involve: establishing healthy boundaries, asking for the support of a friend or a professional, creating to-do lists, or even walking away from the situation that causes us stress.

Emotion-focused mechanisms are used to soothe our feelings and take care of ourselves when the situation can't be changed. Many of these are about mindfulness, such as meditation, breathing exercises, journaling, or picturing a "happy place". Others involve redirecting our emotions, like exercise or cleaning. Some people just need to vent about what they are feeling. 

Unhealthy Coping

 The simple fact that a strategy will help you on the spot doesn't mean it's healthy. These mechanisms, known as maladaptive copingcan only create even more problems in the long run. 

 - Escapism: To deal with anxiety or stress, some people isolate themselves from friends and family. While setting clear boundaries and spending time alone can be good for you, running away from the problem and social isolation are never the answer.

 - Unhealthy self-soothing: In moderation, self-soothing is effective and healthy. However, when it becomes a habit, it may turn into an addiction, such as over or undereating, excessive use of the internet and video games, or even binge drinking, meant to numb the distress.

 - Excessive risk-taking: Stress can cause us to do almost anything to feel like we are in control. Engaging in dangerous activities will give us an instant adrenaline rush, but it could even put our lives at risk. 

What works for you?

We are all different, and so are the ways we deal with stress. This is why it's important to try out many tactics and find the ones that work for you. It's not uncommon to find that what helps your friend will only frustrate you even more, or that you use in a certain situation won't work in the next. 

There is no set path or magic formula that works whenever it comes to coping mechanisms. It takes a lot of trial and error to find out what could actually help us, but developing healthy strategies is worth every twist and turn along the way. 




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