By: Sekinah Brodie

As you navigate life as an adult, it becomes more and more important to be responsible for your own healing. Identifying healthy ways to cope with stress and the ups and downs of life can be life-changing for you and the people around you. What works for one person, may not be ideal for the next but here are some ways to identify the best coping strategies for yourself.

Identify Harmful Coping Mechanisms

When creating any new system you must first look at the system you have and determine why it’s broken. This process will require deep internal work that can only be done if someone admits there is an issue and genuinely wants to change. Paul Huljich examined his own harmful coping mechanisms in a 2012 article for Psychology Today

“We tend to use a coping mechanism as a distraction, a crutch that we lean on as a way of avoiding stress. These activities, then, are no longer true choices that we make, but rather, unconscious habits that often prevent us from dealing directly with stress and are therefore harmful to our well-being.”

Examples of harmful coping mechanisms can include overeating, self-harm, abusing drugs or alcohol, or obsessing over video games or social media. You form these habits over time and often we don’t even realize how much we lean on these things when we’re experiencing high levels of stress or trauma. To start your journey, try making a list of all the negative coping mechanisms you have, once you have done so, it’s easier to dig into the underlying cause of them.

Utilizing Talk Therapy

Everyone has their own way of dealing with stress or traumatic experiences within their life, and I am no different. We may even be embarrassed by the things we allow ourselves to indulge in when we’re dealing with life. However, as easy as it is to fall into bad habits, we can also discipline ourselves to break those very same habits. One way to acknowledge and identify ways to cope is by talking to a therapist. The Meadow Glade details some ways to open up to your therapist if you’re having difficulty.

  • Discuss the problem you need to overcome, the areas of your life that you wish to make better, and what has brought you to the realization that you need help
  • Share your feelings and thoughts as openly as possible.
  • Imagine that you’re talking to a close friend and remember your therapist isn’t there to judge you.
  • Be open-minded. Recognize that therapy takes as long as necessary – you won’t be cured overnight. It may also take several different methods before you find one that works for you.
  • Journal your thoughts and feelings. Write down everything you fear, feel, are anxious or frustrated about.
  • Apply your learning. Success in therapy isn’t just about attending and listening to what your therapist has to say. You also have to contribute and be willing to apply the things that you’re learning to your everyday life. 

For me personally, therapy has been an essential aspect of my mental and emotional self work. Having another person to filter your ideas and work through your thought patterns is a huge key to achieving emotional health and wellness. 

Discover Your Passion

It’s easier said than done but finding things you are passionate about will be critical in your self-care journey to healthy coping. Do you enjoy fitness, food, sports, cars, or music? All of these things can be turned into hobbies/careers that will provide an additional outlet for you to handle stress and life challenges. 

As someone who struggles with an addictive personality, I’ve gone several years harming myself with negative coping strategies. In fact, I’ve come to realize that I was not coping at all, I was merely avoiding my problems in an attempt to numb any emotional pain. 

As you go through trials you will realize that staying numb in order to avoid pain doesn’t just block bad things, it also blocks good things. Taking the time to sit still, meditate, and discover who I am truly has helped to save so many of my relationships, the most important being the relationship with myself.

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