Mental Health Minute

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Managing Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms

When times get tough, instinct often pushes people toward coping mechanisms. These mechanisms can help people feel like they’re escaping reality by relieving stress or distracting their minds. While this is a standard response, it can become problematic when one turns to harmful, unhealthy coping mechanisms. Common unhealthy coping mechanisms include oversleeping, excessive substance use, over- or under-eating and impulsive retail spending.


It’s expected to have feelings of wanting to escape from reality due to stress or anxiety. Healthy coping mechanisms can help you positively address such feelings and develop long lasting habits. Consider these healthier coping alternatives:



Create task lists

Unhealthy coping mechanisms can prevent you from reaching your short- and long-term goals. Making a task list of personal goals can help you achieve what you want and elevate your mood by physically seeing your accomplishments when they’re checked off the list.



Talk about stress

Find someone willing to listen to you, such as a close friend, family member or mental health professional. Putting your feelings into words can help alleviate stress and anxiety.



Address negative feelings

Negativity is a normal part of Trying to avoid it is called avoidance behavior, which can result in reaching for unhealthy coping mechanisms.



Learn your triggers

Knowing what situations you negatively respond to can help you keep track of your triggers and be aware of how you react.



Pick up a new hobby

Activities such as painting or running can be therapeutic for many. Designate a regular time and space to practice your new hobby.


Having negative or overwhelming emotions is natural, but it’s important to lean on healthy coping mechanisms to help deal with stress and anxiety. Talk to your doctor or a mental health professional if you are experiencing ongoing emotional struggles.


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