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A Healthy Dose of Self-Reflection: 5 Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms to Conquer

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From towers of monthly bills to high-priority job responsibilities to frustrated little ones demanding maths homework help, day-to-day life is a Pandora’s box of stressors. If you’ve noticed breakouts more frequently, suffer from chronic pain, or struggle with insomnia, you may be approaching stress overload. 

For those meditation and journaling sceptics, remember that binge-watching TV and compulsive spending are merely bandages on an open wound. If you’re ready to get to the core of your daily stress, you’ll need to leave unhealthy coping mechanisms that do more harm than good behind you. In the interest of stress reduction, you’ll also need to stop seeking instant gratification and adopt a slow-and-steady-wins-the-race approach. 

But first, you’ll need to identify examples of the unhealthy coping mechanisms ruling your life. After all, the first step towards relaxation and rejuvenation is admitting you have a problem. 

Eating your feelings

All too often, people turn to food as a way to deal with stress. While sweet, salty, and high-fat distract you from external stressors temporarily, these sugary treats aren’t a long-term solution. 

With this temporary euphoria in mind, instead of using food to deal with stress, take time to learn how to stop overeating and find a new way to manage your problems

Medicating your stress away 

One of the most common but unhealthy coping mechanisms is self-medication. In some cases, stressed-out individuals turn to addictive drugs to soothe the discomfort, while others turn to alcohol to cope. 

Unfortunately, medicating your emotions creates more problems in the long run, as drug or alcohol addictions often require treatment. Rather than using drugs or alcohol as a way to calm distress in the short term, you would be better off working with a therapist or talking to your healthcare provider. 

Living in denial

Rather than using food or addictive substances to help cope with challenges, some people deny they have any problems at all. If you subscribe to the ignorance is bliss sentiment, do some self-reflection to become mindful of your thoughts and actions. 

Denial, also called repression, involves detaching from reality because it is too difficult to accept the hardships surrounding you. For example, you might be struggling with depression – though you’ve convinced yourself that your mental health is in tip-top shape. Under these circumstances, your brain does not allow you to accept that you have a problem, so you continue riding the denial train, full speed ahead. 

With denial, the people around you can see the problem with 20/20 vision. By contrast, your deception is personal and often comes from fear of facing the reality of the situation. 

Escaping with dissociation

Another psychological term associated with unhealthy coping is dissociation, which is the inability to accept your problem because of a fear of facing it. Many people experience dissociation when they don’t want to confront a traumatic situation head-on. The trauma hurts, so you avoid it through unconscious dissociation. 

According to psychologists, the only way past trauma is to talk about it and battery-ram your way through years of trauma responses and harmful coping mechanisms. 

Putting on other people

When you cannot accept your problems, you might offload your responsibilities onto other loved one’s shoulders. For example, if you are unhappy at work, you might take out your frustrations on your spouse rather than dealing with the problem at work. 

The textbook example of projection is having a disagreement with your supervisor and then coming home, only to lash out at your spouse preparing dinner. When you cope using projection, you may find some temporary relief from the problem, but in reality, the wound is still alive and well. 

Wrap up

Deep down, you know if you have a problem and aren’t coping with it healthily. Rather than projecting, dissociating, denying, or self-medicating to manage the situation at hand, talk to your healthcare provider for a list of physician-approved coping strategies. 

Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.


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