3 Effective Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Healthy coping mechanisms are the characteristic or behavioral pattern that helps progress and enhance an individual’s healthy habits against any trauma – physical or mental.

“Resilience isn’t a single skill. It’s a variety of skills and coping mechanisms. To bounce back from bumps in the road as well as failures, you should focus on emphasizing the positive.

– Jean Chatzky

Ups and downs are part of our everyday life, and we need to put a positive front in those bad times. For that, we must have some healthy coping mechanisms.

Without healthy coping strategies, we can feel broken-spirited & inadequate when tough life challenges are upon us. Negative emotions are something we need to control before they start controlling us.

We need healthy coping mechanisms for emotions like stress1, anxiety, and depression caused by mental & physical traumas. These can be distraction techniques or strategies to help us process our feelings and resolve them.

Healthy Coping Mechanisms

We can divide healthy coping mechanisms into three categories:

1. Emotion-focused coping mechanisms.

2. Problem-focused coping mechanisms.

3. Proactive coping mechanisms.

1. Emotion-Focused Coping Mechanism

We all have a certain tolerance level for the stress we feel in our day-to-day life. But when we get stressed beyond our tolerance limit, we become hyper-emotional, aggressive, dissociated, and we lose our ability to solve problems.

Our first reaction towards these feelings is to shut ourselves down, act out, use distractions, and avoidance. Most of these reactions we can see are unhealthy. So instead of them, we use healthy emotion-focused coping mechanisms.

These coping mechanisms are helpful when our problems are related to situations that are out of our control. For example, when someone close to us is diagnosed with chronic illness or dies, or when someone loses their job, people living with PTSD, etc.

The goal here is to feel better during stress. Here are some healthy emotion-focused coping mechanisms we can rely upon:

  • Listening to music.
  • Sometimes a good cry can be very helpful too. Our pent-up emotions flow right out with tears, and we feel lighter.
  • Write journal.
  • Gardening.
  • Crave out quite-time, either early in the morning or late at night, and listen to the nature around you by putting aside your worries.
  • Play games of your choice.
  • Read your favorite books or novels if you love reading.
  • Include humor in your life – watch comedy shows or something.
  • Indulge in your favorite hobbies.
  • Going for a walk.
  • Spend time with your pet.
  • Watch your favorite tv series.
  • Exercise, Jogging.
  • Meditation.
  • Cooking.
  • Cleaning.
  • Helping others in need will give you inner peace.
  • Try comfort food but don’t overindulge.
  • Color, Paint, doodle, draw.
  • Watch survival stories of trauma survivors. It will give you hope to keep going and make you feel you’re not alone.
  • Take a hot shower or bath.
  • Smell the aroma2 you love, like essential oil, your favorite flower, perfume, or scented candle.
  • Stick motivational thoughts all over your home.
  • Talk to someone you are close to or seek professional help.
  • Prepare an everyday routine and stick to it.
  • Practice breathing techniques.
  • Learn new skills.
  • Set short-term goals & fulfill them. Completing them will give you strength.
healthy coping mechanisms
Photo Courtesy: John Hain, Pixabay

But we shouldn’t use emotion-focused healthy coping mechanisms for problems that can be resolved, such as – students not preparing for their upcoming exams, and avoiding talking to one’s partner when the relationship is stressful.

To cope with these types of problems, we need problem-focused coping mechanisms.

2. Problem-Focused Coping Mechanisms

These types of healthy coping mechanisms focus more on removing or altering the cause of the negative emotions and stress caused by them.

The goal is to remove or alter the stressor of the emotions. Here we tackle stressors head-on and do not hide behind avoidance coping mechanisms.

We started with problem evaluation -> information gathering -> map-out strategies to tackle them -> finally took action to eliminate the problem.

For example – bullying victims should go straight to the authority, cut short the troubled relationship, if you’re not spending enough time with your family, then make time for them, or if you are starting a new business, learn the rope and seek professional help.

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Image by Sozavisimost from Pixabay

Here are some problem-focused healthy coping mechanisms:

  • Seek professionals help
  • Go to the authority regarding traumas like bullying, harassment, etc.
  • Establish boundaries in relationships and maintain healthy communication
  • Envision different scenarios to resolve the issue

3. Preventive Coping Mechanisms

We use this mechanism to remove or be prepared for future stressors. It’s wise to prepare for the problems in advance before they manifest3.

For example – prepare for the exams in advance, prepare for the job interview, keep aside an emergency fund for future emergencies, learn new skills to stay ahead of everyone, etc.

Here are some preventive coping mechanisms:

  • Maintain a healthy diet & exercise regularly to prevent putting weight and to stay healthy in the long run
  • Keep your friends & family close, and you never know when you can need them
  • Manage finance wisely

Why Coping Mechanisms Aren’t Always Good?

Every emotion we experience serves its function: fear, sadness, guilt, anger, hurt, or joy.

We will be discussing why coping skills don’t work in the long run and what to do instead.

For example – You’re feeling angry because your child gets bullied in school, but the school administration didn’t intervene by considering it childish behavior.

Here, my being angry is justified. I’m not going to calm my anger. I will take action and eliminate the problem. In the same way, there are lots of such cases where our negative emotions are justified, and we don’t need to calm down but take appropriate actions.

Benefits of Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Here are a few undeniable benefits of coping mechanisms:

  • Builds a positive outlook toward life.
  • It helps to get through hard times.
  • It helps build a strong social circle.
  • Ensure a healthy life.
  • Boost self-esteem & confidence.
  • Lower anxiety & stress levels.
  • Letting out suppressed emotions.
  • Help take the right action through problem-focused coping mechanisms.
  • Help remove or alter future stressors.
  • Help cope with the emotional trauma caused because of PTSD 4caused by bullying, sexual harassment, etc.

Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms To Avoid

healthy coping mechanisms
Photo Courtesy: Social Butterfly, Pixabay

Without proper guidance, most people fall for the unhealthy coping lifestyle because they are easy to adopt, which we should avoid at all costs.

Here’re some unhealthy coping mechanisms we must look out for:

  • Alcoholism, illegal drugs.
  • Smoking.
  • Unhealthy eating habits.
  • Procrastination.
  • Being stubborn.
  • Belittle others to make yourself feel strong, like bullying & gossiping.
  • Putting up a forced positive front to remain around social groups.
  • Dissociation from people around you.
  • Defense mechanisms like acting out, anger, physical violence, etc.
  • Repressed emotions.
  • Overspending.
  • Overeating.
  • Overthinking.
  • Starving yourself.
  • Thinking about yourself negatively.
  • Blaming others for your mistakes.
  • Blaming yourself.
  • Self-physical harm.
  • Tire yourself by overworking to numb the pain or to avoid the stressor.
  • Oversleeping or not sleeping enough (insomniac).
  • Rely heavily on prescribed medication.
  • Living in the past, because it is full of happier memories. For example – when a loved one dies, few of us cling to the past fear of letting go of the person who died.

Inspirational Quotes To Encourage Healthy Coping Mechanisms

“Denial can be a most useful, temporary shield. Unfortunately, such flimsy armor will not last a lifetime. It is best to face your past, and do so quickly before your past returns to face you.”

— André Chevalier

“I fix myself, even when it causes great pain to do so because I know that I cannot fix the way the world sees me.”

Tressie McMillan Cottom

“Rise flexibly, courageously, and perseveringly upon the challenges and trials in our life. Beneath the depth of fresh wounds, heavy cross, and years of scars, is our wise silent mind, a beating faithful heart with understanding and patience matched with a humble soul who walks with hope towards charity, kindness, peace, and harmony.”

― Angelica Hopes

“The cooperative, loving side of existence goes hand in hand with coping and power, but neither the one nor the other can be neglected if life is to be gratifying.”

―  Rollo May

“What is forgiveness? An emotion? A coping mechanism? An element of deepest faith? A way for the heart and soul to combat the type of hate, anger, rage, and a thirst for revenge that could ultimately consume a person? All of those and more?”

―  Mike Barnicle

“Think first of the action that is right to take, think later about coping with one’s fears.”

―  Barbara Deming”Sometimes getting something off your chest to someone else is an important step in coping – so you know that you’re not alone, you’re not failing, and that it is perfectly normal to feel overwhelmed or sad at times. Everybody does.”

―  David Lidington


healthy coping mechanisms
Photo Courtesy: John Hain, Pixabay

Coping mechanisms are fine when you want to feel instant relief when facing difficult emotions. They only succeed in burying problems in the short run but resurface again later. Unless resolved, they will keep coming back.

Our all energy are completely focused on creating quick relief, distracting us from taking actual action to get rid of them. That’s where problem-focused coping mechanisms come to the rescue.

If you’re losing control, feel like going to make a bad decision, too emotionally distraught to think straight – slow down and give yourself a break and apply healthy coping mechanisms to go through them.

Also, we discussed above, negative emotions like stress, anger can be useful too. We only need to take appropriate actions to make our life meaningful and stress-free.

A Guide To Trauma-Informed Mindfulness
Icy Health

Read more from us here.

  1. O’Connor, Daryl B., Julian F. Thayer, and Kavita Vedhara. “Stress and health: A review of psychobiological processes.” Annual review of psychology 72 (2021): 663-688. ↩︎
  2. Carpena, Maria, et al. “Secondary aroma: Influence of wine microorganisms in their aroma profile.” Foods 10.1 (2020): 51. ↩︎
  3. Ekanem, Emmanuel, et al. “Multi-national survey on the methods, efficacy, and safety on the post-approval clinical use of pulsed field ablation (MANIFEST-PF).” Europace 24.8 (2022): 1256-1266. ↩︎
  4. Martin, Alicia, et al. “Treatment guidelines for PTSD: a systematic review.” Journal of Clinical Medicine 10.18 (2021): 4175. ↩︎

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