A coping mechanism is a strategy an individual uses when facing difficult emotions. There are several styles of coping mechanisms:
- Instrumental or emotion-focused – instrumental strategies focus on problem-solving while emotion-focused strategies allow individuals to handle feelings that result from an issue.
- Active or avoidant – active mechanisms involve an awareness of a stressor and an active attempt to reduce stress whereas avoidant mechanisms are characterized by ignoring the problem.
- Adaptive and maladaptive – adaptive coping is characterized as healthy and effectual ways to manage stress. Maladaptive coping is ineffective and counterproductive. These are the most common mechanisms.
Examples of coping mechanisms
Some commonly used adaptive coping mechanisms involve seeking support, relaxing the mind and body, problem-solving, and engaging in physical activity.
Alternatively, some maladaptive mechanisms include self-isolating, self-soothing with unhealthy habits (i.e., overeating, binge drinking, excessive screen time), engaging in risky and impulsive behaviors, and self-harm.
Building healthy strategies
To create healthy mechanisms to overcome overwhelming feelings or situations, you must first be able to acknowledge your stress and talk through it with trusted individuals or mental health professionals. Through dialogue and introspection, try and determine your stressors and your reactions.
Next, produce a list of short-term and long-term tasks you’d like to complete. Having and working towards concrete goals can provide a sense of purpose and create long lasting-habits. It is also beneficial to adopt new hobbies as a form of constructive self-soothing.
Implementing adaptive coping mechanisms is a great way to improve your mental health.