Choosing and Using Positive Coping MechanismsShelby
While some chemical addictions begin through pure carelessness—e.g., experimenting “for fun”—the typical starting point is a desire to escape loneliness, boredom, stress, pain, or another issue rooted in undesirable circumstances. Negative “coping mechanisms” come in other forms besides drug use— workaholism and excessive TV viewing are just two examples—but they all offer seemingly easy relief. Emphasis on “seemingly,” because while negative coping approaches provide temporary escape, they do nothing to remedy the larger problem. Instead, they ultimately make things worse. That’s definitely not to say anyone has to suffer without relief. What’s needed is consistent use of alternate, healthy coping mechanisms.
Finding a Healthy Definition of Coping
Merriam-Webster defines “cope,” first and foremost, as “to deal with and attempt to overcome problems and difficulties.” The key word is “overcome,” which is the opposite of temporarily running away (physically, mentally, or both) only to return to the same situation and find it unchanged, or changed for the worse. The greater tragedy is that you are gradually changing for the worse—retreating further and further into dependence on an unhealthy habit.
Positive Coping Mechanisms Emphasize Your Personal Power and Responsibility
Removing yourself temporarily isn’t necessarily an unhealthy approach, if the purpose is to refresh your strength for coping with a situation, or to look at things objectively and plan your next move. However, many people never think about how they can improve a situation, because they see “making things better” as someone else’s job—either because nothing you do matters anyway, or because “someone else” owes you special favors and it wouldn’t be “fair” for you to have to make the first move. What usually happens is that “someone else” doesn’t know or care what you want (or is thinking you owe them the favors), so nobody does anything to make things better.
Positive copers know that no one is ever completely powerless (if nothing else, you have a say in your own attitude), and that regardless of whether you “owe” anyone else anything, taking action helps your self-esteem and progress.
Learning to Embrace a Growth Mindset
Once upon a time, “common knowledge” was that everyone’s IQ and skills were fixed at birth, and that if you weren’t naturally talented at something, it was no use ever trying to learn it. This “fixed mindset” is now recognized as a fallacy. Healthy copers have a “growth mindset”—the understanding that most people can improve at most anything with determination and practice. And improvement is a vital coping skill: developing your own abilities strengthens you to rise above circumstances.
The flip side, though, is that just because you can become good at something doesn’t mean you necessarily should invest time and emotional energy in it—regardless of what anyone or “everyone” else considers the best approach. (Letting others think for you is just another unhealthy coping mechanism.) Seek the life mission that your own passions confirm youwere created for.
Learning That Incremental Improvements Matter
Impatience is the enemy of positive change: too many people become dependent on unhealthy coping mechanisms because those are the only ones they see delivering instant “results.” Commit yourself to working for change in a healthy, proactive manner (preferably with qualified input and support), and don’t worry if the change doesn’t immediately evidence itself. It’s the gradual, almost imperceptible improvements that add up to lasting results.
Examples of Healthy Coping Mechanisms
For specific coping techniques, here are a few starter ideas:
- Exercise, healthy eating, and adequate sleep
- Prayer, meditation, or yoga
- Favorite hobbies and activities
- Learning new things by reading books or taking classes
- Exercising your brain with puzzles (which also builds thinking skills for real-world problem solving)
- Making a vision board or handwritten goals list
Remember, healthy coping starts in the mind. Believe in yourself, do what you can, and have faith things will work out!
Here to Help You Cope
At Beach House, we understand that lasting sobriety is about more than losing the physical cravings: it’s about developing positive new coping strategies and making the most of your long-term life. Our residential treatment program utilizes therapy and a healthy environment to help you prepare for a drug-free future. Contact us today to learn more.