Everyone has stress in their lives and everyone has his or her unique way of coping with stress. Whether you generally go back to bed to avoid your stress, binge on junk food to cheer yourself up, or prolong your happy hour with friends after a tough day, understanding why you use a coping mechanism and replacing it with a better option can lead to better health and wellness for life.
Why do we have coping mechanisms?
The term “coping mechanism” is simply the habit or process you use when you feel excessive stress. While serious events (i.e. divorce or death of a loved one) may trigger habitual use of coping mechanisms, many people use coping mechanisms regularly to deal with life’s simpler and more frequent stressors. Even when stress is related to a positive change in your life (i.e. a new baby or relationship), you still might find yourself using a coping mechanism to deal with the significant change in your life.
Coping mechanisms can fall into one of two types: active or avoidant. Active coping mechanisms require that you be aware of what is causing the stress and your mechanism is an active, aware choice as to how to deal with the stress. Avoidant, of course, is the opposite. You can’t identify the precise matter causing you stress, and you’re seeking to avoid the unpleasant feeling of general stress.
Which coping mechanism you choose can dramatically impact your physical and mental health.
Three common coping mechanisms include sleeping too much, eating too much, and drinking too much. Too much of anything is bad for your mental and physical health, so if you fall into one of these three coping categories, FitClub has healthier suggestions!
- Excessive Sleep. When faced with an overwhelming to do list, a difficult relationship, or a bad day at work, some people can crawl back into bed and sleep for excessive amounts of time or experience difficulty in waking even after a solid night’s sleep. The longer you allow this to happen, the more likely it is to become a habit until you realize you’re neglecting your responsibilities. Break the habit by starting your day with a morning workout. FitClub has a variety of group fitness classes in the early morning hours that can wake you up, give you energy, and boost your endorphins to face whatever you’d rather avoid.
- Unhealthy food or too much food. It might be tempting to dive into your favorite junk food when you’re stressed, but combining stress with unhealthy food can lead to a litany of health problems, including increased abdominal fat. Instead, you can actually use food to alleviate your stress. Green leafy vegetables, turkey and blueberries are readily available foods that act to combat stress’s effect on your body. You still have to eat; you just don’t have to suffer!
- Reaching for alcohol. According to some studies, stress may actually change the way you experience the effects of alcohol. Alcohol may actually increase the stress in your life. When having another glass of wine after a stressful day becomes your coping mechanism, you may be more likely to develop alcoholism. For many people, the initial draw to alcohol after a stressful day is linked to a social aspect. Keep the social aspect without the alcohol by joining your social group for a Zumba class, a buddy strength training workout or a yoga class at FitClub. Talk about your day or your problem with your friends, release endorphins, and alleviate the negative side effects of using alcohol to deal with stress.
What’s your coping mechanism? Everyone needs one from time to time, but it doesn’t have to be unhealthy!