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5 Healthy & Unhealthy Coping Skills

All coping strategies aim to reduce immediate distress. However, coping with stress may be healthy or unhealthy depending on the unwanted adverse consequences. To make it more understandable, here are given 5 examples of healthy and unhealthy coping skills.

Stress is inevitable. People learn different strategies to cope with the stress that they encounter. Though, COVID-19 has introduced new circumstances causing far-reaching effects on lives. But doesn’t life bring new challenges now and then!

Coping is a process that evolves and changes according to the context – to manage internal and external demands (Lazarus & Folkman, 1987). However, sometimes an individual may not be able to identify that their coping strategy is exacerbating the issue. And for that, one needs help with stress dealing. Positive Reset is the right place where an individual can get help with stress and learn adaptive ways of coping with stress.

Healthy & Unhealthy Coping Skills:

What Are Unhealthy Coping skills?

Social Withdrawal:

Social withdrawal can minimize some of the stress. But this initially adaptive strategy becomes a problem when one uses it excessively. One may use social withdrawal to cope with the stress of being negatively evaluated or to limit negative expressions as a result of stress. However, coping with stress using social withdrawal limits the opportunities to engage in positive exchanges that may otherwise improve the mood and help in reducing stress.


In some situations, a distraction from a stressor or stressful thought works. But avoidance is something different and it also plays a role in stress generation. Avoidance coping with stress involves completely avoiding the stressor or making cognitive and behavioral efforts to minimize or deny stress which further leads to depression and distress (Penley et al., 2002).

For instance, if an individual is stressed out in crowds and instead of learning ways to cope with it, the individual avoids the situation altogether. Avoidance not only keeps the issue unsolved but also exacerbates stress for the long term.

Emotional Eating:

Emotional eating is the tendency to eat in response to different positive or negative emotions. For some people, depression, anger, or anxiety may cause loss of appetite; some people engage in eating more.

People with high levels of stress encounter issues regarding controlling the amount of food they take which is related to emotional eating (Tan & Chow, 2014). Eating in times of stress can work to avoid awareness or to distract from the stress. However, this short-term unhealthy coping can increase negative feelings, negative self-talk, guilt, and regret, also resulting in eating disorders, weight issues, or depression.

Smoking, Drug, or Alcohol Use:

Stress increases vulnerability to addictive behaviors (Sinha, 2001). People tend to smoke, abuse drug and alcohol as a coping strategy to reduce tension, withdrawal-related distress, and to self-medicate. Though, these addictive behaviors may act as depressants or relieve stress for short time but amplify conduct problems, anxious distress, depressive distress, and stress.


Another unhealthy strategy that people use to deal with stress is self-harm. People may use self-harm to regulate negative emotions or to deal with stress by replacing psychological pain with physical pain. Self-harm is a non-adaptive coping mechanism that people use when they haven’t learned healthy ways of coping with stress or other difficult situations. If one engages in self-harm as a result of stress, immediately ask for help with stress.


What Are Healthy Coping Skills?

Identification of Triggers:

Identification of the trigger is the first step in coping with stress. One way to identify is by being aware of thoughts, and feelings that result in certain behaviors. Mindfulness meditation, and writing a journal are effective strategies to find out the triggers which will, later on, help to learn healthy strategies to deal with them.

Relaxation Techniques:

Stress activates the autonomic system that enables the body to deal with stress by generating a well-known fight or flight response. Stress-induced physiological changes include shortness of breath, muscle tension, increased heart rate along with others; and different relaxation techniques help in reducing these symptoms (Volpato et al., 2018).

Some relaxation techniques include progressive muscle relaxation, deep breathing, guided imagery, and mindfulness meditation. Practicing these techniques for even a few moments every day helps with stress coping and enhancing inner peace.

Problem-focused Approach:

In problem-focused coping, the individual makes active efforts to eliminate sources of stress or to manage stressful situations through behavior. Problem-focused coping is effective because of the four elements including information processing, awareness increasing, getting relaxed solutions, and behavior modification (Seaward, 2020).

For instance, if an individual is worried about the exam, problem-focused coping may include scheduling study time, checking the required material, etc. People who use this coping strategy experience less stressful symptoms, have more mastery of the situation and are better able to adapt to it (Lazarus & Folkman, 1987).

Positive Self-talk:

Mind believes what one says to it. Negative self-talk causes an individual to perceive events as more stressful creating unnecessary stress and anxiety (Tod et al., 2011). On the other hand, positive self-talk is a cognitive psychological technique that stops negative cognitions that can otherwise lead to pessimism, depression, or anxiety and can affect the functioning of an individual (Meichenbaum, 1977).

One can practice positive self-talk by using positive affirmations such as “I have the power to change my mind”, “I am strong enough, I can get through this”.

Seek Professional Help for Coping with Stress:

When to seek Professional help for coping with stress? One may not recognize whether the coping strategy one utilizes is working in their favor or not. Or sometimes a healthy coping strategy may not be working due to some other factors. Hence, if an individual is unable to deal with stress despite the use of healthy coping strategies or if one is unable to find the right strategy for oneself, seeking professional help with stress coping is the right thing to do.

Seeking immediate help is better as the worse the situation is, the more time it will take to resolve. Get high-quality services at Positive Reset. For more details, visit the website or contact at 1 (732) 724-1234.