If you are upset, what do you do to make yourself feel better? Do you phone a friend or reach for a vape pen? Do you take a walk, or do you cut? After a bad day at school, do you reach for your sketchpad or reach for a joint? The latter in each scenario is a negative coping mechanism. They are quick fixes, they make us feel better, they make us feel safe again. But once we find negative coping mechanisms to mask our pain and suffering, it can be hard to break out of those patterns. They become a part of us. They become our security blanket. They can show up in the form of drugs, alcohol, self-harm, and even online gaming. If you are using something outside of yourself to stop a feeling, you are using a negative coping mechanism. Negative coping mechanisms mask the real problem—the way we feel inside. If we drink, we don’t have to feel sad about not having friends. If we play online video games from the moment we get home from school until we go to bed, we can ignore the real world and connect with others in a way that feels safe because we don’t have to show our true selves. If we cut, we can focus on that pain instead of being rejected by that girl in math class. If we smoke weed every day, we don’t have to acknowledge our anxiety or depression. But these behaviors continue to suppress the pain and suffering we may feel, and if the underlying emotions are never unpacked, they can lead to serious mental health issues in years to come. So how do we find better options to cope with our emotions? We need to step outside of what we know into a world that may seem foreign and even scary. Instead of using a negative coping technique, try something from the list below:
- Movement: going for a walk can move the stagnant energy around the body and help release chemicals called endorphins to make us physically feel better which can dramatically impact our mental health in positive ways.
- Phone a Friend: calling someone you trust can be an outlet to work through the things you are feeling and experiencing, so you aren’t sitting in isolation stewing over thoughts and feelings that are negatively affecting you.
- Art: Coloring, drawing, painting, sculpting, or any art form can help you express your energy and emotions in a way that may not feel therapeutic but can shift your negative energy outwards.
- Cook/bake: put your energy to good use. Try a new recipe and focus your mind on creating in a way that is healthy and meaningful. Plus, you get to eat the final product!
- Book/TV/Movie: while escapism isn’t always healthy, reading, watching a funny movie, or binging a TV show can help us feel safe again and connected to the world around us. Pick up an old favorite to help calm the nerves and ease the mind.
- Meditate: It may seem silly and simple, but breathing can go a long way when it comes to moving past difficult moments. Start by focusing on your breath, taking longer and longer breaths in then out. Focused breathing, for even a few minutes a day, can shift our mood and energy.
- Shower/Bath: rinsing the day away can give you a bit of privacy to let out your feelings and literally rinse those negative emotions away. The warm water can soothe. The sound of the running water can calm.
These options may not always be available to you, but this list offers some simple starting points to moving through tough emotions, experience, or day. But the hardest part about learning positive coping techniques is putting them to use. We want to stay inside. We want to do the thing we know will mask that real issue. But if we can get ourselves moving in a new direction, just like that old coping mechanism, we can begin to forge a new path to healthy choices. What’s the worst that can happen if you go for a walk? What’s the worst that can happen if you choose to sketch for a couple of hours? What’s the worst that will happen if you take a shower instead of smoking weed? These are the questions you want to ask yourself in the moment because we know the answers when we reach for the negative options. Our problems never get solved, and we put our lives in danger.
Changing our behaviors is far from easy. If you’re struggling to make positive changes in your life, contact Stonewater Adolescent Recovery Center today. Our mission is to help you break negative addictions and show you the beauty this world has to offer through individual treatment and community support. It may seem scary, but after we take that first step, the rest becomes second nature. Take that first step to healthy coping mechanisms by calling us today: (662) 478-9463