Stress has been described as one of the principal threats to human health in the 21st century – and it’s easy to see why. While stress is often described as a psychological issue, it can also cause a myriad of physical health problems, and can even be a significant risk factor for certain serious health conditions.
The reality of stress:
Realistically, the chances of anyone reading the above paragraph and being surprised to learn that stress is a health concern, are slim. Huge awareness campaigns have sought to outline the risks of stress to the general populace, but have had little effect. For most people, stress is something that they know they should avoid, but are mostly unable to actively solve – modern life is tough, and stress seems to a be a natural byproduct of this simple reality.
It would be silly for this post to continue along a vein of “you must fix your stress, it’s a serious problem”. It’s also somewhat unhelpful to suggest that stress can just be fixed as simply as flicking a switch; that a few self-care treats will be enough to overcome a serious, often systemic problem. Instead, we’re going to focus on another aspect of stress that tends to be overlooked: coping mechanisms.
What are coping mechanisms?
Coping mechanisms are behaviors, actions, and thoughts that people turn to when they experience stress. For the most part, these coping mechanisms are a good thing; we turn to them as they help us to feel a sense of release and go about our usual day.
However, not all coping mechanisms are equal – and some are downright dangerous. For example, some people smoke, drink, or burn the candle at both ends to relieve stress. While these behaviors may help to alleviate their anxiety, they have significant downsides that eventually results in a zero-sum game – or worse.
What constitutes a good stress coping mechanism?
Essentially, anything that helps to relieve the burden of stress without causing other lifestyle or health issues. So, you may find it beneficial to rant about the problems you’re experiencing, or you might find it more cathartic to cry on someone’s shoulder. Some people turn to exercise to help manage stress; others find a night in curled up on the sofa is more suitable. It depends on what you personally find beneficial; there’s no cure-all that fits everyone.
What if you only find “bad” coping mechanisms helpful for alleviating stress?
It would be wrong to suggest you should immediately desist, even from “bad” coping mechanisms – we all need ways to get through the day. However, you may want to consider substitutions. So if you tend to smoke when you’re stressed, you could switch to vaping, purchasing the best cheap premium e juice as a treat; if you tend to shop, then you could restrict yourself to low-cost, bargain stores; if you tend to opt for alcohol, then dilute the strength and try to stick within recommended limits. With a few tweaks, you should be able to achieve the same stress-reducing benefits, but without such a significant impact on your health as the truly bad options.
It’s important to note that if your issues with stress are chronic, and you are turning to any coping mechanisms – both good and bad – more often than not, it may well be worth discussing the issue with your doctor. Coping mechanisms are there to get you through particularly rough days, but any long-running stress issues can usually benefit from medical intervention.
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