I’m sure I won’t make a mistake by telling you that we all have been in stressful situations. Life is like a rollercoaster, throughout the different periods of life we have ups and downs with more or less stress following along.
But even if each and every one of us experiences turbulence in our lives, we all have our personal definition of stress. We could agree that situations like divorce, the loss of a loved one, losing a job, and getting into an angry conflict, are the factors that bring a lot of stress. But some people might take it a bit easier than others. Some people might feel extremely stressed in situations like buying a house, getting into a new relationship, going to university, or flying to a tropical island. And some might not even blink twice when they go through it.
Stress triggers are unique for everyone. And what we consider to be stressful depend on our mental state, our thoughts and our personal experiences.
And another thing…
Have you ever noticed how you react, respond or cope with the feelings that stressful situations created?
This is also a very personal thing to look into if you want to manage the stress in your life.
I have to admit that I haven’t noticed where the wrong stress management led me. I was (still am to some point) a stressed person. I used to overthink and create scenarios that didn’t make sense. I thought that this is just who ”I AM” and I have to get used to it… Over the years I drowned myself in misery, I ignored my feelings, suppressed my thoughts, found relief in alcohol and literally ate all my worries (I invited Bulimia into my world). Little did I know that there are techniques that I can learn how to manage stress and help myself to cope with it a bit better (and maybe healthier than I did).
Please note that I am not a medical professional and this blog is based on my own experiences and discoveries. I gathered everything that I learned about self-development and self-healing. If you feel that you need more help, please, contact professionals in your area.
What are Coping Mechanisms?
The things you do when you are exposed to stress (whatever that is to you) are called COPING MECHANISMS.
Our bodies are designed to react to stressful situations very quickly (sometimes even before we record it as stress). Our primitive part of the brain is responsible for our survival and stress is marked as a great danger, so, as this danger occurs, we quickly respond and protect ourselves (fight-or-flight system). 
Also, we all respond to stress at a physical and mental level.
When we are faced with a stressful situation, our brain reacts to it automatically releasing a few hormones (cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine) and then sends signals to different parts of our bodies to do their job. Due to this quick process, you might notice contracted muscles, pounding heart, loss of appetite, headache, nausea, weakness, sweating or chills, hot flushes or you might even faint. And it’s a bit different every time and depending on the situation.
Besides the physical matter, you respond to stress on an emotional/thought level. You might start feeling strong emotions, like anger, guilt, anxiety, panic, resentment, sensitivity, numbness, etc. 
These emotional responses are very natural and it depends on many factors, like your thoughts that day or week, your life long thinking patterns, perception of life and even your past experiences. Emotional response arises from a much deeper part of you and most of the time we don’t even realise it.
So, know that we separate the stress responses, we can start using some of the techniques or strategies that would let us cope, manage and even reduce the stress. These coping mechanisms help you adjust to stressful situations while helping to maintain your emotional well-being. 
Coping Strategy Styles
There are a few known coping styles, one is problem-focused, or instrumental, and another is emotion-focused.  It’s easier to understand the difference between the two if you ask a question: “Do I need to change the situation or do I need to find a way to better cope with the situation?”
Problem-focused coping style is helpful when you need to remove the stressor in your life. For example, if your work is the main reason that causes a lot of anxiety, worries or stress, you probably would consider changing the job.
Emotion-focused coping style can be used whenever you feel that it’s physically impossible to change the source of your stress or simply you don’t want to change it, so you turn to find the ease by looking deeper into your feelings. For example, if your partner left you, you look for a way to get through it by being kind to yourself, slowly changing your thoughts or focusing on the future.
Some sources say, that there are active or avoidant coping mechanisms. Active coping mechanisms usually involve awareness of the stressor and taking an action to reduce it. Avoidant coping is the opposite – ignoring and avoiding the cause and emotions that follow.
Sometimes we find ways that give us temporal relief. Short-term distraction might be a great way to cope with stress, sometimes it’s very healthy to step back and put your attention on something else before dealing with unpleasant situations, thoughts or emotions. But, needless to say, it’s important to remember that distraction should be used just as a temporal relief. Constant distraction can easily become a habit and in a long term, it might negatively affect your life.
Unhealthy Coping Mechanism
Unhealthy coping strategies are might have a negative impact or even damage our mental or physical health in the long term. Usually, we use these coping strategies as a temporal relief as they create a fake feeling that our worries disappeared. We use them as a quick and easy escape when we can’t handle uncomfortable or unpleasant feelings. The thing is that being a quickly accessible relief it can become a habit or addiction.
Here are a few well-known examples of it:
- Unhealthy self-soothing: Self-soothing might be healthy in moderation as a little distraction but it might easily become a habit and quickly turn into an unhealthy addiction. Some examples of unhealthy self-soothing could include overeating, binge drinking, using drugs or drowning in online shopping or video games.
- Isolating: While dealing with stressful situations, some people might want to spend some time alone, which is a great way to deal with it to the point of total withdraw from friends or family, social and even work life.
- Avoiding: Running away or avoiding the problem, suppressing or ignoring the feelings that come up is a coping strategy that creates a fake image of removing the stress. But this doesn’t help, because the stressor is still there and following along or comes up from time to time.
- Venting to others: Talking to your friends about your worries is a great way to release stress and look for answers, but sometimes people can’t get over their worries by thinking and talking about it many times over and over again. They get too stuck in their own story without a way out.
- Self-harm: Extreme stress or trauma can lead people to use self-harm as a coping strategy.
Healthy Coping Mechanisms
Whether you are feeling stressed, sad, lonely or angry, there are many different strategies that might help you to handle it or at least calm you down. Healthy coping strategies are the ones that help you to feel better but don’t have a negative impact in the long term. It has the ability to soothe you, temporarily distract you, lift your mood, change perspective, or help you tolerate or handle your negative emotions.
Here are a few examples of healthy coping mechanisms:
- Breathing exercises: When you are caught up in a stressful situation focusing on breathing might be a great way to reduce stress. Deep breathing sends a message to your brain to calm down and relax. And then the brain sends a message to the body to do the same. When your body and mind are calm and grounded – you can think clearly and make better decisions.
- Reaching out for support: One of the good ways to reduce stress, anger, sadness, or worries, is to talk it out or seek support in your environment. Friends and family (or therapist) are the ones that will listen, understand, and guide you to find a way to let go or get through those emotions.
- Relaxation: There is a number of mindful relaxing activities can help you cope with stress. Relaxing activities may include practising meditation, sitting in nature, listening to soft music, taking a bubble bath or hot shower, drinking tea or reading a book, or whatever else you find relaxing.
- Physical activity: It’s not a secret that exercise can be a natural, healthy and very beneficial form of stress relief or a way to deal with traumatic events. It can be running, yoga, swimming, walking, dancing, team sports, and many other types of physical activities.
- Problem-solving: This coping mechanism calls for taking initiative in finding the problem that is causing stress and then making a decision for action that might help to remove or reduce it. Like, if you are in a toxic relationship and it causes you a lot of stress, you might consider leaving your partner or going to therapy.
- Humour: Having a little laugh is a great way to prevent stressful situations from becoming overwhelming.
Find what’s best for you
Coping strategies are very unique for everyone so what works for someone else might not work for you. When I am feeling sad, going for a walk works best to calm down. But it might not be the best option for you, because walking makes you think more about the reason why you are sad, but watching a funny video for a few minutes works better.
Sometimes you might find that different strategies work with different emotions. You might notice that going for a run when you are angry helps to let go of anger, and reading a book is a great way to cope with loneliness.
It’s important to find and develop coping strategies that would be most useful for you. You might need to experiment before you know what technique to use in different situations.
Everything that is mentioned here is just a small part of what psychology has discovered about coping mechanisms over the years of research. There are plenty of coping mechanisms that are found to be helpful to deal with stress or trauma.
I think the most important part is to become aware of your thoughts, feelings and emotions, and then find a way to cope with them in a way that would help you to overcome them instead of ignoring and suppressing them.
Please remember, that you are not alone in this world and help is always there.
Love you loads,