Trigger Warning: Mentions of self harm, anxiety, alcoholism, drug addiction, body dysmorphia, eating disorder.

One night, like every other night, the disease of overthinking plagued me, and as I laid in bed, in warm blankets with the fan spurring on above me, my train of thoughts dropped me at a very unsettling junction; I remember criticizing theism with everything I had in me, for its nature of offering transcendental truth based on human belief and intuition, but then I realized logic, math and every science, at its very fundamental core, rely on axioms that can only be backed by, lo and behold, the intuitive belief of their possibility of being true. Ensued an existential crisis that led to a major anxiety attack that had already been building up through the previous day. At 1:00 in the morning, I found myself cleaning the house. After an hour of tidying up, I fell into a seamless slumber.

Coping, as defined by Folkman S. and Moskowitz J.T, is the thoughts and behaviours mobilized to manage internal and external stressful situations. It is a term used distinctively for conscious and voluntary mobilization of acts, different from ‘defense mechanisms’ that are subconscious or unconscious adaptive responses, both of which aim to reduce or tolerate stress (Venner M., Adjustment, Coping and Defense Mechanisms–Deciding Factors in the Therapeutic Process, Z Gesamte Inn Med., 1988). Coping styles are basically certain stable behaviours that help individuals respond to stress without losing general equilibrium.

Carver and Conor Smith (2010) pointed out four major groups in which an individual’s coping mechanisms could be classified:

  • Problem-focused coping v/s Emotion-focused coping: The former would include behaviours such as “I will save money today in case if I lose my wage tomorrow in a layoff or calamity.” The latter on the other hand has a thought process similar to, “I have been laid off and the stress I feel in this moment is temporary and hence, relaxing exercises or soothing mediation can help me handle the situation better.
  • Engagement coping v/s Disengagement coping: Engagement coping could look like, “I will find a new home after the looming separation with my partner.” Disengagement on the other hand could be, “I refuse to accept this separation.”
  • Meaning-focused coping: This is very close to the method of rationalization and of looking at the brighter side of things; “I lost all my possessions in a flood but this reminded me of how vitally important my loved ones are.”
  • Proactive coping: This coping generally comes before stressful confrontation or during extreme nervousness for an impending event. “I know I must confront my friend about a major fight that we had and therefore, I shall organize my thoughts and opinions to not blow everything out of proportion.”

In 2003, Skinner et al. found more than 400 various coping mechanisms after rigorous reviewing of psychological literature. In a study carried out in 2001 and 2003, it was said that flexibility of coping is more likely to occur than consistent repetition of the same coping method. People are likely to switch coping mechanisms depending on the degree of their stress or anxiety, their environment, their company, the effectiveness of the method over time, etc. which has been consistent in providing people a calmer state of mind.

This blog is going to be a little different. Talking about stressors and stress isn’t enough. That is the kind of information you can find absolutely anywhere. In this blog section of Aspire To Dream, we’ll give you a set of varied coping mechanisms that you could experiment with within times of stress. These coping methods can be used in the early stages of an oncoming anxiety attack as well. Please, please, keep in mind that you must perceive this information with a pinch of salt due to its generalized nature.

  • Follow my lead and clean the entire house. A cleaner space will reduce your stress and if there is absolutely any last shred of anxiety remaining, it’ll be gone through the process of tidying up.
  • Colouring in a ‘Colouring-in Book’ can reduce anxiety and stress significantly. There’s just something about simply filling colour into a colourless picture that can be so calming.
  • If you wish to, indulging in a few minutes of yoga can reduce stress significantly. Focusing on your body and its movements, focusing on your breath can be loads helpful.
  • Speaking of body movements, dance it out!
  • Lavender, chamomile or any herbal tea can calm the nerves down and the process of making the tea and drinking it can ground you for a while.
  • For all those into moving to release the nerves, working out is the best option. Go for a run or grab some skipping ropes. Shift your focus on your body.
  • The most significantly effective is the “5 senses method“. In it, you must acknowledge 5 things you can see around you, 4 things you can touch around you, 3 things you can hear around you, 2 things you can smell, and 1 thing you can taste.

Watch out, though! There are Maladaptive Coping Mechanisms that can wreak havoc in your life and they oftentimes look like this:

Designed by – Muskan Gupta
  • Ignoring the entire issue to avoid it
  • Smoking
  • Drugs
  • Alcoholism
  • Compulsive Expenditure
  • Excessive caffeine intake
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Overeating or undereating
  • Self-harm
  • Excessive exercise to the point of bodily dysmorphia

If you do find yourself practicing even one of these, please, contact a psychologist to help you shift to better coping mechanisms that are specifically designed for you and aren’t harmful or unhealthy. I must remind you again that you must take this blog with a pinch of salt.

Now that that’s out of the way, let us know in the comments section which coping mechanism do you use to regain equilibrium in trying times.

Until next time!

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