Coping Mechanisms: Part 2

If you missed Part 1, check it out.

To review: coping mechanisms (CMs) are responses.  There is usually an underlying stressor that causes them.


So what should we do? We can’t control the adrenaline rush that comes with stress, but we can try to control our reactions through CMs.  The first step is to recognize the stress.  Recognize, then conquer.

It seems like the easiest CMs to develop are the unhealthy ones.  These are the ones that don’t take as much effort, and the ones that offer instant gratification.

This is a food blog, so let’s take bingeing as an example of an unhealthy CM for stress.  It’s easy, and food is pleasurable.  If we can stop before the binge starts and recognize that it’s about to happen (even if it’s too hard to stop this time), that’s a start.  Recognizing that it IS a binge, and not true hunger, is important.  Think through the binge.  How are you going to feel afterwards?  Why is this happening now?  What is the underlying problem?  What is the real issue?  What are we avoiding, and what is going on in our lives?  Think, journal, and talk to someone.  If the binge still happens, it happens.  At least you acknowledged it.

We can use other positive CMs to replace the negative CMs.  My mom likes to call these incompatible behaviors – can you binge while you’re knitting?  Of course not.  Can you binge while you’re walking on the treadmill?  No.  Know yourself, and know your hobbies.  Think of things that you enjoy that you can use to replace the unhealthy behaviors.

My main causes of stress are anger and boredom.  Restlessness leads to immense anxiety for me.  Uncertainty is a trigger.  Frustration, or struggling with something can both lead me to unhealthy CMs. You need to learn to address the underlying issue and fix it, instead of avoiding it with a (negative) CM.

So maybe you have actually attacked the underlying problem, but you’re still practicing whatever unhealthy CM that you had developed.  At this point it’s probably just a habit.  Habits are incredibly hard to break.  But… you can use CMs to break them!  (Ever read an article that says, “10 steps to break your _____ habit”?  Those are usually just lists of CMs.)

I’ve been trying to evaluate my own CMs and this is what I’ve come up with: my CMs are all related and intertwined.  I develop one CM (harmful or healthy), and then develop another to counter that, and then another, and another.

I think my recent boredom with yoga is coming from the fact that I’m in a completely new environment and, as an astute reader pointed out, “all of [my] routines have been disrupted.  All of [my] coping mechanisms have changed.  Now that [I am] in a new environment it will take a while to recover some of the old, and discover the new routines in [my] life.” Where would I be without you guys?  I also loved this comment: “You may not feel it consciously, and they may all be changes for the better that you’re excited about, but your subconscious is probably feeling the anxiety all the same.” Even though I’m excited and happy for these changes, she’s absolutely right – changes (even good ones) cause anxiety for me.

What am I going to do about it? I’ll keep running and walking.  I’ll do yoga stretches.  I’ll write.  I’ll read.  I’ll listen to Jillian Michaels.  I’ll call my mom and dad.  I’ll lay in bed with Bobby and not fuss about missing my workout.  I’ll keep eating my favorite foods.  I’ll hug my cat.  I’ll vacuum.  I’ll do the laundry.  I’ll dance like crazy to loud music.  I’ll draw.  I’ll bake.  I’ll go shopping.  My healthy coping mechanisms are my favorite parts of life.

(Speaking of baking and cooking – Shelby made my recipe!  She’s made a few of my recipes actually.  I love her blog.  This girl is beautiful, creative, and inspiring!)

Yesterday’s exercise – 5.28 miles in 60 minutes.  30 minutes running (between 5.5 – 7.0 mph, 2-3%) and 30 minutes walking (3-6%).  I broke it up, but I don’t remember exactly what I did.  I alternated between walking and running, but did most of the running in the beginning.

Today – nothing yet!  Probably a nice slow walk.  And some shopping.

Need some more ideas? Here are some more suggestions from some Aardvarkers:

  • “I’ve lost 100 pounds over the last 3 years.  The thing that worked the best for me was having a workout and diet buddy and someone to go to for professional health questions.”
  • “I think it’s important to know your limit.  Know when you are stressed out and find the relief that you need – whether it be watching TV, going to a spa, or exercising.”

And a word of warning:

  • “It pretty common for people to have something work for a while and then to have to try something else.”

What are your healthy Coping Mechanisms? (Optional: what are your unhealthy ones?)

16 Replies to “Coping Mechanisms: Part 2”

  1. maggie – thank you for this post; it’s really nice to read informative articles like this and so brave for you to post your own experiences.

  2. That last quote about having something work for a while and then having to try something else is dead on for me! I’ve been losing weight and having a healthy relationship with food and exercise for the past year or so and now all of a sudden my body is rebelling. I need to switch it up! This is a great topic, Maggie. Thank you so much.
    Healthy CM’s: I’ve started journaling again, and reading whatever I can get my hands on. Both of those things are great stress relievers.

  3. Thank you for sharing Maggie. You are a very talented writer and I’m sure your honesty is going to help a lot of people, myself included. You’re wonderful, don’t ever forget it 🙂

  4. one of the best tools I use is tracking.
    (I’m on office nerd, so i use Excel for everything)

    so I track what i eat, how many hours i i felt, why i ate, why i snacked … was i up, or down, a mini journal…on and on and on and on…

    it seems tedious but it became SOOOOO useful before, during and after my pregnancy with my son and now i just keep it up.

    I have really learned a lot about myself.. my triggers and my triumphs too.

    I have a lot of what i call “nervous energy” hobbies… junk to keep my brain and my HANDS busy…knitting, painting, sketching, spinning yarn, reading, scrapbooking, BLOGGING, and then of course exercise is GREAT always. not only for health but for those feel good hormones…

    i like to be proactive and not REACTIVE.

    Thanks Maggie for such great great information and sharing.

  5. I love your list of new things to do! I find if I just remove myself from the kitchen, the house, the zip code, by the time I let the urge to binge pass, I’m over it!

    Thank you for sharing all this with us. I know it can be difficult to talk about sometimes, but I think you are really reaching others!

  6. Hey! These posts on CM’s have been so informative and interesting and I’m really glad I was able to be a part in inspiring them. I’m always afraid of overstepping my boundaries in the blog sphere (as in real life too). How much is it ok for me to say? But at the same time, I want to turn my experiences into something positive that I and others can benefit from. I’ve gone through some terrible times with my anxiety and unhealthy coping mechanisms, but I’ve learned so much in recovering too that I can’t help but share with anyone and everyone that will care to listen (or not lol).
    You’re very right in that there are healthy and unhealthy CM’s. Thankfully I’ve learned enough to recognize my unhealthy CM’s and most of the time I’m able to replace them with healthier ones. I think I recognized yours because they’re so similar to mine! I’ve always found comfort in numbers, even though I’m not a math person, really, I’m very analytical, I like things to be precise, I like to know exactly, or numerically if possible about everything around me. As a kid, and ok sometimes I still do :X, I used to count EVERYTHING. I’d count the number of a certain color of cars on the way to school, the cracks in the sidewalk, the steps it took to get from point A to point B. Or sometimes when I’m really nervous or stressed I just close my eyes and count, randomly, with no end number in mind. Is this weird? Yes. And when It becomes obsessive and about calories or exercise, it can be very unhealthy. I still get obsessive when I’m under stress and go back to calculating everything, but at least now it’s to make sure I’m eating enough, not too little.
    OO and something else you might enjoy is puzzles! I can become engrossed in working on a puzzle, from just a few hundred peices to 1000’s, for hours and hours. It’s a great way to quiet my mind for a little while.
    Hope your week is going well!


  7. wow, thanks for this post girl! I think it’s really important to learn positive coping mechanisms. I know for me yoga, taking a nice walk, listening to music – or anything creative (coloring..yes, i said coloring! writing, taking pictures, puzzles) reading, etc. anything to keep our minds distracted.

    I think this post definitely struck a chord with many readers and I am so grateful for your openness and sharing such wonderful insight – your awesome, girl!

    hope your friday is going well 🙂

  8. Great insight Maggie. Thanks for this post – I loved it. So true – even good changes can cause anxiety. I get completely stressed out, and it doesn’t take much. Again exercise was my biggest CM, but yoga has really helped me to take a step back and examine my unhealthy exercise addiction. Some of my healthy CM’s include going to the movies, getting a pedicure, talking a walk, or playing with my dogs. Thank you for making me mindful of this.

  9. A few healthy CMs of mine are gum (as opposed to candy), blogging (recording what I eat and being inspired by others), and keeping my hands busy (holding a slinky or a yo-yo). Also good – always keep water nearby.
    I also always try to have books with me and my iPod – two ways I relax when I’m stressed or just pass the time.
    I take every opportunity to get up and move – even just walk down the hall.

  10. Did you say COLORING…. What a great time disconnecting from life’s struggles…I am glad I am not alone in this huge universe 🙂

    does anyone blow bubbles.???…(even when the kids are not around)? SHHHH

    I’ve sent coloring books AND a bottle of bubbles to smoking friends who are tying to quit…. not sure if it worked but it ALWAYS changes my perspective on life…

    gotta love it!

  11. I love how you’ve really thought this through and identified how you can solve some of your issues.

    My coping mechanism is to walk. Walk and walk and walk. It really does help me so much. That and writing!

  12. It’s so interesting Maggie to know that there are also healthy CMs. Thanks for sharing with us your own experience. And as others said, you’re such a great writer, I enjoy so much reading what you write. You need to teach me that! 😀
    About my healthy CMs (which i never thought them as CMs before). I might say blogging and reading blogs is the latest one. I find it so relaxing. When I write, it’s writing a journal, it’s a moment to connect with myself, a moment of reflection, order my thoughts. When I read other blogs, I get inspired in term of food and life. Especially blogs like yours who always come up with new ideas/insights about issues that I’m really interested about. It makes me gain new perspectives about life in general. So, thank you! 🙂

  13. Loving this post, Maggie! What a great nugget of wisdom and insight. It’s what everyone needs to read.
    My unhealthy CM would be withdrawal, and entertaining all sorts of ED habits.
    Healthy ones, besides religious, would be exercising, talking it out with my parents, blogging, reading, singing, dancing like a mad lady!

  14. Thanks so much for sharing! I just love hearing your insights and more about what’s going on. I can definitely relate to binging urges as you know. What I do to cope with that urge: chew gum, play with eye makeup, read a book, play video games, go on a walk/run/do some exercise, call a friend, go to bed. Going to bed feels kind of unhealthy sometimes but oh well.

  15. lately ive been having long streaks of being so in touch with my body and my cravings and then ill have one really off day where i cant get a handle on myself and i turn to food…not sure what the underlying issues are, but stress is a big part, and im relaly enjoying your posts on coping mechanisms a lot.

    i agree that sometimes things work for a while and then get old and change is necessary. lately, ive been enjoying reading others’ blogs – almost more than writing my own…its just fun to get ideas and hear about everyone’s lives. i guess thats a CM…

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