What are Coping Mechanisms?

therapist bethesda md

 

Carlos Durana Ph.D., M.Ac. offers counseling and therapy in Reston, Virginia, Washington, DC, and Bethesda, Maryland.

At some point in your life, you have probably experienced high levels of stress, trauma, or even loss. When these instances occur, most people resort to some sort of coping mechanism to help them manage their emotions. Some people will seek out a therapist Bethesda MD to help them cope, while others will try to manage on their own. Coping mechanisms are strategies people use to adjust to different events in their life while maintaining their emotional well-being.

Stress, trauma and other significant life changes happen at various times throughout our lives. These events can be positive or negative, such as divorce, the death of a loved one, losing a job, marriage, having a baby or purchasing a home. When these circumstances occur, people will often resort to a combination of behaviors, thoughts, and emotions to help them cope with the situation and maintain their mental health.

It is not uncommon for people to confuse coping mechanisms with defense mechanisms. While they share similarities, they also are different in several ways.

  • Defense mechanisms occur at an unconscious level. In most instances, people do not realize that they are using them. On the other hand, coping mechanisms are used intentionally, are a conscious decision and are purposeful.
  • Coping mechanisms are used to manage and control external situations that may be creating stress or other problems. In contrast, defense mechanisms can have an effect on an individual’s internal psychological state.

Styles and Types of Coping Mechanisms

In addition to different types of coping mechanisms, there are also two prominent styles. Coping styles are either problem-centered or emotion-centered. When problem-focused, coping strategies are developed as a means to deal with problems to reduce stress levels. Emotion-focused strategies allow people to handle feelings of distress that are a result of a problem or multiple problems.

Additionally, coping mechanisms can be classified as either active or avoidant. Active coping mechanisms usually involve an awareness of the stressor and making a conscious effort to eliminate and reduce the stress. On the other hand, avoidant mechanisms are characterized by attempts to ignore or avoid the problem altogether.

Some of the most common coping mechanisms that people use include:

  • Support: When going through a stressful event, finding a supportive person or group with whom you can talk to about the event can be an effective way to manage your stress. It is beneficial to find an external support base so you can vocalize your emotions, instead of internalizing your stress.
  • Relaxation: People often find that when going through a stressful situation finding ways to relax can help to reduce stress levels. Meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, calming techniques, sitting in nature, or anything you find relaxing can help.
  • Problem Solving: In order for this technique to be effective, it requires identifying the problem that is at the root of the stress, and then developing and putting into action solutions to effectively manage your stress.
  • Humor: Some people might find that using humor is an effective way to maintain perspective in the situation and prevent it from becoming overwhelming.
  • Physical Activity: For many people, exercise is a natural and healthy way to reduce stress. Running, yoga, swimming, dancing, walking, team sports and other physical activity can help people deal with their stress levels and the effects of a traumatic events.

Learning how to effectively use coping mechanisms can have positive effects on an individual’s mental and emotional well-being. If you are looking for a therapist Bethesda MD to help you cultivate and discover healthy coping mechanisms that you can utilize in your own life, contact Dr. Carlos Durana at A Caring Approach today. Dr. Durana has years of experience helping individuals learn how to use healthy coping mechanisms to deal with stressful or traumatic events.

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