Replace Your Unhealthy Coping Skills with Healthy Ones

February 24, 2021 Annabelle Clawson

It's one of those days--the days where I can't get out of bed for fear of the day ahead, where I neglect to take my medication, where I cancel all plans and call in sick. I need something to make me feel better. Instinctively, I feel drawn to binge-watch my favorite TV show. That's the easiest way to forget my feelings, right? However, I know that I must replace my unhealthy coping skills with healthier ones.

Why We Must Replace Unhealthy Coping Skills

We live in a world where everyone must be armed with healthy ways to cope with stress, and that means we must replace our unhealthy coping skills. At some time or another, many of us will experience mental illness. If not, we will experience emotional turmoil. Developing emotional resiliency is key to living a fulfilling life.

I learned the value of healthy coping skills quite begrudgingly, but when I finally did, I felt liberated. A couple of years ago, my mental health was about as solid as tissue paper. When I managed to make it out of bed, my persistent anxiety fueled me to "work away" the emotional pain. I knew that the busier I was, the more removed from my emotions I would become. That, to me, seemed like the best solution.

My boss eventually convinced me to see a therapist, and my therapist urged me to develop coping skills. He asked me what I typically did to deal with stress. I answered, "What do you mean? I don't get stressed."

(I truly believed this at the time. Denying my pain in favor of my work was not just a habit but an instinct.)

At this, my therapist kindly burst my bubble and reminded me that I had an anxiety disorder. He helped me realize that I didn't think I got stressed because I never slowed down enough to listen to my emotions. And when a breakdown demanded my attention, I turned to mind-numbing activities. I needed to change.

Why I Turned to Unhealthy Coping Skills

My common unhealthy coping skills include overeating, online shopping, and excessive scrolling. Unhealthy coping skills are easy to identify: does the activity leave you feeling numb or empty? Do you feel like you have to keep consuming more to feel better? If the answer is yes, then it's most likely an unhealthy coping skill.

Of course, food, TV, shopping, and social media can be helpful in moderation. They become unhealthy when we substitute them for facing our feelings. Some of my favorite healthy coping skills are meditation, writing my thoughts, and reaching out to a loved one. You can tell if an activity is a healthy coping skill if you feel fulfilled, calm, and connected to your emotions afterward.

For me, "unhealthy" was my default--I didn't know that there was a better way to deal with my pain. Now, after years of practice, I feel more capable of managing the anxiety that I feel daily. While you can't transform your habits overnight, you can start to recognize when you're turning to unhealthy coping skills. That's the first step.

Do you need to replace unhealthy coping skills? Which ones need to go? Share your thoughts in the comments.

APA Reference
Clawson, A. (2021, February 24). Replace Your Unhealthy Coping Skills with Healthy Ones, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 13 from

Author: Annabelle Clawson

Find Annabelle on Facebook, Instagram and her personal blog.

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