Healthy vs. Unhealthy Coping Tools
By: Sarita Barthuly
May 22, 2024

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Coping Tools

Coping tools, strategies, or methods are probably phrases that you are familiar with, but do you know the difference between healthy vs. unhealthy coping tools? Coping tools are what we use to help us regulate our emotions and cope through various situations that we encounter in our day to day lives. However, we tend to have both unhealthy and healthy coping tools that we use. Lets take a look at both.

Unhealthy coping tools look like:

  • Excessive drinking
  • Smoking
  • Over or under eating
  • Picking at our skin or nails
  • Self-harm
  • Affairs and cheating
  • Addictions
  • Aggression and anger
  • Anxiety and control

A lot of the time when unhealthy coping tools are being used there is a deeper issue going on. We might be feeling pain, sadness, hurt, fear, anger, etc. and be unsure of how to deal with all of the emotions that are going on inside of us. In these times things can already seem like a lot and we tend to want a quick fix instead of taking the time we need to heal. We turn to these unhealthy coping mechanisms because they tend to be easy to do and don’t require a lot of effort to our brains. We want these methods because we want to feel better as fast as we can and ignore the pain, hurt, or sadness that’s happening within us. What we are really seeking out is Dopamine, our feel good hormone.

When we apply any coping strategy we are getting a small hit of dopamine in our brain that makes us feel good or makes us feel better for a short period of time. When we use unhealthy coping strategies we are just putting a band-aid over a huge wound. The dopamine we receive from unhealthy coping mechanisms is short-lived and we need more and more of it to keep feeling good. This is where we can see addictions form and affairs start to happen. However, when we start to use healthy coping tools we have a longer and steadier release of dopamine in our brain that keeps us feeling good for a longer period of time.

Healthy coping tools look like:

  • Going on a walk
  • Riding your bike
  • Eating healthy food
  • Exercising
  • Journaling
  • Mindfulness/Meditation
  • Deep breathing
  • Therapy
  • Self-care
  • Getting creative and doing a craft of some sort
  • Listening to your body and what its needing
  • Taking breaks when things are too much

This is not an extensive list, but just a few ideas to get you started. These healthy coping strategies can also fall into the category of self-care which is most likely another buzz word that you’ve heard of before. When we implement healthier ways of coping we start to feel better for longer and are better equipped to handle uncomfortable or challenging situations that come our way.  Learning the difference between healthy vs. unhealthy coping tools is the place to start.  Try substituting a healthy one for an unhealthy coping tool today!