Healthy Coping Mechanisms To Manage Stress & Anxiety

The techniques you employ to cope with the unpleasant experiences you might have in life are referred to as coping skills or coping mechanisms. These abilities enable you to still discover some good in a bad situation or to maintain optimism when things don’t turn out the way you had hoped. Continue reading to learn more about coping mechanisms.

By We Level Up FL Treatment Center | Editor Yamilla Francese | Clinically Reviewed By Lauren Barry, LMFT, MCAP, QS, Director of Quality Assurance | Editorial Policy | Research Policy | Last Updated: January 24, 2023

What Are Coping Skills? Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Coping skills, also called coping mechanisms, are the skills you use to make sense of the negative things you may experience during your life. It’s these skills that allow you to still see some positive in an adverse event or to find hope after things haven’t gone as you’d planned.

When someone doesn’t have good coping skills, they may view adverse events as their fault. This is often due to poor self-worth, and it can cause significant anxiety in life. These people feel like they’re at fault for negative things that happen, even though those adverse events may have been in no way caused by their actions.

These are the strategies people often use in the face of stress and trauma to help manage painful or difficult emotions. Coping mechanisms can help people adjust to stressful events while maintaining their emotional well-being. Significant life events, whether positive or negative, can cause psychological stress. Challenging events, such as divorce, miscarriage, the death of a loved one, or the loss of a job, can cause most people to feel grief or distress.

But even events that are considered positive by many—getting married, having a child, and buying a home—can lead to a significant amount of stress. To adjust to this stress, people may utilize some combination of behavior, thought, and emotion, depending on the situation. People may use coping mechanisms for stress management or cope with anger, loneliness, anxiety, or depression.

Benefits of Healthy Coping Mechanism For Stress

Healthy coping strategies for stress and trauma may soothe you, temporarily distract you, or help you tolerate your distress. Sometimes it’s helpful to face your emotions head-on. For example, feeling sad after the death of a loved one can help you honor your loss. In this case, active coping is the better strategy. However, there may be situations where avoidant coping is helpful. It certainly helps the person deal with their stress in the short term and can be a good choice if they are at risk of being completely overwhelmed.

Four Kinds of Coping Mechanisms

Weiten has identified four kinds of coping strategies:

  1. Appraised-Focused
  2. Problem-Focused
  1. Emotion-Focused
  2. Occupation-Focused

In the long term, avoidant coping will never be the best strategy for effectively dealing with stress. Coping methods like avoidant coping may work for a time, but eventually, they will become counterproductive or produce unintended consequences.

Healthy Coping Mechanisms

10 Ways To Build Healthy Coping Mechanisms To Help Manage Stress

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America[1], it is estimated that 40 million adults — or 18.1 percent of the population are suffering from some form of anxiety. This trend is not expected to change in the near future. Instead, it is going to increase more as society becomes more digitally connected and there are more events taking place. For adults, there are more stress factors[2] due to health issues, work, family, and the environment.

What is Stress?

There is the misconception that stress is not a natural human response. The truth is that stress is a natural event or force on humans. Stress factors are meant to trigger the flight or fight response, responsible for keeping humans as a species on their toes and alert against danger. In modern times, the threat is not necessarily physical. It can be emotional or psychological.

The stressor may be less of a threat of danger and more of a trigger or pressure to perform. Examples of stress include work and projects; for teens and young adults, it can be the dynamics of the growing mind and body, including sports and dating; for adults, it can be the work environment, social life, expenses, family, and others.

Healthy skills include strategies like meditation, exercise, and positive self-talk to deal with daily life.
Healthy Coping Mechanisms: Healthy skills include strategies like meditation, exercise, and positive self-talk to deal with daily life.

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Relaxation techniques are another healthy coping mechanism that can help you to deal with stress.
Healthy Coping Mechanisms: Relaxation techniques are another healthy coping mechanism that can help you to deal with stress.

There is another reaction to stress, which is not widely acknowledged. This is called the “freeze” reaction[3]. It is akin to the “deer in the headlight” reaction where a person freezes and is unable to react to the situation. It is not a denial of the situation but disbelief that something is happening or that the person is not able to comprehend the circumstances. Due to the magnitude of the stress, the person cannot move or react. A corollary to the freeze reaction is the body’s sighing[4] which denotes a reboot of the system. This is not an acceptance of the situation but instead is the body’s way of considering stress as part of the environment.

Stressors can be anywhere and everywhere depending on the person’s age, life and lifestyle. There is a need to find relief from stress and anxiety. People do not simply overcome stress, but they are able to adjust and adapt to it. There are healthy stress coping mechanisms to properly manage and reduce stress.

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Anxiety Fact Sheet

Anxiety Overview

A mental health condition marked by intense feelings of worry, anxiety, or fear that interferes with daily activities. Panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder are a few examples of anxiety disorders.
The inability to put aside worry, restlessness and stress that is out of proportion to the severity of the incident are among the symptoms.
Counseling or medicine, including antidepressants, are used as forms of treatment.

Anxiety Symptoms

Behavioral: hypervigilance, irritability, or restlessness.

Cognitive: lack of concentration, racing thoughts, or unwanted thoughts.

Whole body: fatigue or sweating

Also common:  anxiety, excessive worry, angor animi, fear, insomnia, nausea, palpitations, or trembling

Anxiety Treatment

  • Support group: A place where those pursuing the same disease or objective, such as weight loss or depression, can receive counseling and exchange experiences.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy: A conversation treatment that aimed to change the negative attitudes, actions, and feelings connected to psychiatric discomfort.
  • Counseling psychology: A subfield of psychology that handles issues with the self that are connected to work, school, family, and social life.
  • Anger management: To reduce destructive emotional outbursts, practice mindfulness, coping skills, and trigger avoidance.
  • Psychoeducation: Mental health education that also helps individuals feel supported, validated, and empowered
  • Family therapy: psychological counseling that improves family communication and conflict resolution.

Anxiety Statistics

It’s critical to understand the distinction between anxiety and depression. Anxiety, in its most basic form, is an excessive feeling of worry, whereas depression, in its most basic form, is an excessive feeling of worthlessness and hopelessness. It is conceivable for someone to experience depression and anxiety simultaneously.

6.8 million

GAD affects 6.8 million adults or 3.1% of the U.S. population, yet only 43.2% are receiving treatment.

Source: National Institute on Mental Health

19 million

19 million adults experience specific phobias, making it the most common anxiety disorder in America.  

Source: ADAA2020

17.3 million

Major depressive disorder affects approximately 17.3 million American adults or about 7.1% of the U.S. population aged 18 and older.

Source: National Institute of Mental Health

How To Deal With Anxiety And Overthinking? Anxiety And Overthinking

Overthinking Anxiety: Destructive thought patterns

Overthinking and persistent anxiety can frequently result in problems with mental health and well-being. Deep breathing, meditation, self-compassion, and seeking medical assistance can all be used to reduce the tension that comes with overthinking.

When you finally have some quiet time to yourself, you instantly begin to second-guess yourself and wonder if you should have sent the thank-you note or if you overestimated your odds of earning the promotion.

Sounds recognizable? Overthinking and worrying are normal human behaviors, but if they become excessive, they can harm your mental and physical health. According to a study from 2021, obsessing over the same thoughts may even raise your risk of developing some mental health issues.

Anxiety Overthinking: Difference Between Anxiety And Overthinking

The distinction between anxiety and overthinking is that the former occurs when you are preoccupied with potential outcomes, whereas the latter occurs when you are preoccupied with past events. For instance, if you can’t stop thinking about a test you’ve already taken and didn’t do well on, you can be overthinking a test if you’re nervous about one that’s coming up. There are techniques to handle both anxiety and overthinking, which can both cause misery and have an impact on your everyday life.

Another distinction is that bodily symptoms like a racing heart, perspiration, and dizziness are frequently present with anxiety. On the other side, overthinking may not cause any physical symptoms, yet it can still leave you feeling psychologically worn out. Contact a mental health professional for assistance if you are battling with anxiety or overthinking.

However, anxiety and overthinking are not the same things. The line between the two may occasionally be thin, but it’s crucial to know the difference so you can handle either in a healthy way.

How To Stop Overthinking And Anxiety

Here are some steps you can take to manage overthinking and anxiety in a healthy way:

  1. Step back and look at how you’re responding
  2. Find a distraction
  3. Take a deep breath
  4. Meditate
  5. Look at the bigger picture
  6. Do something nice for someone else
  7. Recognize automatic negative thoughts (ANTs)
  8. Acknowledge your successes

How To Stop Overthinking Anxiety? Other Healthy Coping Mechanisms

Besides the steps we mentioned before you can also try looking for anxiety overthinking art, anxiety overthinking relationship quotes, books for anxiety and overthinking (best books for anxiety and overthinking), a guided meditation for anxiety and overthinking, and anxiety overthinking quotes. These are different resources that can help you cope and realize you’re not alone.

Best Books For Overthinking And Anxiety

  • The Worry Trick by David A Carbonell, PhD
  • Clear Your Mind by Steven Schuster
  • The Overthinker’s Guide to Love by Kristen Ruth Smith
  • Unf#ck Your Brain by Faith G. Harper, PhD LPC-S ACS ACN
  • Reclaim Your Brain by Joseph A. Annibali, M.D.

Will Anxiety Medication Help With Overthinking? Medication For Overthinking And Anxiety

When anxiety is especially bad, benzodiazepines, a form of sedative, may occasionally be used as a short-term treatment. This is due to the fact that they begin to reduce symptoms 30 to 90 minutes after taking the drug. Diazepam is typically the benzodiazepine that is prescribed to you.

Is Overthinking Anxiety?

When you overthink, your anxieties and ideas go in a never-ending loop. Overthinking typically prevents you from taking action since it paralyzes you with fear rather than preparing you for the next move. Overthinking may be a precursor to or a symptom of mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and other illnesses.

Overthinking Relationship Anxiety

Overanalyzing in a relationship is frequently a sign that you don’t comprehend your own requirements. Asking yourself “what need do I currently have that is going unmet” will help you stop overanalyzing events in your relationship. You and your companion may communicate better as a result.

Coping Mechanisms for Stress Can Be Negative or Positive

The term “coping mechanism”[5] was first described and applied by psychologists Susan Folkman and Richard Lazarus. As described by Folkman and Lazarus, coping mechanisms are not static rules or behavior but rather a personal reaction to a threatening situation or environment. A person can use one coping method with one stressor or circumstance and another completely different method with a different stressor. The description also implies that there is no exact rule about what a coping mechanism is. This ability to cope can be a negative or positive behavior that may or may not help the individual in the long run.

Coping mechanisms are a person’s response to stress, and sometimes it can be self-harming. Unhealthy coping mechanisms help release or vent stress almost immediately. However, these destructive behaviors[6] can lead to health problems, side effects, or even aggravate stress.

These include harmful practices like:

  • Drugs and other substance abuse, excessive alcohol, and stress eating.
  • Overworking.
  • Social withdrawal.
  • Denial- ignoring strong feelings and avoiding problems.
  • Blaming oneself or others.
  • Overeating.
  • Emotional outbursts at family and friends.
  • Oversleeping, or a problem with sleeping.
Ryan Zofay forming a circle and hugging friends.

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The above types of behaviors can create other problems or worsen problems and do not address the root causes of stress. While a drink before bed is considered normal, it can affect their sleep. Does alcohol affect your sleep?[7] Contrary to popular belief, yes, it does. Some of these negative coping behaviors can lead to lifelong problems like addiction and can exasperate mental illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders. The above unhealthy coping mechanisms are knee-jerk reactions to developing situations. The person does not think of the consequences of their actions but instead is seeking stress relief. 

Healthy coping skills are behaviors that we use to make sense of negative experiences in a productive and positive way.
Healthy coping mechanisms are behaviors that we use to make sense of negative experiences in a productive and positive way. 

Achieving a healthy coping mechanism usually requires a conscious effort by the person. This requires that the person know how they react to stress in their daily life.

There are three common reactions to stress:

  • Overthinking a problem
  • Overreacting to a problem
  • Become emotionally unstable over a problem

None of these are great, but they are understandable. Understanding the normal reactions to stress can help a person to find a coping mechanism that they are comfortable with. When a person finds what works for them in diffusing stress, the chosen coping mechanism becomes a natural reaction where they can easily fall into it with regular practice.

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 Believe it or not, there are things you can do to affect the imagery that flows into your dreams. 
Healthy Coping Mechanisms: Believe it or not, there are things you can do to affect the imagery that flows into your dreams. 

Healthy Coping Mechanisms To Manage Stress

Those who overthink a problem can focus their logic and analysis on developing healthy coping strategies. Challenging the assumptions and beliefs about the stressor can change the way a person thinks about it. Treating it as a problem allows the person to use skills and techniques for problem-solving in a creative and logical manner. If an impasse occurs in the analysis, the person can take a break from thinking about that stressor. This further empowers the person to create some distance from the issue. Alternatively, solving the problem can become a goal or project on its own.

10 Healthy Coping Mechanisms for Managing Stress:

Ever wake up from the most amazing dream and feel bummed when you realize you weren’t just kissing your secret crush? Or maybe it’s a nightmare, complete with a madman chasing you, and you wake up scared, sweaty, and relieved it’s not real.

Use of a support structure

This includes cognitive behavioral therapy as well as talking to a medical professional who is in a position to provide advice about stress and in some circumstances medication. A common way to build a support structure is to find a support group or establish a group of friends to talk to regularly. In time, they become familiar with the stressor and can provide insights and possible solutions.

Humor and an alternative point of view

The stressor is only one point of view, and there are others to consider. Some of these perspectives can be humorous and help to lighten the situation. Looking at the funny side of life can help to prevent things from becoming dark and grim.


Strictly speaking, this is not a logical or analytical tool. However, what meditation can do is to bring focus to a situation and prevent the mind from wandering toward unproductive and anxiety-inducing thoughts. Spending time in a meditative state is one of the ways to cope with anxiety by countering runaway thoughts. It slows down the thought process and blanks the mind. The slow and deep breathing associated with meditation allows the mind to focus on small steps and not go too far into future thoughts. Meditation can also be a great addition to your wind-down session at night. 

Weighing the pros and cons

Those who overthink their stress can look at the issues around it. Thinking about the pros and cons can put their minds at ease, as they gain a better understanding of their environment and the stress surrounding it.

Physical exercise

Exercising helps the body to release tension in both the body and mind. This is one of the most effective methods of engaging in stress management. Maintaining physical health goes a long way in adaptive coping. It can be a gym workout, an exercise class, swimming, a weekend hike, or playing a sport. Exercise has been known to result in elevated endorphin (“happy hormones”) levels.

Studying and learning a new skill

Those who feel anxious because they don’t have enough experience or knowledge about a subject are better off studying it. This is a proactive activity that helps them prepare for the stressor, as they put their new knowledge to practical use.

External help

Although this is more applicable to those in management, this can also work for almost everyone else. If you are completely lost about a particular subject, asking for help (“teamwork”) can relieve a person of the stress that has built up. With external help, you can become more clear and knowledgeable and resolve the problem at hand.

Talking to a confidante and friends or maintaining a journal

One common and effective method to control emotional over-reactions is to discuss a particular stressor with friends. They can sympathize or empathize and help to relieve the stress by listening or by offering creative solutions. In lieu of friends to talk to, writing in a journal can also help a person put into words their feelings and the emotions that they are experiencing. Putting these thoughts into words may help a person to better understand their environment or condition.

Faith-Based or Philosophical Teachings

Turning to faith can sometimes help. This may not necessarily mean going to church. It can also mean incorporating philosophical teachings into a person’s daily life and applying daily affirmations and gratitude through these teachings.


Whether listening to music, dancing, or playing an instrument, music can help to calm a person. Music is naturally relaxing[8] and can be used similarly to meditation for reducing stress. Pouring emotions into music may help to release the tensions from daily stressful events. No matter your stressors, finding effective coping techniques is vital to your health and well-being. Finding what works can take a while, but once you do, you’ll feel like a totally new person. 

We Level Up Treatment Center provides world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. In addition, we work as an integrated team providing information about Healthy Coping Mechanisms and other aspects of treatment. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our specialists know what you are going through and answer any of your questions. Your call is private and confidential, and there is never any obligation.

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The definition of dual diagnosis (also referred to as co-occurring disorders) can differ between institutions. However, it is generally described as the specific treatment of someone who has been diagnosed with a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder at the same time. Treating dual-diagnosis clients is a critical aspect of our inpatient treatment experience because co-occurring disorders are strongly correlated with instances of substance abuse.

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Healthy Coping Mechanisms FAQs

  1. Does Overthinking Cause Anxiety? Can Overthinking Cause Anxiety?

    Overthinkers may find themselves paralyzed by their concerns and find it difficult to decide or take action. Depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions can result in overthinking as well as help to develop these conditions.

  2. Is Overthinking A Sign Of Anxiety?

    Though it isn’t a recognized mental health disease, overthinking can be a sign of depression or anxiety. According to Dr. Duke, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) and overthinking are frequently linked. The propensity to worry excessively about a variety of things is a hallmark of GAD.

  3. What are healthy coping mechanisms for depression?

    Some healthy coping mechanisms for depression include socializing, being more active, facing your fears, avoiding alcohol, keeping a healthy diet, having a routine to help ground and stabilize you, and getting professional help.

  4. What are healthy coping mechanisms for trauma?

    Some examples of healthy coping mechanisms for trauma are getting support from your loved ones, tackling your complex emotions head-on, creating a self-care routine, and learning to be patient with yourself.

  5. Is age regression a healthy coping mechanism?

    Age regression can be used as a self-help technique to transport you back to a time when you experienced love, care, and security. In that regard, it might be a good experience. Age regression, however, might be a symptom of a more serious mental health problem. A mental health professional should be consulted regarding this procedure.

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