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Common Coping Responses for Stress


Topic Overview

We all find ways of coping with stress. Coping mechanisms may or may not be effective or harmless.

Positive coping responses

  • Listening to music
  • Playing with a pet
  • Laughing or crying
  • Going out with a friend (shopping, movie, dining)
  • Taking a bath or shower
  • Writing, painting, or other creative activity
  • Praying or going to church
  • Exercising or getting outdoors to enjoy nature
  • Discussing situations with a spouse or close friend
  • Gardening or making home repairs
  • Practicing deep breathing, meditation, or muscle relaxation

Negative coping responses

  • Criticizing yourself (negative self-talk)
  • Driving fast in a car
  • Chewing your fingernails
  • Becoming aggressive or violent (hitting someone, throwing or kicking something)
  • Eating too much or too little or drinking a lot of coffee
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Yelling at your spouse, children, or friends
  • Taking a recreational drug to calm yourself
  • Avoiding social contact

All coping responses have limitations. They may:

  • Not be available on a regular basis or often enough to do the most good.
  • Not produce the complete relaxation that is best for undoing the harmful effects of stress.
  • Sometimes lead to new kinds of stress (such as a vacation that becomes hectic or a highly competitive sports activity).
  • Stop being effective because of overuse.

Related Information

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerKathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerLisa S. Weinstock, MD - Psychiatry
Last RevisedApril 20, 2011

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