Stress and Coping Strategies

A coping strategy is a behavior or thought pattern used to reduce stress and anxiety.

I’m sure you have situations on the daily that bring you uncertainty and unpleasant emotions.

Sometimes we use coping strategies to ward off intense unpleasant emotions.

Sometimes this can be useful; it helps us avoid dwelling or doing something with potentially damaging.

We keep ourselves in a better state, at least in the short term.

Over time though, relying strictly on these coping mechanisms can actually reduce how effective we are at processing stress and processing emotions.

Over reliance on primitive coping strategies make us begin to feel as if we are not in charge of our own emotions, which prevents us from working through our issues.


The more primitive a coping strategy, the less effective it works over time.

The primitive coping strategies are usually really effective short-term, because for many people these are the strategies first learned in childhood, they are comfortable for us.

Examples include: denial, regression, acting out, dissociation, compartmentalization, projection, and reaction formation.


The less primitive coping strategies are a step up from the primitive ones.

Many people employ these strategies as adults, and while they work decent for many, they are not ideal ways of dealing with our feelings, stress and anxiety.

Examples include: Repression, Displacement, Intellectualization, Rationalization, and Undoing.


The Mature strategies are defined by a healthy and conscious relationship with reality.

Our reality is accepted even when it is not appreciated.

Uncomfortable feelings and thoughts are consciously transformed into less threatening forms rather than being pushed aside.

Examples include: Sublimation, Compensation, Assertiveness

The first step in changing your coping strategies is accepting that you’re using them in the first place.


Remember, these strategies are most often learned behaviors from childhood, it’s going to take some unlearning, patience, and A LOT of grace.

Once you identify how you cope with stress or negative situations, you can more easily change your state.

Over time, you’ll be able to handle your problems more directly, which leads you to feeling like you are taking responsibility for your life, and you can create new meaning for yourself.