15 Unhealthy Coping Skills For Chronic Stress
Your world is full of stressors and while a short burst of stress here and there is normal and a part of life, chronic stress is a whole other matter. Exposure to long-term stress can alter your genes, increase inflammation in the body, and cause a wide variety of serious health issues that affect the body and mind.
Learning how to cope with stress in healthy ways is vital to reducing and managing stress, however, there is a variety of unhealthy methods often used by people, who may not even realize that are doing so.
For the purposes of this list, vices include drinking, smoking, and general substance abuse, none of which do anything to actually alleviate stress levels.
When you’re under stress it may seem like that extra cigarette is relaxing you and making you feel better, but… it’s not. Just like alcohol and drugs, cigarettes provide temporary relief from your stress and once it wears off you just need another hit to get that state back.
It’s more than that, though, these habits have a serious impact on your long-term health and increase your risk of depression, anxiety, and a host of physical diseases. According to one study, (Chronic Stress, Drug Use, and Vulnerability to Addiction;
Rajita Sinha) those who are under chronic stress are at greater risk of addiction.
Falling into this cycle will do nothing to alleviate stress and will only cause more problems that will need to be dealt with in the future.
- Denying There Is A Problem
Denial is not a stress management tool, in fact it will cause more harm than good because ignoring your stress only makes it worse. Managing it is the only way to properly get it under control.
There’s a difference between taking a mental health time out and indulging in a funny movie or meeting friends for lunch and avoiding your stress. If you ignore the issues then you won’t process them, nor will you understand why or what you are actually dealing with. The longer you ignore it the greater the issue will get, whether it’s the emotional fear of relationship issues or a financial issue like a late credit card bill.
The best way to handle this type of situation is by putting a plan in place and acting on it to relieve your stress.
- Stress Eating
Food often serves as a crutch, much like the vices we mentioned above, and while it may provide you with relief initially, it can spiral out of control quickly. The reason for this is your mind (and your body) starts to associate eating with the negative emotions you experience (because that’s when you indulge) so you’re intensifying those emotions.
Do you reach for a snack every time you experience a bit of sadness, anger, or stress? This can fuel obesity, increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, and cause a variety of gastrointestinal issues.
- Feeding The Negativity
Let me ask you this, are you the type of person that panics about losing your job after you make a small mistake? Do you meltdown over fights with your partner worried that you’ve triggered the end of your relationship?
Lots of people will immediately think of the worst-case scenario when they are experiencing an issue that is particularly upsetting. However, it will only intensify your stress levels if you have the tendency to blow things out of proportion.
When you feel stressed out it’s easier to look through a negative lens and feed negative self-talk. Remedy this by changing your tone with yourself, start adjusting your self-talk to a tone you would use with a close friend going through struggles instead.
- Compulsive Spending
When you are chronically stressed, you feel that there’s a void inside you that needs filled and one of the ways people fill it is with retail therapy. There’s a stark difference between a small pick-me-up gift for yourself and spending money on things that you don’t need or have the money to afford. This tends to cause an increase in financial difficulties, which is another stressor that will only fuel your stress.
- Going Into Hibernation
While there may be something comforting in the thought of building a fort of pillows and blankets to hide behind it’s certainly not the most effective way to handle stress. You may feel like you need to catch up on sleep but oversleeping can just fuel your exhaustion.
In fact, according to one study, (The Risks of Sleeping “Too Much”. Survey of a National Representative Sample of 24671 Adults (INPES Health Barometer);
Léger, et al) there’s a link between oversleeping and a high BMI, which of course, increases risks of diabetes, and heart disease. All of which will exacerbate the stress you are already experiencing.
- Nail biting
- Angry or violent outbursts and abuse of others
- Not eating
- Surviving on coffee
- Yelling at co-workers, employees, kids, spouse or friends
- Social isolation
- Sitting too much instead of engaging in physical movement
- Using recreational drugs or abusing mood altering prescription medication