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Updated: Aug 26, 2020

Coping mechanisms are tactics individuals utilise when stressful or traumatic situations occur to assist them in managing their distressing or difficult emotions. They can aid human beings to adapt to demanding incidents whilst assisting them to maintain their emotional wellbeing. However, it may not be revealed then and there as to whether these techniques were in fact helpful or maladaptive.

Coping mechanisms come into effect due to various issues: dealing with: adversity (i.e. covid19); financial stressors; sickness; homelessness; loss; and the list goes on.

People who use negative coping mechanisms are found to participate in behaviours which harm ones health, are less inclined to do what’s advised, and are more probable to utilise smokes, drugs and alcohol (Algorani & Gupta, 2020). Previously I researched and spoke about CPTSD, which is where I touched upon negative coping mechanisms including gambling. This too is a maladaptive coping mechanism. For individuals with these negative mechanisms, they are at higher risk of not complying to therapy and are unlikely to problem-solve. There is a noticeable correlation between those who have maladaptive coping mechanisms and burnout (Friganovi, Seli, Ili, & Sedi, 2018). This is commonly seen in essential care workers. Indicating that more self-care needs to be done in those times when one is not working to ensure that their place of employment is a long and lasting one.

Fortunately though, according to Diener et al., (1991), individuals dealing with adversity generally are able to manage their feelings quite well. Further, it has been found that people prosper psychologically when they surround themselves with positivity, outweighing the negative thoughts that creep in (Fredrickson, 2004; Fredrickson & Joiner, 2018; Choi et al., 2019). Insinuating that people should constantly be attuned to whether their relationships are enriching or detrimentally as it has a direct link to ones health and ability to cope. This in turn helps build resilience in individuals, so they are able to overcome adversities in future. Interestingly, there is a link between resilience, positive emotions, dealing with adversity and positive psychology (El-Masri, Ramsay, Ahmed & Ahmad, 2018).

Some helpful coping mechanisms I use in my own practice and life include:

  • Talking to friends, family, psychologist

  • Journaling

  • Empty Chair Technique (where you pretend the person is in the room and you have a conversation)

  • Music

  • Dancing

  • Walking

  • Yoga

  • Meditation

Ultimately, as individuals we have to evaluate how we cope with issues as they can have a direct link to our overall health and wellbeing. Now more than ever, we need to ensure that we are looking after ourselves. Please stay safe and reach out if you need help.

- Ask Elizabeth


Algorani E.B. & Gupta, V. (2020). Coping Mechanisms. Treasure Island. Retrieved from:

Choi, Namkee G, DiNitto, Diana M, Marti, C Nathan, & Conwell, Yeates. (2019). Physical Health Problems as a Late-Life Suicide Precipitant: Examination of Coroner/Medical Examiner and Law Enforcement Reports. The Gerontologist, 59(2), 356–367. [Crossref]

Diener, E., Sandvik, E., Pavot, al.Response artifacts in the measurement of subjective well-being.Soc Indic Res24,35–56 (1991).

El-Masri, M., Ramsay, A., Ahmed, H. M. & Ahmad, T. (2018). Positive sentiments as coping mechanisms and path to resilience: the case of Qatar blockade. Journal of Information, Communication & Society, DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2020.1748086

Fredrickson, Barbara L. (2004). The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, 359(1449), 1367–1377.

Fredrickson, B. L., & Joiner, T. (2018). Reflections on positive emotions and upward spirals. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 13(2), 194–199.

Friganovi, A., Seli, P., Ili, B. & Sedi, B. (2018). Stress and Burnout Syndrome and Their Associations With Coping and Job Satisfaction in Critical Care Nurses. A Literature Review: Medicina Academica Mostariensia, 6(1-2), 21-31. Retrieved from


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