Life is filled with challenges, interpersonal conflict, physical and emotional pain, loss, and stress. \u00a0It doesn\u2019t matter who you are - no one goes through life unscathed.\u00a0 Some people also experience significant trauma, be it a childhood scarred by abuse, neglect or the tragic loss of one or both parents; a near-death experience as an adult; being the adult victim of violence or abuse; or witnessing something horrible happen to a loved one. Regardless of your past - your life \u201cstory\u201d up until now - what matters most is how you cope.\u00a0 All of us learn various \u201ccoping mechanisms\u201d as children.\u00a0 For example, as a very young child you may have clung to a favorite blanket or sucked your thumb to comfort yourself when you were scared.\u00a0 As you got a little older, you may have used humor to deflect or hide emotional pain, or acted out when you wanted attention from your workaholic parents.\u00a0 Perhaps you took a healthier route and channeled angry or painful feelings into physical activity, tearing up the asphalt as a sprinter or slamming tennis balls in vigorous volleys with a teammate. Perhaps you learned to use alcohol or drugs as a way to cope.\u00a0 Substance abuse is one of the most popular - and destructive - means of coping with life stressors for many adolescents and adults.\u00a0 Many, if not most , addictions start out as an ill-fated attempt to relax after a stressful day, calm down after a conflict with a significant other, feel more confident in an uncomfortable social situation, or numb painful feelings of rejection or loss.\u00a0 It worked so well the first time, you did it again and again.\u00a0 Before you knew it, you were drinking or using every time you felt stressed or experienced unwanted emotions.\u00a0 And now you\u2019re an addict. If lasting recovery is one of your goals, it\u2019s essential to examine the coping mechanisms you\u2019ve been using over the years (in addition to substance abuse).\u00a0 You\u2019ll find that one of the keys to recovery is making sure you identify maladaptive coping techniques and begin to replace them with new, healthy ones.\u00a0 Doing so will help keep you on the right path. Common Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms Following are some of the more common unhealthy coping mechanisms - the ones that can easily trip you up and make you vulnerable to relapsing. \tDenial \u00a0- \u00a0This is one of the most common coping mechanisms for addicts.\u00a0 It involves lying to yourself and others in an attempt to avoid facing the painful truth about yourself.\u00a0 If you\u2019re in recovery, you\u2019ve already admitted (at least to some degree) that you have a problem with alcohol or drugs.\u00a0 But, you may still be using denial in other areas of your life.\u00a0 For example, maybe you\u2019re in denial about how troubled your marriage is or how critical you are of your children. \tAvoidance \u00a0- \u00a0Avoidance is a common coping mechanism, especially for anyone prone to anxiety or low self-esteem.\u00a0 This is a particularly challenging habit to break, because each time you avoid something, you reinforce the behavior. \tDisplacement \u00a0- \u00a0This occurs when you redirect negative feelings about someone or something (e.g. anger at your boss, frustration about getting stuck in traffic) toward someone (or something) else - typically someone \u201csafer\u201d or someone who just happens to cross your path next, such as your spouse, your children, or a coworker.\u00a0 Unfortunately, this unhealthy coping technique can create serious problems in your relationships. \tProcrastination \u00a0- \u00a0It\u2019s a rare person who doesn\u2019t procrastinate at least once in a while.\u00a0 But when you do it frequently, it creates a lot of problems in your life.\u00a0 It also leads to more stress, which is not good for anyone in recovery. If you are a procrastinator, you\u2019re most likely trying to avoid doing something undesirable, uncomfortable, or difficult. \tPassive-aggressiveness \u00a0- \u00a0This is a very common coping mechanism for addicts.\u00a0 Hostility, anger, and \/ or hurt are usually the driving emotions behind passive-aggressive behavior.\u00a0 For example, you\u2019re angry that you had to cancel a weekend getaway because your mother-in-law came to visit unannounced, so you \u201caccidentally\u201d spill a glass of red wine all over her new silk blouse.\u00a0 Passive-aggressive behavior may make you feel good in the moment, but it will damage your relationships and keep you from dealing with negative feelings in a constructive manner. \tRationalization \u00a0- \u00a0Rationalization involves the use of \u201clogic\u201d or excuses to avoid facing the truth.\u00a0 For example, you may rationalize that you were passed over for a promotion at work because of your age, when, in reality, you were often late to important meetings and had bungled a recent high-priority project. \tStaying ridiculously busy \u00a0- \u00a0Whether it\u2019s being a workaholic or keeping your schedule overbooked with activities, this is yet another way to avoid dealing with people, situations, or emotions that you don\u2019t want to face for one reason or another.\u00a0 You\u2019ll either burn yourself out or be forced to \u201cface the music\u201d at some point \u00a0- \u00a0both of which are powerful triggers for relapse. \tCompartmentalization \u00a0- \u00a0This coping mechanism occurs when you mentally put conflicting emotions or thoughts into different \u201ccompartments\u201d.\u00a0 For example, a woman who\u2019s secretly involved with two \u00a0men compartmentalizes her feelings for one whenever she\u2019s with the other.\u00a0 Sometimes compartmentalization serves a purpose, but those compartments inevitably start to \u201cleak.\u201d \tIntellectualization \u00a0- \u00a0This is another way to avoid or \u201cshut out\u201d negative or uncomfortable emotions.\u00a0 People who intellectualize often focus on things like facts, statistics, and logic - not only in their conversations with others, but in their own internal dialogue. \tTrivialization \u00a0- \u00a0This involves minimizing or downplaying things that are important or significant, usually to your detriment.\u00a0 For example, you tell yourself it \u201cisn\u2019t a big deal\u201d when your spouse is verbally abusive to your or your children. While there are other unhealthy coping mechanisms as well, those listed above are some of the most common.\u00a0 Did you recognize yourself in any of them? Healthy Coping Mechanisms There\u2019s a popular saying that \u201cnature abhors a vacuum.\u201d \u00a0The same tends to apply in psychology.\u00a0 That\u2019s one of the reasons addicts often struggle in their recovery.\u00a0 Giving up an addiction leaves a huge void in many different ways.\u00a0 It also means you\u2019ve given up one of your primary coping mechanisms.\u00a0 So, now you need to replace it (as well as any other unhealthy coping mechanisms) with something else \u00a0- \u00a0something healthy and life-affirming, rather than detrimental or downright destructive. Following are a several examples of healthy coping mechanisms. Some will seem like common sense, while others may seem unusual or foreign to you.\u00a0 Don\u2019t be too quick to rule out any of these, even if they don\u2019t seem like a good fit at first glance.\u00a0 For example, maybe the idea of meditating sounds a bit too \u201cspiritual\u201d or \u201cnew age\u201d for you, or maybe you\u2019ve always hated any type of exercise.\u00a0 However, since recovery is a new chapter in your life, it\u2019s also the perfect time to open yourself up to new practices. \tExercise - Exercise is hands-down one of the best coping mechanisms.\u00a0 In addition to helping you achieve and maintain a healthy weight, sleep better, and reduce your risk of developing a multitude of serious health problems, regular exercise also improves your emotional well-being.\u00a0 Aerobic exercise (e.g. jogging, brisk walking, cycling, and swimming) has been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.\u00a0 In fact, studies have shown regular exercise to be just as effective as taking an antidepressant medication for depression.\u00a0 It also reduces stress, boosts self-confidence, and enhances self-esteem. If you find a type of exercise you enjoy and \/ or do it with a partner, you\u2019ll be much more likely to stick with it.\u00a0 (Always check with your doctor before embarking on an exercise program.) \tFocusing on the positive \u00a0- \u00a0Relapses are often triggered by negative thinking.\u00a0 One of the best ways to avoid a downward spiral is to focus on the positive.\u00a0 Sometimes you may have to dig deep to find the silver lining, but it\u2019s there.\u00a0 This doesn\u2019t mean you should trivialize or minimize negative things; rather, acknowledge them and then look for the positive. \tPractice gratitude \u00a0- \u00a0The key here is to \u201cpractice\u201d gratitude, as it doesn\u2019t come naturally for most people. This means to consciously look for things \u00a0- \u00a0no matter how small \u00a0- \u00a0for which to be truly grateful.\u00a0 It might be a cool breeze on a hot day or running water \u00a0- \u00a0things we often take for granted.\u00a0 Some people find that keeping a daily \u201cgratitude journal\u201d is a great way to implement this coping mechanism.\u00a0 When you feel sad, angry, or down, read through your gratitude journal to boost your spirits and refocus your thoughts. \tJournaling \u00a0- \u00a0There\u2019s a reason therapists recommend journaling \u00a0- \u00a0the act of writing down your thoughts and feelings \u00a0- \u00a0to their clients.\u00a0 Journaling is a great way to express your feelings \u00a0- \u00a0both positive and negative \u00a0- \u00a0in a safe, private place.\u00a0 Doing so on a regular basis will help you gain insight into yourself.\u00a0 Expressing yourself on paper also helps ensure that you don\u2019t keep negative feelings bottled up. \tMeditation \u00a0- \u00a0Meditation is often associated with religious practice, but you don\u2019t have to be religious to enjoy its many benefits.\u00a0 It can be as simple as taking a few minutes to find a quiet place and sit in silence, focusing on nothing more than your breathing.\u00a0 When practiced regularly, meditation provides numerous mental and physical benefits by inducing deep relaxation, enhancing mindfulness, and reducing stress. \tDeep breathing \u00a0- \u00a0Sometimes we all just need to take a deep breath.\u00a0 Formally practicing deep breathing - whenever you feel angry, upset, frustrated, stressed, or anxious - is an excellent way to reduce those negative feelings and calm yourself down.\u00a0 Practice breathing from the diaphragm, inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly. \tTalking it out \u00a0- \u00a0As humans, we\u2019re not meant to be socially isolated.\u00a0 It\u2019s important to have someone \u00a0- \u00a0a trusted confidante who\u2019s a good listener \u00a0- \u00a0with whom you can disclose distressing feelings and thoughts.\u00a0 Talking about them is a good way to work through them.\u00a0 This is one of the reasons people go to therapy \u00a0- \u00a0to \u201ctalk out\u201d whatever it is that\u2019s troubling them. \tTurn your anger or pain into something useful \u00a0- \u00a0Many charities, volunteer organizations, and self-help \/ inspirational books were borne out of someone\u2019s pain or anger.\u00a0 For example, a woman who endured a painful, heart-breaking divorce writes a book to help other women see the light at the end of the tunnel.\u00a0 A man who lost his wife to ovarian cancer starts a charity to raise funds for ovarian cancer research.\u00a0 Whether you create your own project or join another, channeling negative feelings into something that will help others is a win\/win situation and a great way to facilitate healing. Hopefully these lists will help you recognize any unhealthy coping mechanisms you may still be using, while also providing ideas for new, beneficial ways to cope with the challenges that are an inevitable part of life.\u00a0 Your recovery is vital to your well-being.\u00a0 Decide today that you\u2019ll begin replacing negative ways of coping with ones that enhance your life - and your recovery. If you or a loved one is being impacted by drug abuse, call to speak with a Promises Recovery Specialist.