Most of us develop certain habits that act as coping mechanisms and outlets for stress. To beat stress, it is essential to overcome coping mechanisms in order to meet stress directly. You can then beware of the inherent cause of your stress, whether it’s your response to some challenge, or perhaps the path that you are taking on your innermost feelings. This enables you to address issues directly, rather than allowing them to go off by avoiding the root cause through some form of distraction, or coping mechanism.
A coping mechanism is a type of addiction. Like most habits, coping mechanisms have an addictive quality to them; we feel some degree of compulsion toward them, and we experience some level of difficulty in resisting them. We tend to use a coping mechanism as a distraction, a solace that we lean on as a way of avoiding stress. These activities, then, are no longer true choices that we make but, rather, insentient habits that often prevent us from dealing directly with depression and are therefore detrimental to our well-being.
Addictions can take many forms, both clear and tenuous. Some are clearly harmful, such as dependence on alcohol, prescription or recreational drugs, gambling, or dysfunctional eating. Almost anything can become an addiction, though, from watching TV to exercise, computer use, work, or even socializing. While these may not immediately appear to be destructive, on a very real level they encroach on your time, sap your attention, and prevent you from living fully. Even something as natural and enjoyable as sex can become an addiction and exhibit these characteristics. These habits do not generate any true joy but instead are a source of obsession that constantly needs to be satisfied.
Mental and emotional patterns that have an addictive quality are equally as important to address, though they may be harder to recognize on our own. This is a key role for an objective, wise outsider. Whether that be a trusted friend, family member, doctor, or therapist, someone both caring and impartial can help bring to light destructive psychological tendencies so that they can be dealt with. Until we are aware of our addictions, we are slaves to them, and we will continue to sabotage ourselves and our progress.
Start by observing where and how you spend your time. Consider the activities you turn to when you are stressed or uncomfortable. Ask yourself if the way you engage in these activities has an addictive or habitual pattern to it and if you are letting destructive behavior control your life. If you discover certain activities or psychological patterns that are destructive or feel more “addictive” or like a “release” than they do joyful, then make it your goal to gradually free yourself from these addictions. ings.