Maladaptive Coping: “Coping” that Creates More Stress


“Life is difficult” is how M. Scott Peck began
his book, The Road Less Traveled. And he was right. Life IS difficult! But not all the time or every day for most
of us. However, the challenge facing all of us is
how to live a good life in the face of what Jon Kabat-Zinn called “the full catastrophe,”
which is our uniquely human awareness of the fragility of life itself. Yes, life is difficult, but it can also be
grand! In fact, for most of us, if we really think
about it, our moment to moment existence is Ok, even good, and at times even wonderful. And yet, our own thinking and choices can
rob us of life’s goodness. For example, we can be walking through a lovely
park on a gorgeous fall day but not enjoying any of the beauty around us because we’re
obsessively worrying about things we cannot control. Or we can meet the right person to be a partner
for life, but then push that person away out of fear of being hurt. Life is inherently stressful, but we’re not
powerless because much of the stress is caused by our own thinking and choices. And that’s good news because it means we can
learn more effective ways to reduce stress by being more mindful of our thoughts and
decisions. Maladaptive coping, a common source of stress
we bring on ourselves, is when the very way we cope with stress actually creates more
stress in the long run. So, why would people keep trying to cope that
way? Well, it’s because maladaptive coping gives
some short-term relief from stress, which is why it can be so addictive, but in the
long run, it creates more pain. Relying on maladaptive coping can lead to
becoming caught up in a stress reaction cycle, which eventually can affect physical and mental
health and even lead to breakdown and death. So, what is an example of maladaptive coping? Well, John works a stressful job, and when
he comes home after a long day, he drinks himself numb, tuning out his family, ignoring
his feelings, and never learning to manage stress effectively. Eventually, his maladaptive coping with alcohol
alienates his family and negatively affects his health and career, so John becomes increasingly
stressed over time. But abusing alcohol is not the only maladaptive
way of coping. Here are some other examples: being a shop-o-holic,
compulsive gambler, work-o-holic, chronic emotional eater, constant thrill seeker, drug
abuser, blame-o-holic, compulsive codependent, chronic avoider, Pollyanna thinker, or any
compulsive behavior that is used to avoid dealing directly with uncomfortable feelings
or situations. Yes, buying a brand new smart phone that I
can’t afford may give me some short-term relief from my stress, but in the long run, I now
have more stress because I can’t pay my mortgage. As you can see, maladaptive coping is seductive. It makes us feel better in the moment, but
eventually it kicks us in the ass when all the problems and pain we’ve been ignoring can
no longer be distracted away. So, how do we escape being caught up in a
stress reaction cycle? Well, we must learn to acknowledge the stressors
in our life and then develop effective coping strategies for reducing stress, both in the
short run and the long run. So, John might learn to meditate or exercise
to deal with the stress when he comes home from work, which not only gives short-relief
but also long-term benefits If you’d like help learning more effective
coping skills for stress, then visit my website, serenityonlinetherapy.com, to learn more about
me and the online services I provide. If you found this video helpful, please click
the Thumbs Up button. And if you want to hear more from me, then
click the subscribe button at the bottom right corner of the screen. I’ll be publishing at least one new video
every month. And finally, keep paying attention to your
life! Until next time!

3 thoughts on “Maladaptive Coping: “Coping” that Creates More Stress

  1. Very true..meditating gives me more relief then seeking outer thrills such as alcohol, shopping and seeking narcissistic relations !

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