Thoughts on Emotional Coping Mechanisms

I need better coping mechanisms. Someone once told me that the single most powerful predictor for the ability to maintain a healthy weight is having healthy coping mechanisms.

I don’t. No argument on that front. Things go smooth, and I stay pretty healthy on physical activity, intake, and how I treat my body. Things go south? Well, then I binge on caffeine, eat piles of junk food, and retreat into TV and video games. So it seems to me that what I need to do next is really hunt for coping mechanisms that can work for me.

The qualities I’d like in coping mechanisms? First, that they not be self-destructive. Though, really, just less self-destructive would be a category I’m willing to explore. Second, they need to have a fairly immediate impact. I just don’t think it would replace my current habits effectively if it was something that took days or even hours to impact my depression, stress, or anxiety. Third, they need to be accessible at basically any time, or I need to have a wide enough array that I always have something at hand. I could always overeat something, and likewise I would want something that I could do at home, at work, in any weather, and so on. So certain types of activities, like biking, don’t seem to make sense, at least as far as blanket solutions are concerned.

Exercise seems an obvious category. Maybe if I used it enough I would lean toward it rather than away when stressed and depressed. This would be especially true if I had something immediately accessible. Certain options here won’t be great until my shoulder is a shoulder again, but weight lifting might be good. Certainly, I know it helped with anxiety. Maybe it’s worth retrieving the free weights from my parents place and finding a good spot for them … but then, I didn’t use them when I was living there. The questions, then, are Why didn’t I? and Is there anything I can do to change that? Maybe it’s just a matter of thinking of them as the response to that emotional chain, and working consciously to make that link. It seems a reasonable place to start, anyway.

Cold showers have been suggested to me. I like them, honestly. I mean, I hate them, but I like them. Obviously not so much an option at work or on the go, but as a go-to at home, it may be worth exploring more often.

And, of course, keeping stress and depression managed through ongoing routine will also help mitigate the issue pretty substantially. If I can get regular exercise, that’s the biggest thing. Working on my writing seems to help a lot, too. Journaling does a lot of good. Meditation and yoga have been staples in the past, and while they’ve had mixed results of late, it seems worth returning to. And then there’s the fact that healthy eating can decrease my stress, and (ironically) some of my stress and depression is about how badly I’m eating.

Hmmm. Maybe having a list can be my next step. Add or remove things as they seem to work. Trying to use the most productive – exercise – but moving down the list if that doesn’t prove as effective as I need.

So … here’s a list based on my thoughts and some initial searches around the interwebz.

  1. Go for a bike ride.
  2. Do some weight lifting.
  3. Do yoga.
  4. Meditate.
  5. Take a cold shower.
  6. Go for a walk.
  7. Listen to music.
  8. Do a “five senses” exercise (list 5 things I can see, 4 I can feel, 3 I can hear, 2 I can smell, 1 I can taste).
  9. Journal or free-write.
  10. Play with silly putty.
  11. Sing a song.
  12. Do a gratitude journal.
  13. Talk it out with a friend or loved one.
  14. Read affirmations.
  15. Take a power nap.
  16. Cook something healthy.
  17. Spontaneous dance party.
  18. Listen to my happy songs.
  19. Do my own creative work.
  20. Play piano.

And it strikes me that not all of these will be good for each trigger. That’s one of the appeals of food: It’s a broad balm, something that can help (temporarily and self-destructively) on a number of different emotional fronts. But if I’m depressed, silly putty won’t do much, while meditation may not really be possible if I’m super anxious. Nevertheless, there’s so much overlap that it seems most sensible to put them in a single list.

Unless, of course, this list is too unwieldy. If I’m going to habituate something, it seems like narrowing it down may be better. Make it easier to process.

So, the broad categories would be:


(with weights, on my own, through yoga, by taking a walk, dancing)

Writing / Expression

(my own writing, journaling, free-writing, gratitude lists)


(talking it out with a friend, hanging out with people I like, playing a board game)

Sensory Experiences

(keep myself grounded in the world with sensory exercises, cooking, some aspects of meditation, playing with silly putty, listening to or participating in music)


Sometimes it’s all there is left to do.

Okay … is that workable? Can I commit to memory or post in plain view a quick run-down of these categories: Exercise, express, socialize, sense, and sleep? And is there a proper order of operations there? Maybe exercise at the top, but the rest kind of wherever they fit?

Not sure. Mostly just writing at this to see if anything comes of it. And yeah, I guess I’d say something has.

Exercise, express, socialize, sense, and sleep. I can practice that. I can work that. Let’s see how it goes.