5 Unhealthy Ways of Coping With Stress and a Better Alternative

When we're overly stressed, it's easy to resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms that provide short-term relief but ultimately make things worse. The following are five unhealthy ways people cope with stress and healthier alternatives.

Stress is a part of everyday life. However, some people deal with excessive stress daily. Some stress can be motivating. When it becomes chronic, it takes a major toll both mentally and physically. When we’re overly stressed, it’s easy to resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms that provide short-term relief but ultimately make things worse. The following are five unhealthy ways people cope with stress and healthier alternatives.

1. Overeating or Making Poor Food Choices

Stress is an unfortunate yet inevitable part of life that can easily trigger unhealthy eating habits. When we feel overwhelmed, our bodies produce higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which spikes cravings for indulgent, sugary, and fatty foods. The instant gratification of eating these comfort foods signals our brains to release dopamine, temporarily soothing our anxiety, anger, or sadness. Additionally, chronic stress can disrupt hormones that control hunger cues leading to impulsive overeating. We reach for cookies, chips, pasta, and ice cream to nourish temporary relief in the absence of other coping outlets.

Better alternative: When you feel stressed and tempted to overeat, go for a walk outdoors or around your neighborhood instead. Physical movement releases endorphins that counter stress hormones.

2. Alcohol or Drug Abuse

Some turn to recreational drugs and alcohol to provide a mental escape or numb from overwhelming stress. However, substance abuse often exacerbates anxiety and depression in the long run. Relying on substances also prevents you from making active progress in dealing with issues.

Better alternative: Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing, mindfulness meditation, or yoga. They provide mental calm without negative health effects. If you still crave a substance, call a friend and talk through what’s bothering you.

3. Withdrawing from Others 

It’s natural when overwhelmed to want to isolate from others to process your stress alone. However, too much isolation feeds into feelings of anxiety and depression. It can lead to destructive thought patterns without outside feedback.

Better alternative: Make an effort to maintain social connections, even if you don’t feel like socializing in the moment. Video chat with a trusted friend or attend a virtual meetup to feel connected. If you need alone time, silently read or walk in nature while staying socially engaged.

4. Venting Without Boundaries

Venting about stress can provide temporary relief but often keeps you mentally circling back to what’s upsetting you. Over-venting, especially angrily, also harms relationships over time, leading to more stress.   

Better alternative: When sharing struggles with trusted friends or relatives, first acknowledge you just need to vent for a few minutes. Put a time limit on vent sessions. Afterward, express your appreciation for them listening while you move the conversation to other topics.   

5. Ignoring the Problem 

Burned out from chronic stress, many attempt to simply endure or pretend nothing is wrong. This approach allows anxiety and overwhelm to silently build without addressing the root issues. That delay causes greater struggles down the road.

Better alternative: Schedule specific times to actively problem-solve issues causing you stress. Even if you can’t solve a problem completely, focusing on small manageable actions counters the sense of helplessness. Checking stressors off your to-do list reduces mental clutter.

Tempting quick fixes to cope with stress often provide illusory short-term relief while hurting you more in the long run. However, by swapping unhealthy approaches for self-care and purposeful problem-solving, you can mitigate the impacts of stress overload. Implementing just a couple of science-backed alternatives makes a difference. Sometimes, a clean house can relieve stress. And sometimes you may not have time to do it yourself. In that case, you can hire MagiCleanMaid professional cleaning service.

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