Natural Highs: Healthy Coping Mechanisms to Get You Through Adversity
Harvard medical researchers agree: at its core addiction is a brain-based co-optation of our learning processes. Individuals addicted to heroin, prescription drugs, alcohol and even cigarettes all continue to abuse their drug of choice not because they’re blind to the damage it’s causing them, but because these drugs act as a temporarily effective mechanism to metabolize negative feelings and experiences.
Moving on from a bad day doesn’t need to mean drinking until you black out. Negative experiences are a normal part of everyday life that adults must learn to make sense of without the aid of mind-altering substances. Here are four time-tested healthy coping mechanisms that can get you through anything life can throw at you, from a bad day at the office to losing your job.
Express yourself. The only thing worse than having a bad day is feeling like no one notices or cares. Instead of trying to bury your negative feelings, try redirecting their energy into a project that lets you exorcise those negative vibes. Writing a reflective entry in your journal, making a new or favorite food for dinner or physically rearranging the layout of your home are all healthy ways to acknowledge and work through negative emotions.
Lose yourself in a fantasy. When reality feels like too much to handle, it is human to wish there was some sort of escape. Instead of turning to an unsustainable high that will only make matters worse, try exploring another alternative reality of your choice. Whether your ideal timeline involves the classic setting of a Jane Austen novel or sprawls across a series of planets in a science fiction film, diving into your favorite fantasy world will give your mind some breathing room to recover from your real-world blues.
Spend time with a loved one. Sometimes the real pain in an experience is a perception that we are not valuable or needed by the people around us. If this is a feeling you recognize, learn to catch yourself when you begin thinking that way and reach out to a close friend or loved one. Being with someone who has seen you through thick and thin will reaffirm your place in this world and reconnect you with the people who love having you in their lives.
Go somewhere new. Over time the feeling that we’re stuck in the same old job, relationship or living arrangement can be as draining as a single, terrible day. Instead of turning to drugs or alcohol to spice up a dull routine, make a commitment to go somewhere new every day for a week, or every weekend for a month. By enjoying new people and environments, you are inviting a sense of awe and wonder back into your life that, with intention, can spill over into your every-day. Try shaking up your day in small ways, going to a new restaurant for lunch, park you’ve never been to or driving to an event on the other side of town. You’ll be surprised by how big the smallest differences can feel.