Home » 5 Adaptive Coping Mechanisms to Manage Stress and Anxiety

5 Adaptive Coping Mechanisms to Manage Stress and Anxiety

Hey, hey, hey! If you’re new to the blog, welcome! Here we aim to support and empower women to live their best lives so I’m so excited for this article. Today’s topic is all about coping mechanisms—specifically, adaptive ones that can help you effectively manage stress and anxiety. We’ll explore the difference between coping mechanisms and defense mechanisms while highlighting various types of coping methods that you can incorporate into your daily routine. So, grab your favorite beverage, and let’s get into it!

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Understanding Coping Mechanisms:

Coping mechanisms are strategies or behaviors that we use to handle stress, challenges, and emotions. They can be positive or negative, which is why we are focusing on adaptive coping mechanisms, which are healthy and constructive ways of managing stress compared to maladaptive coping mechanisms, which might provide temporary relief but have negative long-term consequences.

Coping Mechanisms vs. Defense Mechanisms:

So what exactly is the difference between coping mechanisms and defense mechanisms?

Coping mechanisms focus on actively addressing stress and anxiety, while defense mechanisms are more about unconscious psychological strategies to protect oneself from discomfort or emotional pain. The both serve an important purpose (protecting yourself) but can result in negative consequences if overused or used inappropriately.

Here are some examples of common defense mechanisms:

  • Denial
    • Example: A person may deny having a substance abuse problem despite clear evidence.
  • Rationalization
    • Example: A person could justify their procrastination by saying that they “work better under pressure.”
  • Intellectualization
    • Example: A person who is overwhelmed may only discuss the logistics of accomplishing their to do lists and not acknowledge their feelings related to the issues (fear, frustration, helplessness, etc.)
  • Fantasy
    • Example: A person could escape from reality by creating elaborate daydreams or fantasies.

The Power of Adaptive Coping Mechanisms:

Using adaptive coping mechanisms to deal with stress and anxiety can help you maintain a positive and well balanced lifestyle. By addressing the root issue, you are creating new patterns of behavior that will see you in a healthier place in the long term. Plus, by actually addressing your anxiety and/or stress you are able to face your problems, be aware of the issue, and build resilience. This in turn promotes your mental well being. And realistically, we all just want to be well.

Five Different Types of Adaptive Coping Methods:

Mindfulness Meditation:

Mindfulness mediation is a form a meditation where you pay attention to the current moment without judgement. It’s actually a practice derived from Buddhist traditions that has been widely adopted in secular settings as a powerful technique for cultivating mental wellbeing and reducing stress.

When meditating, the goal is to be fully aware of your thoughts, emotions, body, and environment in the present moment. Doing this helps to focus on the here and now instead of dwelling in the past or worrying about the future.

How to practice mindfulness meditation:

  1. Find a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed.
  2. Focus on your breath. You can close your eyes if you want to, but that’s not necessary. Just focus on feeling your breath enter and leave your body and the physical sensations of breathing.
  3. Observe your thoughts. Your mind will wander. Instead of trying to squash your thoughts and empty your brain, try to look at your thoughts as a third party observer and let them go without judgement or labeling them as good or bad. Then bring your attention back to your breath.
  4. Be present. Activate your other senses. Notice the sounds and smells around you. How does your body feel?
  5. End with gratitude and acknowledge your efforts. Try to remember the calm feeling and carry it with you throughout your day.

Journaling for Emotional Release:

When in doubt, journal! It’s similar to meditating but here you commit your thoughts to paper before letting them go. Sometimes it helps to just write it all out. Journaling can act as a cathartic release and after it’s on paper you feel so much better. Plus, it encourages expression and self reflection so you may end up being aware of smaller issues that you didn’t realize were bothering you that you can now work to address.

Here are some journaling prompts I like to use:

  • What situation, event, or thought most recently triggered your feelings of stress and anxiety? Describe what happens when you experience these feelings and how it affects you.
  • Describe the worst outcome that you fear in this situation. Then challenge these thoughts by considering more realistic or positive possibilities.
  • Write a letter to a yourself as if you were giving advice and comfort to a friend in your situation.
  • Write down some of the thoughts you’ve been having lately. Have there been any recurring patterns or themes in your anxious thoughts? Are there any underlying beliefs or assumptions that might be contributing to your anxiety?
  • Write about what has been stressing you out lately. Then journal about boundaries you could establish to protect your mental well-being.

Exercise and Movement:

Elle woods said it best when she said:

Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.

Elle Woods, Legally Blonde (2001)

Only, in this case we just want the happy endorphins.

Exercise and movement can help you manage stress and boost your mood in a couple of ways.

  1. In switching to a new activity, you give your brain something else to focus on.
  2. You get endorphins when working out (see above quote), so you’re literally biohacking your body to make you happy while getting healthier.

It sounds simple, because it is.

Let’s not make it any harder than it has to be.

Here are some things I like to do when I’m feeling stressed or anxious:

  • Yoga (bonus points if its hot yoga)
    • Yoga focuses a lot on breath so it adds in elements of meditation (2 coping mechanisms in 1!).
    • When doing yoga, especially if it’s hot yoga, I’m so focused on the movements, the poses, balancing, that I actually can’t focus on anything else without falling over so this forces my brain to let it go for a while.
  • Go out on a walk
    • This is the best option for when you have a limited amount of time or you won’t be able to shower after.
    • A change of scenery can help you reset your brain while getting the benefits of walking around.
  • Go for a run
    • I can’t believe I’m saying this (I hate running), but running does help.
    • For me, I’m too busy focusing on trying to breathe and not die to think about anything triggering.
    • It also feels more aggressive than yoga or going for a walk so it can help get out any pent up feelings.
  • Try a HIIT class
    • This is very similar to running for me. I’m too busy trying to breathe to focus on anything else and there’s enough activity for it to purge my negative emotions.
    • Plus, most classes bump some loud music that also helps to distract me.
  • Do some Zumba or try a dance routine
    • This is a fun way to channel those negative emotions into something positive.
    • I try to focus on the moves so I’m not locked in my head, I gain endorphins, and I get to listen to music I like. Wins all around!

Building a Supportive Social Network:

Anxiety and stress are part of being human. Everyone gets these feelings. That’s why it’s so important to a strong support network. They will:

  • Build you up when you’re feeling down
  • Let you rant about your day and purge your emotions
  • Comfort you when you feel overwhelmed
  • Distract you if there’s nothing you feel like you can do
  • Help you come up with solutions to your problems

We’re not meant to go through life alone. Don’t let these negative feelings isolate you.

Time Management:

If you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, try writing everything you have to do down in a list, then work on creating a plan of attack. This will help you see what you need to do so you can create a time management strategy that will help you to reduce stress from overwhelming workloads.

Overall, it’s important to just be mindful of you time, how you spend it, and what needs to get done. WHen you do this and plan around all of your events, to do list, and work, it helps to reduce stress and anxiety. For tips on planning your week to maximize your time, check out my other blog post here.


In the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives, it’s so easy to get lost in the overwhelmed with feelings of stress and anxiety. However, by embracing adaptive coping mechanism, we can navigate these challenges with grace and resilience.

Mindfulness meditation allows us to ground ourselves in the present moment, finding peace amidst chaos. Physical exercise not only nurtures our bodies but also becomes a source of mental rejuvenation. Journaling becomes a confidante, helping us release pent-up emotions and find clarity in the written word. Building a supportive social network provides solace during tough times, reminding us that we’re not alone on this journey. And with effective time management, we take charge of our busy schedules and make room for self-care.

So, my dear friends, let’s raise our coffee cups to these powerful coping methods and the positive transformations they bring into our lives. Remember, you have the strength within you to conquer stress and anxiety, and together, we’ll create a vibrant and fulfilling lifestyle that radiates positivity. Here’s to building a community of empowered women, supporting each other like true friends on this beautiful journey.

Cheers to mindfulness, resilience, and the power of adaptive coping mechanisms!


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