I’ve recently finished reading Russell Brand’s ‘Mentors’, How To Help and Be Helped and there was a quote in the book that I found really insightful. It automatically made me think about unhealthy coping mechanisms and how it can harm us when we’re not conscious it’s in our well-being tool kit. So let’s talk about it.
Unhealthy coping mechanisms. We all have them. When trouble hits, what do you go towards to help you process and deal with the issue?
Do you pick up a book to journal or do you turn towards hours of Netflix and entertainment?
Do you go for a walk and exercise or do you indulge in junk food and over eating?
Do you pick up the phone to talk to someone you trust, or do you find comfort in compulsive buying?
By now you get the picture. You just have to figure out what your own poison is.
On the surface, the coping mechanisms we label as “unhealthy” might seem harmless. Take for example, binge eating. We all need food to survive right? But what happens when your only source of comfort when you’re in pain is turning to food that harms you and is detrimental to your health. In turn, you’re left more ill and with more pain than you started with. Unhealthy coping mechanisms often start as something good until they’re not.
One thing that really struck me from Russell’s words is the impact that our spiritual practices should have on how we deal with pain. Yes we might indulge now and again in Netflix or ice cream, but the main way that we process challenges and tribulations should be through coping mechanisms like prayer, exercise, meditation, asking for support or anything else that helps us. In essence, the true test of our spiritual practice as this quote implies is when we are tested.
With respect to how an unhealthy coping mechanism can turn into an addiction I had this reflection –
“A materialistic solution to a spiritual problem is not the answer and that’s why it will be never be enough. You keep returning to this thing, consuming more and more, hoping it will do the job this time, soothe the pain and make things easier but it only makes the void bigger.”
As we end the year, I want us all to reflect on the coping mechanisms we’ve developed over the years and identify the ones we want to stop, continue and add.