It’s no secret that 2020 has been an incredibly challenging and stressful year for everyone. The pandemic, with its accompanying economic pressures, personal tragedies, and isolation from loved ones have contributed to our psyche in ways that, though felt, cannot yet be fully understood. When faced with stress, people turn to coping skills that are both innate as well as learned.

Adaptive coping skills are those that help us face the problem directly while managing our emotions in ways that don’t harm others or ourselves. Connecting with your friends or family, exercise, meditation, using humor, and getting sufficient sleep are all examples of adaptive coping skills. Conversely, maladaptive coping is more about avoiding the problem than dealing with it in a healthy way. Nowhere is this more true than with addiction, whether it involves substance use, food, sex, shopping, or any other compulsive behavior.

As 2020 comes to an end, consider reflecting on the coping skills you find yourself turning to. Does your coping help you feel resilient and capable of problem solving? Or are you doing whatever it takes to avoid problems and the accompanying feelings of anxiety, anger, and shame? Here’s some signs to look for:

  • sudden or unexplained relationship issues with people you care about, including dishonesty, irritability, and avoidance
  • decreased motivation and performance with work, school, or other responsibilities
  • suffering from the negative aftereffects of the compulsive behavior, yet returning to it again and again
  • unexplained physiological concerns
  • an increase in depression and/or anxiety that can’t be otherwise explained
  • conflicting inner beliefs that your behavior is “normal,” even to the degree where your personal boundaries become compromised (i.e. driving while intoxicated)

These are only a few of the signs that indicate that you could use some support in adopting healthier coping skills. Consider connecting with someone you trust, and explore what propels you towards maladaptive coping. There are healthy solutions out there, and you’re not alone.


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