14 Healthy Coping Mechanisms for Stressful Times

Image courtesy of Yến Yến

The COVID-19 pandemic has evoked many different emotions in me—sadness, fear, confusion, loneliness—as I witness layoffs, economic turmoil, and illness unfold around the world. It’s completely normal to feel all the feels right now, and with that, it’s important to use healthy coping mechanisms to sort through these emotions. 

Although it’s easy to turn to my trusty vices like Ben & Jerry’s Half-Baked and an all day Love Island marathon in bed, I try to start each day on a healthy note by reciting affirmations and reminding myself that this situation is temporary, and we’ll all get through this together.  

When you’re struggling to cope through stressful times, keep in mind these 14 healthy coping mechanisms.

1. Calling a friend

When you’re feeling stressed or lonely, reach out to a friend. When you’re unable to meet up in person (six feet apart!), set up a video call to vent, catch up, and share a virtual plate of cookies. Talking with friends has been shown to ease stress and help you cope with trauma, so start scheduling those virtual playdates. 

2. Going on a walk

Anytime I feel stressed or anxious, I try to take a break outside. Right now, it’s especially comforting to hear the birds still chirping away and to see carefree little kids whizzing by on their bikes. Walking is known to improve your mood and strengthen muscles, so lace up your walking shoes and step into the sun. 

3. Listening to a podcast

Podcasts distract my overactive mind while also helping me enrich my trivia knowledge and learn about history. Right now my Spotify is full of downloaded episodes of , a podcast explaining the background behind anything you’ve ever wanted to learn about, from BigFoot to why toothpaste makes orange juice taste bad. If podcasts aren’t your thing, just listen to music—it’s proven to be relaxing and a serious mood booster. 

4. Journaling

Write down everything that you’re feeling. Getting your feelings out of your head and onto paper can feel like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders. Journaling can help you problem-solve, reduce stress, and clarify your thoughts. Plus, later in life you might want to remember your thoughts and feelings during this historic time. 

5. Making art

Use your emotions as your creative muse. If you’re feeling angry, take out your anger on a blank surface—splatter paint across a canvas, scribble as fast and furiously as you can on sketch paper, or cut out images from old magazines and newspapers to capture your feelings. Skip online stress shopping and sketch out some fashion ideas instead. Art can be therapeutic when dealing with anxiety and can even improve your memory. 

6. Reading positive quotes

Sounds simple, but reading positive things will actually help you to cope and think more positively. And studies show that positive emotions have great benefits on your health and wellbeing. 

7. Counting to 10

If you’ve just read a shocking news headline, pause for a second before reacting. Count to 10 and give your body time to breathe and synthesize what you just read. Think of it like mini-meditation: Each time you count to 10, you’re shifting your state of mind and building mental power. 

8. Exercising

In addition to taking walks, it’s important to keep your body moving. It’s easy to slouch in a chair or on the couch all day, so push yourself and make the effort to exercise a few times a week and boost your serotonin levels. There are plenty of free workouts on YouTube, whether you want an hour-long yoga sesh or a quick 10-minute ab circuit. 

9. Cleaning

Time to finally organize your Tupperware drawer and hang up all of those clean clothes. Having a clean, clutter-free space can improve your focus, mood, and overall health. 

10. Reading a book

For me, there’s nothing better than cracking open a book and escaping to another world when I’m stressed out by the real one. Plus, Reading for just six minutes can help reduce stress levels by up to 68 percent. 

11. Cooking healthy meals

We all love our comfort foods, but it can be a slippery slope when you start to rely on junk food to give you a mood boost—overeating is a super unhealthy coping mechanism. Try to master a new recipe in the kitchen and treat your partner, roommate, or yourself to a fun, stay-in dinner party. 

12. Writing letters

I love getting letters in the mail, and I know I’m not alone. I’ve been writing letters to my friends every week. Like journaling, it helps me put my thoughts to paper, and I get to see situations from a different perspective when they write back. It’s a thoughtful way to brighten someone else’s day, and studies show writing letters can decrease depressive symptoms and increase happiness. 

13. Conquering a puzzle

It’s time to whip out your old 1,000-piece puzzle of the Eiffel Tower—puzzles are shown to increase dopamine levels, reduce stress, and increase your productivity. 

14. Seeking professional help

It’s okay if you need help coping with everything going. If you’re struggling on your own, talk to a professional. With online therapy sites like Talkspace, you can get matched with a licensed therapist online who you can message anytime you’re feeling down. 

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