Sometimes, we feel like all we can do is cope with our mental health. We don’t believe that we have the time, the resources, or the ability to actually work through our scars and struggles.

Though managing symptoms through coping mechanisms may work temporarily, coping is not a long-term solution. Healing, on the other hand, means making long-term changes that allow us to thrive, rather than just barely survive. 

We can all work through our trauma and its effects on us, at least to a degree. If you’re feeling unable to move from coping to healing, find inspiration and ideas below, for how to transition when you’re ready. 

Why is coping not enough?

We talked a little about the difference between coping and healing above, but let’s delve a little deeper to really understand why the distinction is important. 

Coping entails managing your symptoms in order to merely make it through and survive another day.

Coping mechanisms are commonly encouraged by those around us. They are socially acceptable methods of dealing with our problems, because they don’t require any major disruptions to our lives. However, coping methods act more as bandages than antidotes.

We are encouraged to engage in coping because at surface-level, it seems to take fewer resources and less of a toll on ourselves and those around us.

Coping is often quick and easy, but not always the healthiest method to consistently deal with your mental health. In small doses, it can be really helpful. But it only provides short-term relief and, if abused, can impede healing and long-term adaptation.

Coping isn’t enough because it’s stagnant. It can be a decent temporary relief, but it won’t do anything for you long term. It’s like putting a bandaid on a wound that doesn’t heal – you might stop seeing the injury for a bit, but you’ll go through countless bandaids and eventually the bandaids won’t be enough to deal with the problem

Coping is the quick fix that actually may be exacerbating your symptoms, whereas healing means growth and change.

So why’s healing so important?

Instead of just existing and trying to push through, learning to heal can help you work through your issues and improve your quality of life.

Healing is the long journey to get to the root of the problem and trying to work through it, to the best of your ability. Healing requires a lot more energy than coping, and can also take an emotional toll during the process.

Though resources for healing can feel harder to come by compared to coping resources, they do exist and will do more for you in the long run. The rewards of healing are plentiful and well worth the work. 

Examples of coping mechanisms

Coping mechanisms are often little everyday things we do to help ourselves deal with our struggles. They can be conscious or unconscious, and can range from things we put into our bodies to the people we surround ourselves with. A few examples of coping mechanisms that people often use are:

  • Humor
  • TV, books, music, etc.
  • Lowering expectations
  • Individualized self-care
  • Avoidance
  • Denial
  • Food
  • Alcohol 
  • Drugs
  • Venting
  • Gettings comfort/help from others
  • Exercising
  • Engaging in problem solving strategies
  • Self-blame

A lot of these don’t seem bad, right? That’s because some of them aren’t.

Coping mechanisms aren’t bad – in moderation. If reading a good book or going on a jog can help you relax during a stressful time, then by all means go for it. The problem is when we rely on coping too much and don’t address the problems at hand. But coping mechanisms that involve harmful substances or impulsivity can make the symptoms of your trauma worse, creating a toxic cycle.

Examples of healing strategies

Healing strategies take intention and effort – both in order to seek them out but also to go through with them and make them a part of your life. The following are some healing strategies that are commonly used:

Healing strategies can seem less accessible than coping – it’s easier to watch a silly movie and forget about your day than to delve deep into your mental health struggles with a therapist. However, a huge part of learning healing strategies through gratitude journaling and any of the techniques above is also discovering how to incorporate them more easily in your daily life.

Basic principles of healing

There are a lot of different basic principles of healing that circulate, but a few stand out as running themes. The following are five basic principles to guide you during your journey to healing:

  • Acceptance: Learning to accept your surroundings, your feelings, and yourself as a person can help give you some relief from being at an internal war with yourself and the outside world. This is easier said than done, but working towards this can lead you on the path to healing and reduce feelings of anger, anxiety, self-blame, etc.
  • Gratitude: Practicing gratitude has been linked to reducing anxiety and depression symptoms, as well as improving our dissatisfaction with not having the things that we want. 
  • Patience: This healing process is long and ongoing, so patience is key during it. Results may not come fast, but they will come and will be worth the wait. See this less as a journey with a hard deadline and more as a way of life that will help you heal yourself and keep healing throughout the rest of your life.
  • Forgiveness: A lot of pain can be bottled up in being angry and upset at someone or something, and can exacerbate your symptoms. You may have every right to be angry, but ultimately it hurts you, not whatever it is you are upset about. Letting go can help you release some unnecessary negativity in your life, so that you can continue on the journey to healing.
  • Mindfulness: Mindfulness is all about learning how to be in tune with your body and your emotions. Learning how to incorporate mindfulness practices into your daily life can help you understand your needs, your feelings, your triggers, etc.

Healing is hard, but it is worth it. Be patient with yourself and the process. You are worth the time and effort of growing and building a life you can love — not just tolerate.