How To Find Balance With Your Coping Habits

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We have the power to make “good” things bad for us and sometimes make “bad” things good for us.

It’s all about how to use these tools in our lives.

I’ve spent a lot of time obsessing about things that are considered “healthy,” and it was anything *but* healthy.

I finally realized the secret to feeling our best—to truly improving health—lies within our ability to cope with stress in productive rather than self-destructive ways.

woman smirking with hand on face
Courtesy of Shauna Jackson

When I began to tackle my health from this perspective, it pointed me in the direction of addressing both physical *and* emotional needs. Because stress isn’t just caused or alleviated by what I put in my mouth and how I move my body.

I have my own formula that changes regularly. And so do you. What is self-destructive to me may not be to you and vice versa.

For example, I cannot track my food. Ever. I’ve dealt with disordered eating for much of my life and tracking food causes more stress for me. So…I don’t.

Please remember: not every healthy behavior you see online is actually healthy. And just because it’s healthy for someone else doesn’t mean it will be for you, too.

After all, there’s only one you.

The sweet spot are things that are enjoyable in the moment AND good for us long-term. Self-awareness helps us mix these two together—what we need plus what we want.

Common barriers to this include a lack of perspective and/or self-awareness.


  • Truly enjoyable physical activity
  • Eating a mixture of foods that feed the soul and fuel the body
  • Prioritizing energy maximization over time management
Courtesy of Shauna Jackson

There are a lot of things we *should not* do every day because, again, balance. But many of us are trying to make other small improvements that definitely require daily attention—things like skincare, adding nutritious foods to our meals, improving sleep quality, focusing on positive self-talk, etc.

That was a great segue for my next point as I wrap things up, which is: almost nothing is inherently “bad” for us in small doses, and almost nothing is inherently “good” for us in massive doses.

“Healthy” Behaviors

Healthy behaviors can easily become unhealthy, and unhealthy behaviors can be healthy. Why? Because health is personal and subjective! Things affect us differently—physically, emotionally, and intellectually—so there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to what is and isn’t productive.

It’s all about how we function, how we use these coping mechanisms, and how we adjust to make sure we’re consistently focused on how we feel in both the short and long term.

Though there are no hard and fast rules in terms of what is specifically productive or self-destructive because everyone’s threshold is different, there are some general rules I use to determine which of these two my coping mechanisms fall into.

General Guidelines

Productive Habits and Coping Mechanisms

  • Enjoyable
  • Boosts energy
  • Reduces stress/helps daily life run more smoothly
  • Contributes to OR doesn’t take from long-term health
  • May fall under self-care or stress-care—or neither

Self-Destructive Habits and Coping Mechanisms

  • Not enjoyable
  • Depletes energy
  • Creates stress/makes daily life more difficult
  • Doesn’t contribute to long-term health
  • May fall under self-care or stress-care—or neither
Courtesy of Shauna Jackson

Please note: being able to determine whether these items are true for ourselves—really true, not what we’ve assumed or “shoulded” ourselves into thinking to be true—depends on having that foundation of emotional intelligence for the self-awareness to make these determinations.

It’s All About Balance

The important thing to note, again, is that this is about balance. Doing something that explicitly fits one of these isn’t a big deal; it’s the volume that matters, which is why I’ve developed a weekly planning sheet to provide a visual of these factors. It should help us to easily see where we may be too heavily weight or not putting enough time/attention and to provide enough of a macro view that we can easily shift things around to match our energy and deal with all the little things life throws at us.

Additionally, this should provide a natural safety net in seeking balance by integrating the sections for mind, body, and soul. As we all know, it’s SO easy to find balance weighted more heavily toward the draining, which can lead to the habitual self-destructive coping.

black and white photo of woman smiling
Courtesy of Shauna Jackson

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Shauna Jackson. You can follow her journey on Facebook. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.

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