Common Coping Responses for Stress

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The way you act and the things you do when you're stressed—these are called coping strategies.

Negative coping responses

Some coping strategies or responses are not as helpful as others. For example, negative coping responses may feel good in the short-term, but they are temporary distractions. In the long run, they wear you down and often make your stress worse.

  • Criticizing yourself (negative self-talk)
  • Driving fast in a car
  • Chewing your fingernails
  • Becoming aggressive or violent (hitting someone, throwing or kicking something)
  • Eating too much or too little or drinking a lot of coffee
  • Smoking or chewing tobacco
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Yelling at your spouse, children, or friends
  • Taking a recreational drug, or misusing prescription medicine
  • Avoiding family and friends

Positive coping responses

On the other hand, positive coping responses keep you in the present moment. They give you chances to actively work toward solving your problems.

  • Listening to music
  • Playing with a pet
  • Laughing or crying
  • Going out with a friend (shopping, movie, dining)
  • Taking a bath or shower
  • Writing, painting, or doing other creative activities
  • Praying or going to church
  • Exercising or getting outdoors to enjoy nature
  • Discussing situations with a spouse or close friend
  • Gardening or making home repairs
  • Practicing deep breathing, meditation, or muscle relaxation
  • Making and following through with an action plan to solve your problems
  • Seeking counseling if you continue to struggle with stress
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Eating healthy foods

Not all positive coping responses will work for every person. Try several positive coping strategies until you find one that works for you.

Related Information


Current as of: August 6, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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