From the baby with a pacifier to a chain smoker, everyone has a go-to means of coping with life’s difficulties. Certainly, some coping tendencies are more problematic than others, but all of them leave a void. Let’s look at a few categories of coping mechanisms and then the most helpful alternative.
Of course, there is something soothing for infants and young children about sucking on something—whether it’s a bottle, fingers, or a pacifier. Other childhood attachments might be a special blanket, toy, or other object. While you can’t exactly explain the illogical perception of safety that kids find in these inanimate objects, you can certainly recognize the potential problems that could arise if these pseudo-saviors continued to provide a sense of false security later in life. Like Linus and his blanket in the Peanuts comic strip, some kids tend to create an unhealthy attachment to an object, and that’s certainly something for parents to look out for.
As unhealthy as it would be for a teen or adult to be unable to cope without a token teddy bear, there are healthy (and helpful) go-to coping concepts. Some people exercise to blow off steam or just want to go out and have a good time with friends to help them forget about their worries. Some might go shopping or go to comfort food, both of which could become addictions.
Others prefer a more introverted approach, such as journaling, reading escape literature, or watching a movie. Playing video games or sleeping longer could also be helpful – if they don’t cross the line into the next category.
Of course, there are damaging behaviors that can start out as coping attempts. Unfortunately, most addictions require continual increase in stimulation to get the same “high” or relief. These kinds of behaviors might include binge drinking, smoking, doing drugs, cutting, or performing violent actions toward others. Alternately, addictions like pornography or video games require more variety rather than a higher degree of stimulation to contribute the same feelings that came easily at first. Since any of those activities lead so easily to addictions, they are extremely dangerous and can lead to a lifetime battle for young people. Even a first-time experiment cannot be treated lightly.
While the health risks of smoking and drunk driving fatalities are well-known issues, they’re far from the main problem with these coping mechanisms. The biggest issue is that they defy the first commandments: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). Philippians 4:6 gives us God’s desire for how we cope; instead of anxiety, we ought to “be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” When we tell Him about our difficulties and establish the discipline of meditating on His Word and His character, we can with the Psalmist say “He only is my rock and my salvation; he is my defence; I shall not be greatly moved” (62:2).