Understanding Defense Mechanisms

How to Deal With Stress

Being able to cope with stress is an important part of being human. It helps us respond constructively and positively to the pressures we all face. However, some people find it more difficult than others to cope with stressors in life. But what are defense mechanisms? And how can you learn how to deal with stress so that you are less likely to feel overwhelmed when faced with stressful situations? Keep reading for more information about defense mechanisms and stress management techniques.

What are defense mechanisms?

Defense mechanisms are the subconscious, psychological strategies we use to cope with feelings that are too difficult to face. These feelings could be feelings of anxiety, sadness, anger, shame, guilt or a combination of emotions. All defense mechanisms aren’t inherently ‘bad’ because they enable us to function in day-to-day life. However, they are often used in unhelpful ways. For example, some defense mechanisms are used to avoid dealing with situations or confrontations that might cause us to feel anxious. This can backfire, though, because our avoidance can often lead to greater problems in the future.

Why do we have defense mechanisms?

Defense mechanisms help us protect our ‘self’ from feeling pain. They help us avoid facing those feelings that are too difficult to cope with or deal with. When we experience a negative event or emotion, we are likely to have an emotional reaction. This emotional reaction is our natural instinctive reaction to an event or emotion. But sometimes we don’t have the skills to process these emotions and make sense of them. This is when we need to use defense mechanisms to help us process and make sense of our feelings.

Types of Defense Mechanisms

When we’re under stress, we use certain defense mechanisms more than others. While there are hundreds of types of defense mechanisms. The most common defense mechanisms include:

  • Suppression: This is when you try to push down and ignore an emotion. Suppression is a common defense mechanism and can sometimes be helpful. For example, you might use suppression if you need to focus on a work presentation and don’t have time to deal with your feelings. But this defense mechanism can become unhelpful if you use it too often. Suppression can cause you to feel stressed, irritable and unwell as your emotions build up inside you.
  • Denial: Denial is another common defense mechanism. If you use denial, you are refusing to acknowledge or believe that a particular situation or event has taken place. For example, if you are grieving the death of a loved one, you might try to deny that your loved one has died. Denial can be a normal way of coping with extremely distressing and emotional situations. But it is important to know when to end the denial and face your feelings. 
  • Projection: This defense mechanism means taking your own unacknowledged feelings or desires and projecting them onto someone else. For example, you might have a colleague you dislike and feel angry with. But you might not recognize why you feel this way. So your defense mechanism of projection kicks in and you end up believing that you dislike and are angry with this colleague.

Coping Strategies for Dealing with Stress

If you struggle with stress, you might want to try using these coping strategies:

  • Learn to relax. One of the best ways to deal with stress is to relax. This can be done by taking part in activities you enjoy like yoga, meditation, reading or listening to music. 
  • Get enough sleep. Getting enough sleep is important for your health and well-being. But many of us don’t get enough sleep. If you’re worried about getting enough sleep, you might want to try setting a sleep schedule.
  • Develop good time management skills. Unfortunately, you can’t control everything in your life. But you can control how you respond to the things you can’t control. 

These days, it seems like everybody is stressed out. In fact, according to the American Psychological Association, 61% of Americans say that the current political climate is a significant source of stress. And research suggests that, in general, people are more stressed out today than ever before. In order to combat this, we need to learn how to deal with stress. And one of the best ways to do this is by using defense mechanisms and coping strategies. 

The author of this article is a therapist from the Sensera app. Sensera is a daily 10-minute self-therapy app. It’ll help you to cope with various mental problems (anxiety, self-esteem, relationship issues). Feel better with CBT audio sessions and exercises. Download now to become happier!

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