The words “coping mechanisms” leave a bad taste for some. But honestly, I don’t feel it’s a bad thing. Just like other tools if used for the right, and proper, reasons.

Think of a fork. A fork is a very useful tool that could be used for many different purposes. When eating, forks are good because they are being used for what they were designed to do. However, as we’ve seen, they can also be used as a hairbrush (those with little girls know I’m referring to a famous movie about a Mermaid!). But, in the hands of a criminal, a fork can be used as weapon. In that case, it doesn’t make the fork bad, it makes the intended purpose bad. Let’s also say, you wouldn’t likely eat a meal with a shard of glass. That’s dangerous, right? Why would you intentionally do something that could cause you damage?

At this point, you may be wondering, what does a fork have to do with coping? And let me say, as I’ve stated before, I’m not a doctor nor am I a counselor. I want to ensure this is communicated before I go any further. But I can tell you what I am. I’m a person who has used the wrong coping methods in the past, a person who cares about the well being of others, and a person who loves Jesus because I’ve seen how He can deliver me, and others who turn to Him for help.

“I waited patiently for the LORD to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.” (Psalms 40:1-2 NLT)

Stress is an ugly thing. I’ve seen the effects it’s had on me, not only mentally, but also physically. I even landed in the hospital due to health issues a few years ago compliments of stress. It can really do a number to you! Then it slowly seeps out affecting those around you causing problems on the job, at home, and even with our kids as their innocent brains just can’t understand.

Trying to sum it up in one short article is impossible, but I want to encourage this if you find yourself dealing with an unhealthy period of stress and you’ve maybe turned to unhealthy ways to cope.

Admit there is a problem.

Yes, it’s difficult, but it’s also freeing and you are a much bigger person for standing up and admitting it. I don’t mean you need to shout it to the world, but I’m suggesting you find that trusted friend, doctor, pastor, or even chaplain who can hear your burdens and offer wise counsel.

Get it off your chest! But once you do, be willing to listen and accept help.

This is where my fork analogy comes in. It’s easy to turn to the wrong tools or coping mechanisms to soothe, ease, or lessen the stress or pain. We must find the right “forks” for our situation. And please, please, avoid the “shards of glass” like alcohol, drugs, pornography, anger, and other dangerous coping mechanisms this world encourages. They will only mask, complicate, and compound the issues.

At one point, I turned to alcohol. I didn’t go too far, thankfully, but found myself trying to ease the pains and stresses through the bottle. I wound up only hurting those around me and myself in the process. The alcohol intensified my depression, my moods, and my health issues. But, I found giving it up altogether has helped tremendously.

Finding and asking the right people for help is key. Those who don’t struggle with anxiety or depression don’t often understand it or how it’s treated. They can give you the, usually well meaning, cliché “Just let it go” kind of answers. Yes, it sounds easy and practical, but the truth is, medical intervention is often needed as a way to heal from, deal with, and learn to replace the unhealthy coping mechanisms with healthy options.

Christian faith. I found Jesus.

As a Christian, which means I’ve accepted the gift of Jesus dying on the cross for me and invited Him into my life … I’ve found a better way to cope when life gets hard. With Him at my side,  I got the outside help I needed. And I’ve found in tough moments, turning to Him for help, eases those battles! I’ve accepted that stress and anxiety are one of my personal struggles that I will likely deal with. But with that in mind, and now armed with healthier, more practical ways to cope, it’s given me a deeper dependence on Jesus! I see my need for someone much greater than I am to help me in my everyday walk. And He comes beside me, fills the empty spaces and the longings in my heart, and helps me each and every step of the way, if and when I allow.

I would love to say it’s easy now and I never battle with the unhealthy temptations I once embraced. But that’s not the case. In fact, at times, I feel even more tempted since walking away from it. But with Jesus in my heart, I have the strength to say, no! Those who love me (for the right reasons) understand and respect me for it—and the ones who authentically love and care for you will understand and respect you as well.

Friends, the ball is in our court. We can continue down the destructive path, or we can admit we need help, turn to Jesus, and find a better way to cope.

I choose Jesus!

“He reached down from heaven and rescued me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemies, from those who hated me and were too strong for me. They attacked me at a moment when I was in distress, but the LORD supported me. He led me to a place of safety; he rescued me because he delights in me” (Psalms 18:16-19 NLT).

– Melinda Merritt