Most of us find that life has many challenges. Road-blocks are common when navigating relationships, responsibilities, physical health, emotions, and the list goes on. Sometimes, these blocks in the road can last a long time, and they can even take over our lives. For example, you may get a divorce, have a baby, or lose your job. Experiencing big changes often causes a mix of emotions. In these cases, it is important to ask yourself how you’re coping.
Coping skills are techniques or activities that you may utilize to better adapt to life’s circumstances. For example, you might feel extremely stressed about work, a relationship, family life, or an array of situations. In these instances, it’s helpful to know some adaptive coping skills to practice in the moment of stress or anger. Regularly practicing coping skills can act as a buffer against stress, anger, and impulsivity.
There are numerous coping skills to choose from, and you can even create your own. Any activity that creates a healthy distraction from the urge to act-out in maladaptive behaviors or anything that helps soothe anxiety, depression, anger, etc. is a coping skill.
Some coping skills are unhealthy, such as drinking, binge-eating, and self-harm. This is because these behaviors often result in negative consequences that are ultimately destructive to our mental health. You will want to replace these behaviors with adaptive strategies, which you can work on with a therapist. If you are engaging in any of the abovementioned maladaptive coping strategies, it is important to seek help because such behaviors are dangerous. Other less physically-dangerous coping mechanisms exist that are similarly unhelpful, such as, avoidance, procrastination, and lashing out in anger.
Coping skills can be utilized to distract us from an unhealthy impulse (e.g. taking a walk instead of screaming at your partner), soothe us in the face of stress or anxiety (e.g. taking deep breaths while feeling anxious), or help us process through difficult feelings (e.g. journaling about a fight you had with mom).
Below is a list of some coping skills you may find beneficial. Remember, there are tons of coping skills out there that you can explore!
Exercise is an important coping skill to consider because it is a readily available way to boost your mood, confidence, and bodily functioning. Something as simple as walking can help you make big improvements in your life.
Breathing mindfully, that is, with your full attention, can help you get grounded in the present moment and calm you down substantially. There are various breathing techniques that you can try. For example, square breathing is a breathing technique where you inhale for four counts, hold for four, and exhale for four.
Mindfulness meditation consists of sitting up straight while focusing your full attention on the breath and bodily sensations. As thoughts inevitably enter the mind, you will acknowledge them, and then simply let them float on by. Meditation has been shown to have favorable results in people struggling with mental health issues.
Yoga combines deep breathing, mindfulness/meditation, and physical activity, making it a wonderful coping skill to try out.
Praying may help you get grounded in times of stress, as you connect to the support of a higher being.
Hobbies, such as dancing, sports, wood-working, reading, etc. can help you escape the stress of your current circumstances and encourage positive feelings.
Journaling is a great way to get your thoughts and feelings out so that you can let them go and move forward.
Calling a friend for support is a great way to connect with another person and to know that you are not alone in your struggles.
The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone and reaching out for help is nothing to be ashamed of. There are a variety of professionals, including licensed mental health counselors, that can help you gain your quality of life back again.