What Are Coping Skills and Strategies?
Coping strategies and skills are the reactions and behaviors one adopts to deal with difficult situations. Coping strategies come in many forms. Some are helpful and others are hurtful.
Humans tend to learn coping strategies from those they come into contact with while growing up. When a person learns and develops habits of negative coping skills, stressors become catastrophes and confidence in one's ability to cope is diminished.
Use this list of positive coping skills to identify new strategies to become more resilient in the face of challenges. Then look at the list of negative coping strategies to look for items to replace with more positive coping skills.
Positive Coping Skills
Here's a list of coping skills that will help you when you are feeling strong emotions such as anger, anxiety, or depression. These activities are not likely to create more stress or problems, so these help you be more resilient and stress tolerant.
Write, draw, paint, photography
Play an instrument, sing, dance, act
Take a shower or a bath
Take a walk, or go for a drive
Watch television or a movie
Watch cute kitten videos on YouTube
Play a game
Clean or organize your environment
Take a break or vacation
Social/Interpersonal (with others)
Talk to someone you trust
Set boundaries and say "no"
Write a note to someone you care about
Spend time with friends and/or family
Serve someone in need
Care for or play with a pet
Role-play challenging situations with others
Cognitive (Of the Mind)
Make a gratitude list
Lower your expectations of the situation
Keep an inspirational quote with you
Write a list of goals
Take a class
Act opposite of negative feelings
Write a list of pros and cons for decisions
Reward or pamper yourself when successful
Write a list of strengths
Accept a challenge with a positive attitude
Exercise or play sports
Catharsis (yelling in the bathroom, punching a punching bag)
Get enough sleep
Eat healthy foods
Get into a good routine
Eat a little chocolate
Pray or meditate
Get involved in a worthy cause
Drop some involvement
Prioritize important tasks
Use assertive communication
Schedule time for yourself
How Each Category of Coping Skills Helps
Diversions are those coping skills that allow you to stop thinking about the stress inducing situation. Diversions aren't meant to be the final solution, but each can be useful in the basic goal of remaining safe.
As time goes on, move away from diversions and toward those skills that will build resiliency to the challenges that continue. Diversions are only useful if one can recognize warning signs when feeling overwhelming emotions.
Social or interpersonal coping strategies involve interactions with others. Scientific studies have proven the benefits of social support to counteract the effects of stress on DNA. Social supports can be useful for recognizing warning signs and providing assistance in difficult times.
Cognitive coping skills are those that involve using the mind and thought processes to influence the way one feels and behaves. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of treatment that helps people find ways of thinking that improve their mental responses to situations.
Learning to think in more rational ways can be done by recognizing and changing irrational thoughts. Ultimately, a person can become much more stress tolerant and ultimately improve behavioral outcomes.
Tension releasing or cathartic coping strategies involve acting on strong emotions in ways that are safe for oneself and others. Punching a pillow could be a way to release tensions in a safe way.
Be careful with cathartic responses because these tend to become habit forming and may translate to real life scenarios, so the child who practices punching a pillow may envision a person's face and end up actually punching that person's face when angry.
Physical process are directly tied to mental and emotional processes. A person's breathing rate can illicit a response from the sympathetic nervous system. Raising your voice can send signals to your brain that you are angry. In the same way, acting calmly in the face of difficulty can help send signals to your brain that everything is o.k.
Exercise is another thing that can help by producing endorphins, which are naturally occurring drugs that can create a calm or euphoric feeling.
Praying, meditating, enjoying nature, or taking up a worthy cause can affect a person on a spiritual level. Satisfying the need to feel worthwhile, connected, and at peace improve well-being at the core of a person. Spiritual well-being then exudes out of a person in attitudes and actions that are self-actualized. According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, we all need to feel a sense of purpose, but not everyone reaches that level.
Limit setting is a preventative measure to protect against overwhelming stress created by doing too much of something. Limits can be set for one's self or others. An example of setting a limit with others is learning to say "no" when you know you are too busy to help someone. Setting a limit for yourself could include dropping involvement in work activities that are not a good fit for your skills and focusing on those that you are efficient doing, which may mean having to be assertive with your boss about how you can help the most.
Negative Coping Skills
Here's a list of coping strategies that will cost you in the long run. These do more harm than good in most cases and can make life more stressful.
Abusing drugs or alcohol
Wasting time on unimportant tasks
Interpersonal (With Others)
Mean or hostile joking
Refusing help from others
Lying to others
Being late to appointments
Provoking violence from others
Enabling others to take advantage of you
Cognitive (of the Mind)
Denying any problem
All or nothing/black or white thinking
Throwing things at people
Yelling at others
Speeding or driving recklessly
Making fun of yourself
Spending too much
Eating too much
Setting dangerous fires
Author: Blake Flannery