Whether your car broke down, struggling to make ends meet or you have had a rough day at the office, having healthy coping skills can be key to getting through tough times. Coping skills help you tolerate, minimise, and deal with stressful situations in life.
Coping skills are the tactics that people use to deal with stressful situations. Managing your stress well can help you feel better physically and psychologically and impact your ability to perform your best.
However, not all coping skills are created equal. Sometimes, it’s tempting to engage in strategies that will give quick relief but might create bigger problems for you down the road. It is important to establish healthy coping skills that will help you reduce your emotional distress or rid yourself of the stressful situations you face. Examples of healthy coping skills include:
- Establishing and maintaining boundaries
- Practicing relaxation strategies such as deep breathing, meditation, and mindfulness
- Getting regular physical activity
- Making to-do lists and setting goals
This article explores coping skills that can help you manage stress and challenges. Learn more about how different strategies, including problem-focused and emotion-focused skills, can be most helpful.
The five main types of coping skills are:
- Problem-focused coping
- Emotion-focused coping
- Religious coping
- Social support.
Two of the main types of coping skills are problem-based coping and emotion-based coping. Understanding how they differ can help you determine the best coping strategy for you.
This is helpful when you need to change your situation, perhaps by removing a stressful thing from your life. For example, if you’re in an unhealthy relationship, your anxiety and sadness might be best resolved by ending the relationship (as opposed to soothing your emotions).
This is helpful when you need to take care of your feelings when you either don’t want to change your situation or when circumstances are out of your control. For example, if you are grieving the loss of a loved one, it would be important to take care of your feelings in a healthy way (since you cannot change the circumstance).
There is not always one best way to proceed. Instead, it’s up to you to decide which type of coping skill is likely to work best for you in your particular circumstance.
The following are examples of stressful situations and how each approach could be used.
You have been invited to give a presentation in front of a large group. You were so flattered and surprised by the invitation that you agreed to do it. But as the event approaches, your anxiety skyrockets because you hate public speaking.
You decide to hire a public speaking coach to help you learn how to write a good speech and how to deliver it confidently. You practice giving your speech in front of a few friends and family members so you will feel better prepared to step on stage.
You tell yourself that you can do this. You practice relaxation exercises whenever you start to panic. And you remind yourself that even if you are nervous, no one else is even likely to notice.
Healthy Emotion-Focused Coping Skills
Whether you are feeling lonely, nervous, sad, or angry, emotion-focused coping skills can help you deal with your feelings in a healthy way. Healthy coping strategies may soothe you, temporarily distract you, or help you tolerate your distress.
Sometimes it’s helpful to face your emotions head-on. For example, feeling sad after the death of a loved one can help you honour your loss.
Other times, coping skills may help you change your mood. If you’ve had a bad day at work, playing with your kids or watching a funny movie might cheer you up. Or, if you are angry about something someone said, a healthy coping strategy might help you calm down before you say something you might regret.
Other examples of healthy ways to cope with emotions include:
Care for yourself
Put on lotion that smells good, spend time in nature, take a bath, drink tea, or take care of your body in a way that makes you feel good such as painting your nails, doing your hair, putting on a face mask.
Engage in a hobby
Do something you enjoy such as colouring, drawing, or listening to music.
Do yoga, go for a walk, take a hike, or engage in a recreational sport.
Focus on a task
Clean the house (or a closet, drawer, or area), cook a meal, bake a cake, garden, or read a book.
List the things you feel grateful for, meditate, picture your “happy place,” or look at pictures to remind you of the people, places, and things that bring joy
Use Relaxation Techniques
Play with a pet, practice breathing exercises, squeeze a stress ball, use a relaxation app, enjoy some aromatherapy, try progressive muscle relaxation, or write in a journal.
Healthy Problem-Focused Coping Skills
Problem-focused coping may involve more drastic measures, like changing jobs or ending a relationship. Here are some examples of positive problem-focused coping skills:
- Ask for support from a friend or a professional.
- Create a to-do list.
- Engage in problem-solving.
- Establish healthy boundaries.
- Walk away and leave a situation that is causing you stress.
- Work on managing your time better.
Unhealthy Coping Skills to Avoid
Just because a strategy helps you endure emotional pain, it doesn’t mean it is healthy. Some coping skills could create bigger problems in your life. Here are some examples of unhealthy coping skills:
- Drinking alcohol or using drugs: Substances may temporarily numb your pain, but they won’t resolve your issues. Substances are likely to introduce new problems into your life. Alcohol, for example, is a depressant that can make you feel worse. Using substances to cope also puts you at risk for developing a substance use disorder and it may create health, legal, financial problems, and social problems.
- Overeating: Food is a common coping strategy. But, trying to “stuff your feelings” with food can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food and health issues. Sometimes people go to the other extreme and restrict their eating (because it makes them feel more in control) and clearly, that can be just as unhealthy.
- Sleeping too much: Whether you take a nap when you’re stressed out or you sleep late to avoid facing the day, sleeping offers a temporary escape from your problems. However, when you wake up, the problem will still be there.
- Venting to others: Talking about your problems so that you can gain support, develop a solution, or see a problem in a different way can be healthy. But studies show repeatedly venting to people about how bad your situation is or how terrible you feel is more likely to keep you stuck in a place of pain.
- Overspending: While many people say they enjoy retail therapy as a way to feel better, shopping can become unhealthy. Owning too many possessions can add stress to your life. Also, spending more than you can afford will only backfire in the end and cause more stress.
- Avoiding: Even “healthy” coping strategies can become unhealthy if you’re using them to avoid the problem. For example, if you are stressed about your financial situation, you might be tempted to spend time with friends or watch TV because that’s less anxiety-provoking than creating a budget. But if you never resolve your financial issues, your coping strategies are only masking the problem.
Find What Works for You
The coping strategies that work for someone else might not work for you. Going for a walk might help your partner calm down. But you might find going for a walk when you are angry causes you to think more about why you’re mad—and it fuels your angry feelings. So you might decide watching a funny video for a few minutes helps you relax.
You might find that certain coping strategies work best for specific issues or emotions. For example, engaging in a hobby may be an effective way to unwind after a long day at work. But, going for a walk in nature might be the best approach when you’re feeling sad.
When it comes to coping skills, there’s always room for improvement. So, assess what other tools and resources you can use and consider how you might continue to sharpen your skills in the future.
Healthy coping skills can help protect you from distress and face problems before they become more serious. By understanding the two main types of coping skills, you can better select strategies that are suited to different types of stress.
If you are struggling to practice healthy coping skills or find yourself relying on unhealthy ones instead, talking to a mental health professional can be helpful. A therapist can work with you to develop new skills that will serve your mental well-being for years to come.
Website – https://www.verywellmind.com/forty-healthy-coping-skills-4586742