Finding Coping Skills in Your Everyday Life

We hear the word balance a lot in the media today. In a world that is often pulled toward the extremes, it makes sense that we would need to shift the focus from doing too much of one thing, to making sure we take care of each area of ourselves and our lives, so that we can create a meaningful experience. Well, one of the ways that people take care of themselves is through the use of coping skills. The word coping skills simply refers to the ways we attempt to solve problems for ourselves, or in other words, how we take care of ourselves. There are five main types of coping skills, which are addressed below.

Find Balance and Coping Skills in Your Everyday Life

5 Main Types of Coping Skills

Movement

This encompasses any kind of exercise you can think of, and even some that don’t initially come to mind. Whether your movement is more traditional such as running or going to the gym, or less structured such as leisurely walking through a park or mall, moving is something that significantly helps both our bodies and our minds.

Relaxation

When you think of relaxation, you may think of things like sitting on the beach or taking a hot bubble bath. These are both a form of relaxation, but what you can learn in therapy, is how to do body relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness, and guided imagery. In case you didn’t read my other blog, progressive muscle relaxation is a purposeful tensing and relaxing of each muscle group to teach your body the difference between what relaxed and what tense feel like. Doing this exercise will make your body feel more relaxed and will help your body alert you when your muscle groups are too tense, so that you are able to intervene instead of noticing at the end of the day that your shoulders are up around your ears.

Mindfulness and meditation are additional forms of relaxation that help you focus on the here and now to clear your mind of the day-to-day clutter that goes on in your mind. Guided imagery takes relaxation a step further and helps you to calm your mind and practice calming your body by visualizing a relaxing scene of your choice, and going through the steps of calming yourself down, and sinking into the relaxation.

Cognitive Coping

These are the skills that you typically learn in therapy. A major part of how you feel about yourself and how you interpret the events in your life is due to the way you think about them. Cognitive coping addresses your negative thinking patterns, and changes them into more realistic or positive statements. There are many different kinds of cognitive coping, such as positive self-talk, examining the evidence, keeping a thought log, thought stopping, creating a mantra, and the cognitive behavioral triangle. The basis of all of these is to identify a negative thought, and get rid of it in some way.

For example, thought stopping allows you to notice that you are having a negative thought, and use one of the methods to stop the thought, so that you are then ready to use another method to change the negative thought into an alternative thought. Examining the evidence is a technique that looks for facts or reasons why the negative thought is untrue. Facts are harder to explain away than opinions, so in sessions, I help clients identify this evidence. If you do not believe that your partner loves you, we will find facts that she does (e.g. she signed a lease with you, she FaceTimes you, she makes you dinner, she asked to go on a trip with you, or whatever happens in your relationship that lets you know that she cares.)

Distraction

The things that fall under distraction are often discussed in terms of self-care. These are the different ways that you take care of yourself on a daily basis, and you may not even be aware that they are a form of coping skill. These are activities such as reading a book, getting a pedicure, going shopping, drinking a cup of hot coffee while you curl up in a big blanket, and an infinite of other things. Some people already have a long list of ways that they take care of themselves, and others need a little more guidance in this area, so I have included a list of 99 coping skills for adults at the end of this blog. There are items from each of the 5 coping skills categories in the list, but you will find that a lot of them fall under the distraction category.

Social

This one is exactly what it sounds like. Being connected to others is one of the best things we can do for our mental well being. Research actually shows that being connected is the number one predictor of how long someone lives!! I know I was shocked to hear that. That means that above ALL other things (e.g. exercise, smoking, eating in a specific way etc.) the thing that impacted longevity the most is that you have meaningful relationships. So what do you do to stay connected to others? Whether it is going to a weekly trivia, or meeting a friend for lunch, it is important that you identify and make time for these experiences.

There are forms of coping that fall under more than one category.

For example, if running is something you do to stay connected with friends, that’s awesome! It is also a form of movement! It doesn’t mean that you have to try to make things fit into more than one area though. The main idea is that to be a balanced and well adjusted person, the goal is to use skills from each of the five coping skills areas. When first examining this, most people realize that they have a lot of skills in one area, and not so many in other areas. I would tell my clients, “I love that you have so many skills in that area!

Let’s just find or learn a few more skills so that you can have even more to pull from when you need them!” As you begin to develop coping skills in each area, you will see that some stressors are managed best by doing some self-care at home, while others are best managed by taking an intense kickboxing class to get out all of those negative feelings. If you have read through these categories and are having a hard time identifying anything that you are able to do to help yourself, or all of your skills are failing you, then this may be the time to seek outside help. Give us a call to schedule an appointment. Otherwise, happy coping!

99 Coping Skills for Adults

  • Exercise
  • Deep breathing
  • Journal
  • Scribble/doodle on paper
  • Be with other people
  • Watch a favorite TV show
  • Count to 10
  • Post on web boards, and answer others’ posts
  • Go see a movie
  • Watch a YouTube video
  • Listen to music
  • Use positive self-talk
  • Paint your nails
  • Sing
  • Create a reality based personal affirmation for yourself
  • Use mindfulness to notice nature
  • Punch a punching bag/ pillow
  • Let yourself cry
  • Create a pros/cons list for a difficult choice
  • Take a nap (only if you are tired)
  • Take a hot shower or relaxing bath
  • Play with a pet
  • Go shopping
  • Read a good book
  • Visualize a relaxing place and pretend like you are there
  • Try some aromatherapy (oil, candle, lotion, room spray)
  • Meditate
  • People watch
  • Ask yourself, “what do I need right now?”
  • Bake something
  • Paint or draw
  • Rip paper into itty-bitty pieces
  • Visualize a stop sign when you have a negative thought
  • Shoot hoops, or kick a ball
  • Write a letter or send an email
  • Dance
  • Make hot chocolate
  • Go for a nice, long drive
  • Complete something you’ve been putting off
  • Take a time out
  • Look up recipes, cook a meal
  • Draw on yourself with a marker instead of self-harming
  • Take up a new hobby
  • Look for 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can smell
  • Create or build something
  • Look at pretty things, like flowers or art
  • Pray if that is your belief system
  • Look for evidence against your negative thoughts
  • Make a list of blessings in your life
  • Go to a friend’s house
  • Watch an old, happy movie
  • Make a schedule for the day
  • Talk to someone close to you
  • Use progressive muscle relaxation
  • Ride a bike
  • Feed the ducks, birds, or squirrels
  • Color
  • Memorize a poem or song
  • Stretch
  • Search for ridiculous things on the internet
  • “Shop” online (without buying anything)
  • Plan something
  • Plant some seeds
  • Sort through/edit your pictures
  • Give yourself a facial
  • Start collecting something
  • Play video/computer games
  • Look at inspiring quotes on Instagram or Pinterest
  • Clean up trash at your local park
  • Text or call an old friend
  • Listen to nature sounds
  • Use a stress ball
  • Write yourself an “I love you because…” letter
  • Rearrange furniture
  • Write a letter to someone that you may never send
  • Smile at five people
  • Play with your little brother/sister/niece/nephew etc.
  • Go for a walk (with or without a friend)
  • Put a puzzle together
  • List the things you (or others) like about you
  • Clean your room /closet
  • Yoga
  • Teach your pet a new trick
  • Learn a new language
  • Get together with friends and play Frisbee, soccer or basketball
  • Hug a friend or family member
  • Write a blog
  • Read a blog
  • Search online for new songs/artists
  • Make a list of goals for the week/month/year/5 years
  • Perform a random act of kindness
  • Look up jokes or watch funny movies
  • Use a relaxation app
  • Chew gum
  • Blow bubbles
  • Write yourself positive notes and put them on your bathroom mirror
  • Smile at yourself in the mirror
  • Do a guided imagery
  • Listen to a podcast

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Dr. Rebecca Crecraft

Dr. Crecraft is a postdoctoral fellow. She is a trauma specialist, transitions expert, and family disorder healer. Her specialties include emotion regulation, healthy boundaries, and moving on from your past.

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