Coping Skills

Think back to a time when you felt . ...

What did you do?

  • Did you reach out to someone you trust to talk about it
  • Did you try to distract yourself with your responsibilities, or activities you enjoy? 
  • Did you process your thoughts and feelings through writing, art or music?

These are just some of the coping strategies someone may use when they are experiencing stress.

What is Coping ?

Definition: Coping means the behaviors, thoughts, and actions we use to deal with life stressors or a threatening situation 1 2

 

A stressful situation can affect everyone differently, and certain coping strategies are best suited for certain situations.

Efficient coping means developing a coping skill “toolbox” of different strategies that can be used in different situations and/or when resources may or may not be available.

Life stressors can include both: 

Negative Life Events

loss of a friendship, not making a sports team, bullying, the death of a loved one, parental job loss, divorce, getting a bad grade, etc.

Positive Life Events

making the sports team, applying for colleges, starting your first job, parental marriage, birth of a sibling, moving, etc.

Types of Coping Strategies

Humor

Pointing out the amusing aspects of the problem at hand, or "positive reframing” 2.

Relaxation

Participating in relaxing activities or practicing calming techniques like breathing, meditation, yoga and other grounding and mindfulness techniques 2.

Avoidance & Denial

This style can also be known as “procrastination.” This can include avoiding the issue altogether and may lead to denying the problem exists. Denial is typically maintained through distractions1, such as excessive alcohol and/or drug consumption1 2, overworking, or sleeping more than usual2. In moderation, distractions can be useful coping strategies by distracting your mind from what is upsetting you but ignoring the problem will not make it go away!

Seeking Support

Asking for help, or finding emotional support from people you trust 1 2.

Physical Recreation

Getting regular exercise can help reduce stress. This can include yoga, meditating, progressive muscle relaxation, and other relaxation techniques 2.

Blame

You may blame yourself or others for the situation1 2. However, this coping strategy may cause more harm than good. By pointing to ourselves or others as the source of blame, we often ignore the real source of the problem. It can lead to feelings of resentment, guilt, or shame. Remember, taking responsibility is not the same as self-blame or blaming others. Instead, practice compassion, including self-compassion, and challenge your self-critical thoughts.

Problem Solving

Finding the source of the problem and coming up with solutions 2. This may include analyzing the situation and making adjustments in other parts of your life to account for it, working harder, finding ways to apply what you’ve learned from the experience in your daily life, or talking to someone who has a direct impact on the situation 1 2.

Adjusting Expectations

It can be helpful to try to anticipate different outcomes to life situations so that you can prepare for the change associated with that change or event 2. Adjusting expectations can mean accepting what is and is not within our circle of control. It can also mean giving ourselves grace to make mistakes, while being empathetic to others when they don’t meet our own expectations. Remember, you are your own worst critic!

Venting

Venting is the outward expression of emotions, usually in the company of friends or family. It can be healthy, but spending too much time focused on negativity can be damaging to some of these relationships over time2. Instead, consider expressing the way you feel in different ways. You could write in a journal, make art, or music. You could even write your thoughts and feelings out in a letter, but don’t send it! Crumple that letter up and toss it in the trash!

SOME COPING STRATEGIES MAY WORK IN THE SHORT-TERM, BUT MAY NOT BE EFFECTIVE IN THE LONG-TERM.

Example: Let’s say you and your best friend got into an argument and have not spoken to each other in a few days.

You have avoided talking to them because you’re worried the conversation may be awkward or uncomfortable, especially if you talk about what caused the argument in the first place.

While avoiding the problem may feel good in the moment, it may cause more stress later on when it comes time to talk about it, and could be very damaging to that friendship. 

Consider tracking the coping strategies you've tried!

Some coping strategies work best in certain situations, locations, and at specific times. What may work one day when you are at home, may not work so well at school, for example.

Try out this free worksheet from Encourage Hope and Help.

Write down the date, time, and location that you completed the activity. Then write down what activity you completed and your thoughts on using that coping skill. 

Consider these questions as you fill out the tracker:
  • What worked?
  • What didn’t work?
  • Do you see yourself using this coping skill in the future?

Coping Skills Toolbox

Check out these recommendations!

More Creative Coping Skills for Children by Bonnie Thomas

Recommended for all ages from 3 to 13

More Creative Coping Skills for Children by Bonnie Thomas

This workbook covers the different challenging behaviors children may experience and how to address them, including: building interpersonal and social skills; creating healthy boundaries; reducing oppositional behavior; anger management; increasing focus and reducing impulsivity; taming anxiety, stuck thoughts, and stuck behaviors; social anxiety and select mutism; improving sleep; sadness and depression; increasing self-confidence and self-esteem; loss and grief; traumatic events and illnesses; and family challenges.
Each chapter includes the challenges addressed, goals for the child, skills to build, interventions to try, accompanying stories and activities, and affirmations.
Many of the activities included in this workbook require certain art supplies that are commonly found in most elementary classrooms.

Coping Skills for Teens Workbook by Janine Halloran

Recommended for ages 11+

Coping Skills for Teens Workbook by Janine Halloran

This workbook is divided into coping styles: processing, relaxation, movement and sensory, and distraction.
In addition to the activities and handouts included throughout the chapters, the author also provides wellness worksheets such as a tracker for coping skills that have been tried, a current coping strategy worksheet, a weekly schedule worksheet and a self-care plan to guide youth through identifying when things are not going well and making a plan to use coping skills.

Special thanks to the National Alliance on Mental Illness