Thursday, December 15, 2011

Healthy Coping Skills

"Coping refers to the thoughts and actions we use to deal with stress. In large part, feeling stressed or not depends on whether we believe we have the coping resources to deal with the challenges facing us. Most coping strategies fall into one of two broad categories:
  • Problem-focused coping strategies are used to tackle the problem directly. 
  • Emotion-focused coping strategies are used to handle feelings of distress, rather than the actual problem. 
In general, research has shown that problem-focused coping strategies are the most effective way for dealing with stress" (the above information is from this website). 

In this post I mentioned that it is beneficial to understand what our unhealthy coping mechanisms are in life (food, alcohol/substances, etc...), and learn to replace those with healthy coping mechanisms or skills. in coping we want to deal with the physical problems that are occurring, and we also want to address the emotions that go along with that situation. Given that this time of the year can be incredibly stressful (and because someone requested it!), here are a few healthy coping skills to practice and implement in your life. 

  • Attempt to increase your sense of control: In this post I discussed ways to increase or develop your sense of control in life. Implementing organizational strategies and setting small goals for yourself will help to increase your sense of control as well. (Food is NOT a healthy way to try to gain control, and can lead to an eating disorder)
  • Positive Reappraisal: This is simply what is sounds like it is. This process involves trying to view the positive within the situation in which you find yourself. This is about identifying the positive things that are happening instead of repeating the soundtrack of negative things that we find ourselves replaying. 
  • Addressing Cognitive Distortions: Challenge & Change the Irrational Beliefs that you might be holding on to. Any of the posts listed here under "Cognitive Distortions" will be helpful in addressing this. 
  • Writing: What goes on in our heads can sometimes be a jumbled mess, like someone took a handful of bouncy balls and let them go in our heads. If we can get all the stuff in our heads out onto paper (even the computer screen is better then nothing), we can sometimes develop a different perspective on the situation, or feel as if it is not so chaotic. This allows us to process the situation in a different way then simply by stressing out about it in our heads. Spend 10-15 minutes writing about the situation (or doing a free-write/stream of consciousness) and see what happens. 
  • Engage in Deep Breathing: Check out this post for steps to develop a practice of deep breathing. This will help to bring your heart rate and blood pressure down, and help you focus on the situation at hand. 
  • Exercise: But keep it balanced and moderate. Too much exercise can become unhealthy, just as no exercise is unhealthy. Engage in yoga, pilates, running, swimming, spinning, or some other form of exercise that will help combat some of the emotions you are experiencing. 
  • Engage in a hobby or activity you enjoy: Take a few minutes to take a long bath, watch a funny TV show, talk to a friend on the phone, write a letter to someone, play with pets, or volunteer. Here are a few other tips to refill yourself
  • Engage in or practice spiritual or religious activities: Spiritual communities can be a source of a great amount of support and encouragement. Some people find reading scriptures, prayer, or other similar activities to be encouraging. 
Ok, this is getting a bit long, so I will end my list of coping strategies at this point. The most important are to figure out ways that are helpful for you in various situations, and then practice these regularly. 

Now it's your turn:
What is one healthy coping skill you can commit to trying out and practicing in your life? 


  1. I like to exercise and read and blog to deal with things that bug me. Also socializing with best friends and snuggling my dog.

  2. I've been trying to do a task--pay a bill, run an errand, clean a countertop--to distract myself when I need to cope. I think it's a practice--you've just got to keep doing it!

    1. So, you mention writing as a healthy coping mechanism, but I have a friend who keeps a blog where he calls his ex names, and writes cruel emotionally loaded things about her. He says its his means of venting, but really i think hes making a public grandstand where she cannot defend herself and undermining her sense of safety and identity. Can you specify a difference between healthy writing and unhealthy writing as a coping mechanism?