What Are Coping Skills?

Coping Skills

Unfortunately, life isn’t perfect, no matter how much we wish it were. Things happen that upset us or traumatize us. Situations arise that cause us a good deal of stress, worry, anger or other negative emotions. Coping skills are the strategies and mechanisms we use to get us through these times.

Coping skills can be broken down into two main categories: problem-focused and emotion-focused. The former deal with a situation or event itself. The latter deal with the emotions caused by a situation or event.

Problem-Focused Coping Skills

The idea behind problem-focused skills is to find a practical way to reduce or remove the problem that’s causing you distress. Examples of problem-focused coping skills include the following:

  • Asking a friend or a professional for help and support
  • Establishing boundaries 
  • Taking a lateral transfer within the company where you work
  • Quitting your job
  • Ending your toxic relationship
  • Making to-do lists
  • Managing your time more wisely

Emotion-Focused Coping Skills

The idea behind emotion-focused skills is to find a pleasant way to take your mind off your problems and so make you feel better. Examples of emotion-focused coping skills include the following:

  • Going for a walk
  • Exercising
  • Drinking tea
  • Listening to music
  • Gardening
  • Engaging in a hobby
  • Visualizing your “happy place”
  • Reading a good book
  • Listing the things for which you feel grateful
  • Taking a bath
  • Using aromatherapy
  • Engaging in deep breathing
  • Squeezing a stress ball
  • Writing in a journal

Even such a simple thing as forcing yourself to smile, even when you don’t feel happy, can make you feel better, almost against your will.

Discovering What Works For You

As you can see, any number of coping skills are available. You may need to experiment, however, to find out which ones work best for you in any given situation. For instance, one emotion-focused coping skill often recommended is to clean the house. But if you’re one of those people who would almost rather die than run a vacuum cleaner or clean out a closet, you certainly don’t want to do either of these when you’re already upset or angry. Not only won’t they help you feel better, they’re likely to make you feel worse.

Unhealthy Coping Skills

You also need to recognize that some coping skills, including the following, are never appropriate:

  • Drinking alcohol
  • Taking drugs
  • Overeating
  • Going on a shopping spree, either online or in person, and spending money you can’t afford or don’t have

While engaging in these self-destructive behaviors may make you “feel good,” temporarily, you’ll hate yourself when their after-effects become apparent. If you feel that you need some help from a professional, consider reaching out to a therapist, like Lindsey Hoskins & Associates for help.