Coping Skills - What Works for You?


Many of you have asked for information and ideas on coping skills. What better time to write this than during a pandemic when we're all challenged to cope!


Coping skills are strategies to use while under stress to help you manage painful emotions and help to change your mood. We use these skills when we face something in life that we don’t believe we have the inner resources or ability to cope with well.


How you cope with stress varies from person to person. It depends on your personality and the culture you grew up with; what was taught to you and modeled for you in your home and environment. The better you can cope with stress and subsequently believe in your ability to do so, the less stress you will experience.


There are two main types of coping strategies, both take practice and some trial and error to see what will work for you and depends on the type of stress you are experiencing...


Emotion focused skills

These reduce the negative emotional response you feel. They can include the following things:

  • Distractions, diversions such as drawing, colouring, watching videos on YouTube, cleaning, organizing a closet, browsing Pinterest, going on social media

  • Writing things down in a journal, talking to a friend or counsellor, writing in a gratitude journal, writing down your goals, do a pros and cons list, read a book, play with your kids, look at old pictures on your phone

  • Relaxation such as yoga, meditation, mindfulness, muscle relaxation, deep breathing

  • Physical activity, running, weightlifting, skating, sports

Problem focused methods

These target the root of the stress and include problem solving which can provide a longer-term solution. There are times the problems or stress is not within you control so you should ask yourself can I change this situation, or do I need to change the way I think about this situation? 


Here are some ideas:

  • Make a to do list

  • Have that awkward conversation you’ve been avoiding

  • Ask for help

  • Use a time management strategies

  • Walk away from something that isn’t serving you

  • Set boundaries for yourself

By contrast, unhealthy coping mechanisms also help you feel better but often causes additional problems for you or your family. They provide a quick fix but maintain your distress in the long run. These include escape or avoidance, self-soothing or numbing through alcohol, binge eating, excessive video games, gambling, unsafe sex, theft, reckless driving or self-harm. This can also look like name calling, insulting, or blaming others for your problems.


Let me know what coping skills you find work for you! I suggest doing a mix of both types of coping. Don’t give up until you find the right tools to help you thrive, you can always get better at the ones you're using now.


With regular use of coping skills you can manage your emotions in a healthy way, you'll also have confidence that you have the tools and inner resources to handle whatever life throws at you.


Just a reminder we have openings for virtual therapy should you need to work through some coping skills for yourself during this time or the next curve ball life throws at you!


Call 651-1239 to schedule an appointment or book online @ lauragatien.com ~ Laura

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© 2020 Laura Gatien, M.S.W.