Are you feeling stressed? You’re not alone. Many people struggle with stress management due to multiple responsibilities and overwhelming life demands. In moments of high stress, it can be difficult to think of strategies we can use to help us feel better. Mental health therapists often talk about “coping skills,” but what are these? Can you name a few? Sometimes they are not easy to identify. At River Oaks Psychology, we want to make this as easy as possible for you, so let’s talk about it and provide you with a list to keep in your pocket.
Coping skills are strategies and techniques that we use to manage stress, emotions, and challenging situations. Unhealthy coping skills may provide short-term relief from stress, but can have negative consequences on our physical and mental health in the long run. Examples of unhealthy coping skills include avoiding problems, neglecting responsibilities, lashing out at others, using drugs or alcohol to numb emotions, or engaging in self-sabotaging behaviors. On the other hand, healthy coping skills can improve our overall well-being and help us manage stress more effectively (see the list below).
Sometimes we may not be aware of the healthy coping skills that are available to us and it can take time and effort to develop new habits and ways of responding to stress in productive ways. We may feel stuck in old habits and it might feel exhausting to come up with new strategies, especially if we are dealing with anxiety or depression. Developing healthy coping skills may also require us to make changes to our daily routines or step out of our comfort zones, which can be intimidating and uncomfortable. Nonetheless, it’s important to practice healthy coping skills regularly, even when we are not experiencing high stress, to build our resilience and ability to manage challenging situations in the future. This practice also helps us manage any symptoms of anxiety and depression and keep other mental health challenges at bay.
It may take some experimentation to find the strategies that work best for you. Remember to be patient and persistent in developing and practicing these skills. Seeking the guidance of a mental health professional can also be helpful in developing healthy skills tailored to your individual needs and circumstances. We would be honored to meet with you and talk about the stress you’re facing. Therapy allows for a completely non-judgmental environment to receive genuine support and affirmation. We’ll talk about what’s working best for you, what’s not working, and how we can make small changes to improve your mood, emotions, and overall wellness. If you’re struggling, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
Here are 30 examples of healthy coping skills for stress management.
1. Take a break by detaching yourself from the stress.
2. Exit the stressful environment for a moment.
3. Break large responsibilities into small pieces.
4. Make lists of what you need to do. Check off each item one at a time.
5. Identify anybody in your life who can help you with the problem.
6. Reframe your obstacles into opportunities.
7. Remind yourself of the bigger picture – will this matter in the future?
8. Adjust your standards and expectations – are you asking too much of yourself?
9. Take a moment to practice gratitude and introspection.
10. Do some deep breathing and find something you can see, hear, touch, smell, and taste.
11. Let go of the things you can’t control and remind yourself that nobody has all the power.
12. Look for the upside / silver lining – what can we learn or take away from this experience?
13. Try to be more accepting of imperfections and allow for mistakes.
14. Visualize a positive outcome – try to imagine things turning out well.
15. Find a way to bring humor into the situation.
16. Make a list of pros and cons for difficult decisions.
17. Write a list of your personal strengths and characteristics.
18. Consider challenges as opportunities to grow.
19. Brainstorm solutions and write down next steps.
20. Practice assertive communication to express what you need.
21. Show yourself appreciation and self-compassion.
22. De-escalate emotions by reminding yourself that stress always passes.
23. Look for the gray areas – can anything become more flexible?
24. Step back to assess if anything is being overgeneralized.
25. Determine if any deadlines, decisions, or dilemmas can be delayed.
26. Reflect on the worst-case scenario and assess the likelihood of this.
27. Identify faulty thinking and challenge your perceptions.
28. Normalize your symptoms of stress and remember you are human.
29. Acknowledge your emotions instead of ignoring how you feel.
30. Allow yourself space and time to decompress from frustration.
Written by Lauren Presutti