Coping skills, also sometimes called “coping mechanisms,” are tools that help us deal with triggers, anxieties, and stressors in our lives. In a sense, they are the ways we choose to comfort or calm ourselves. Each of us has our own methods for working through stressful, painful, or difficult emotions and experiences. Some of these methods are things we turned to naturally, and some have evolved from what we learned throughout our lives. Coping skills are something everyone uses, but sometimes we develop ways of dealing with difficulties that end up harming us in the long run–manifesting in addiction, avoidance, or bottled emotions.
Coping skills are a topic that come up for many people during counseling. Developing healthy coping skills can be useful when managing anxiety or recovering from addiction, depression, trauma, and/or eating disorders. Many individuals come to counseling because they are experiencing emotions or situations that they are finding difficult to deal with on their own. I believe that everyone has the inner strength and resilience to work through or overcome the challenges they face. Sometimes, however, it is a matter of redirecting that energy into positive thoughts and practices while developing a deeper understanding of oneself. Counseling can help you recognize your own strengths and abilities.
One good thing about developing healthy coping skills is that you have authority in finding the approach that works best for you. Maybe when you’re feeling upset, you find it helpful to call a friend and talk for a few minutes. Maybe you prefer to journal, garden, put on relaxing music, or go for a walk. Working with a counselor can also help you learn new ways of approaching stressors that allow you to address the issue head-on, rather than numbing it out or avoiding it. This could mean shifting your perspective or challenging self-defeating thoughts.
The key is to find an approach that carries you through the uncomfortable feeling or situation but doesn’t harm you in the process. Some people even decide to make a list of activities or exercises that are helpful to them, so that when an overwhelming feeling or situation arises, they have concrete ideas for managing the moment.
Spending time practicing healthy coping skills and new ways of thinking will allow them to eventually become second nature to you. Learning self care and constructive ways of coping in times of stress will allow you better resolve conflicts and even build confidence in yourself.