Coping Skills

There are many reasons why using coping strategies can be effective in helping with distress. Some coping strategies may be obvious, while others may be less obvious. Explore this section to learn more about coping strategies that may work best for you. 

It is important to pay attention to how you feel after you engage in an activity. 

It may seem like a great idea to interact with one of your friends when you are experiencing stress. However, you may find that you often feel worse after speaking with this person, for various reasons. 

In this case, it may not make sense to go to this individual during a stressful time.

Time can be very important for stressful periods. You may have coping skills that you love, but do not have time to do. 

Maybe you love to go spend a couple hours relaxing at the beach. Between the time it takes to get ready, the time to drive there, and spending two hours there, you may have taken 4 hours out of your day. 

On some days, you may have the time and this is a fantastic way to participate in self care. However, on other days, you may have little to no time and taking four hours away could significantly increase stress. 

There may also be coping skills that you love, but are not currently able to use.  

You love going to the mountains by your home, but you are presently far away from there. There may be ways to adapt your coping style, such as closing your eyes and listening to a guided meditation on being in nature. 

You may start this exercise by focusing on what you might do to relax if you were in a different place (e.g. home, in nature, etc.), then see if there is a way to adapt it to where you are currently. Think about what you like about this activity and write it down. Review your list and brainstorm ways to get these feelings.

One benefit of coping skills is that they may help you take your mind off of a stressful situation to allow yourself to cope better.

You are feeling overwhelmed balancing your schoolwork with you job and it is getting hard to focus on both because your mind is racing. You take a 10 minute break to sit quietly and listen to a couple of your favorite songs. You are still stressed out, but feel somewhat better after 10 minutes. 

In this case, you may not change the stressful situation, but you can put yourself in a calmer way to proceed. It may be unrealistic to become fully relaxed in some situations, but even lowering your stress from a ‘9’ (out of 10) to a ‘6’ (out of 10) may make your situation feel more manageable. 

Sometimes students have a hard time coming up with activities they do for coping. However, they may be able to identify many activities that they do for fun. There is often a significant overlap between the two and if you are unsure what you do to cope, think about what is fun for you.

Here are some important questions to ask yourself when deciding what coping strategies to use:

  • What do I enjoy doing?
  • How do I typically feel after I am done?
  • How much time do I have for self care and how long do my favorite things to do take?
  • Do I have access to my favorite coping activities?
  • If not, are there ways to use what I do have access to so I can still enjoy parts of that activity?

There are so many possible coping strategies that it can be helpful to see a list to get ideas. Feel free to review our list below for ideas:

  1. Deep breathing
  2. Mindfulness exercises
  3. Go outside and breathe in fresh air
  4. Listen to a song
  5. Listen to a guided meditation
  6. Practice systematic desensitization
  7. Go for a run
  8. Go to the gym
  9. Talk to friends
  10. Read a book
  11. Go online
  12. Yoga
  13. Draw a picture of your day
  14. Journal
  15. Take a relaxing bath
  16. Spend time with a pet
  17. Go into nature
  18. Cook
  19. Pray
  20. Drink tea
  21. Close your eyes and think about your favorite place
  22. Close your eyes and think about the people that mean the most to you
  23. Color a coloring page
  24. Play a board game
  25. Watch a movie
  26. Do a gratitude exercise
  27. Sing
  28. Dance
  29. Watch Netflix
  30. Play video games
  31. Clean
  32. Aromatherapy
  33. Stretch
  34. Tell yourself positive affirmations
  35. Watch videos of cute animals
  36. Download and try a new mental health app
  37. Create a vision board for your future goals
  38. Scrapbook
  39. Go to a museum
  40. Choose an area you have not been to and learn about fun activities to do there (e.g. Trip Advisor, Yelp, etc.)
  41. Listen to a podcast
  42. Eat healthy food slowly and take extra time to think about the taste
  43. Put cold water on your face
  44. Take a nap
  45. Watch inspirational videos
  46. Send someone a message telling them something you appreciate about them
  47. Get a haircut
  48. Go for a walk
  49. Go to a coffee shop
  50. Do a crossword puzzle

You may find it helpful to create your own list of your favorite coping skills (whether they are from this list or not), as it can sometimes be hard to remember everything you tried and enjoyed in the past.

We wish you the best with coping and self care!