Diversifying your Coping Skills
By Brayton Wooters Graduate Student Rehabilitation Counseling, Maryville University & Co-Host Mentor Moments Podcast
With a new year upon us, now is a great time to take a look back and congratulate yourself on pushing through what may have been a challenging and stressful year! Like most individuals, you have more than likely resolved to developing some new hobbies and activities. In other words, you have probably found some new coping skills! Coping skills can be defined as “an adaptation to environmental stress that is based on conscious or unconscious choice and that enhances control over behavior or gives psychological comfort.” For some, this looks like curling up on the sofa and watching some Netflix. For others, it looks like calling up a friend, relative, or loved one just to chat. Whatever way you do it, working through life’s messiness requires skills and activities that can calm us or allow us to adapt to new scenarios and stressors.
When looking at our day-to-day, most of our time is spent either at work, taking care of loved ones, or just navigating the busyness of life. When time does become available to practice some self-care, it can be easy to limit ourselves to only one or two activities. What happens to our weekly Netflix night when the WIFI shuts down? Or how does one process new emotions if there is nobody available to chat on the phone? How can you exercise and sweat the stress away if the nearby gym is closed? For these reasons, it is recommended that individuals pursue a diverse array of activities and hobbies that can be used as coping skills. Together, we will go through six different categories of coping skills.
Tip #1 - Self-Soothing
As the name suggests, these activities use our “self” to achieve a calmer state of mind. This is often done by utilizing our five senses. Examples of self-soothing activities include squeezing a stress ball, listening to our favorite music, looking through photographs that make us happy, eating our favorite candy, or lighting a candle that smells good.
Tip #2 - Emotional Awareness
Emotional awareness activities are utilized to help us identify and express our emotions. This can be done verbally through talk therapy, or by writing in a journal, using art as medium, or even writing songs that capture the emotions we are feeling.
Tip #3 - Mindfulness
These activities are often used to center ourselves and ground us to the present moment. These tools can include meditation, grounding objects such as a chair or yoga mat, breathing exercises, and guided muscle relaxation.
Tip #4 - Distraction
Sometimes it helps to participate in a hobby that can take our minds off of a problem for a while. These activities can include puzzles, reading, crafts, movies, crocheting, video games, and social media.
Tip #5 - Opposite Action
It can be easy to let our minds take over and send us down a path of negative thoughts. Opposite action skills allow us to do something that is the opposite of these impulses. This can look like positive affirmations from self or others. This may also look like searching for inspiration and motivational statements.
Tip #6- Crisis Plan
There may be a rare occasion in which these different coping skills are either unavailable to us, or are not effective in the moment. In this case, it is always helpful to have a plan in place to get in touch with supports, resources, or loved ones that can be there for you. This may look like a list of contact information of friends, family members, therapists, and other professionals.
The beginning of a new year is a great opportunity to take new steps out of our comfort zones and possibly pursue new hobbies and activities. With that in mind, we encourage our readers to be cognizant of your supports, and how you can continue to build a diverse set of skills and activities that will make 2022 the best year yet!