Coping Skills 101

We’ve all heard the term “Coping Skills” before, but what does it really mean and why is it important? Coping skills help us tolerate, decrease, and deal with stressful situations in our daily lives. While it’s normal to experience stress, mental health coping strategies are great for everyone to have in their back pocket for those times when stress gets to be too taxing. Whether it’s relationship difficulties, a demanding job, or family conflict, coping strategies can assist with emotional regulation and decompression while also promoting resilience.

According to the American Institute of Stress Statistics, approximately 33% of Americans report feeling extreme stress, 77% report stress that affects their physical health, and 73% report facing impacts of mental health because of stress in their life. Stress can cause changes in appetite, energy levels, and sleep patterns, as well as worsening chronic health problems and increasing irritability. When not taken care of, these conditions can be scary. The good news is, consistently implemented coping strategies can decrease the side effects of stress.

As important as coping skills are, it can seem daunting to implement them on a daily basis. Finding 1-2 coping strategies that work for you may take some trial and error, but it’s worth your time in the end. Here are some simple ways you can begin managing your stress.

Healthy Coping Strategies:

  • Take care of your body — eat healthy when you can, aim for 7-8 hours of sleep, move more & sit less
  • Connect with others — maintain emotional support from a person or group of people you trust
  • Take a break from news stories
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Carve out time for your favorite hobby/join a group that shares similar passions
  • Play with a pet
  • Practice mindfulness — take time to stretch, breathe deeply, or meditate
  • Keep a journal — entries don’t have to be long, just sit with yourself for 5-10 minutes a day and journal your thoughts
  • Connect with community-based or faith-based organizations
  • Keep up-to-date with regular doctor’s appointments
  • Work with a therapist to identify the biggest challenges in your life, learn what your triggers are, and find solutions

It’s imperative to remember that unhealthy or destructive coping strategies exist as well. An unhealthy coping tool is one that achieves its desired effect in the short-term, but does not resolve the problem in the long-term and may, in fact, create more harmful outcomes for you and the people around you.

Unhealthy Coping Strategies:

  • Procrastination
  • Sleeping too often or too little
  • Relying on substance use
  • Smoking
  • Increased screen time or social media engagement
  • Overeating or under-eating habits
  • Impulsive spending
  • Social withdrawal from others

Remember: Quick fixes aren’t permanent

Keep in mind that healthy coping skills may not lead to instant gratification, but they DO lead to long-lasting positive outcomes. Not every coping skill is going to work for everyone so take some time to find 1-2 that work for you. Remember to breathe and be kind to yourself. You can do this!

About the Author

Kayla Smith is a Licensed Master Social Worker who joined Waypoint Wellness Center in November of 2022. Kayla sees children, teens, adolescents, and adults for individual and family therapy. Therapy modalities she typically administers include motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioral therapy, solution-focused therapy, and play therapy. Kayla finds value in building positive and trusting therapeutic relationships with her patients and their families.

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