Many people have heard the word “cope” but are not told how it works or the different strategies the mechanism has. Coping is extremely personal just like the journey to recovery.
I want to point out here that coping isn’t explicitly for people with a mental illness. Everyone needs to cope in their daily life.This is a mental health strategy that is both necessary & universal.
I’ve been studying coping strategies for over nine years and I’m still learning every day. As I said before coping is extremely personal and some of the strategies I use might not work for you – and that’s totally ok! We all have different personalities, experiences, likes, and dislikes. We get to use all of these to our advantage when we cope.
Coping strategies are necessary to try and live our best lives and if we do not cope we can become scared of our emotions, create unnecessary anxiety, avoid pleasures in life, and we could end up in a much more difficult place than we need to be.
Coping removes unnecessary pain.
When I first started coping I thought it was “lame” and that if I was a real man I could handle any emotion!…Obviously, that is false and I quickly learned that if I were to handle emotions coping is necessary and honestly sometimes it can be fun!
I have been treated through Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT). Most of these strategies come from the backgrounds of these specific therapy treatments, therefore, there are many more categories of coping but these are what I’ve personally found the most helpful.
This is one of the most common coping strategies that we sometimes without even noticing! Distraction is exactly what it sounds like and is distracting yourself from the situation or emotions. This can be occupying your hands, body, or brain. Anything that distracts you from the situation is the distraction!
My Personal Favourite Distraction: Getting in the passenger seat in a car and going for a long drive while blasting my music
Remember: you cannot avoid problems that arise in life 24/7. At some point you have to get back to the problem and create a solution, however, if the emotions are too strong in that moment distraction is one of the best coping strategies for wellness.
Mantra: Be. Here. Now.
Advanced: distraction can be used while in the midst of a crisis. Instead of focussing on the situation start to count your breaths mindfully. If we only focus on the present moment we can handle anything.
Watch or listen to a comedy show
Listen to powerful, uplifting music
Colour or write some Fan Fiction
Start a new hobby such as guitar or sketching
Binge on Netflix
Read a book
Clean the house or do some chores such as laundry or the dishes
Go for a walk
Finish up some homework
DIY decorating or cooking
Call or message a friend and talk about something other than the current situation
Play a video game (my favourite is TheSims)
Emotional awareness is creating a space to understand and analyze our emotions. We create a chain of events and start to analyze and understand why we are feeling this particular emotion. Skills like Check the Facts gives the ability to see logic rather than being stuck in emotional mind.
My Personal Favourite Emotional Awareness Skill: Most definitely ‘Check the Facts’! It creates a logical point of view to get me out of my emotional mind.
Remember: If the emotion is too strong to analyze in the moment move to another coping skill and come back to emotional awareness when you are ready
Mantra: I am not afraid of my emotions.
Advanced: Create a mood log and show it to your therapist to analyze at your next appointment
Check the Facts
People often confuse self-soothing with self-care. However, self-care is a preventative skill rather than in-the-moment soothing. I see self-soothing as my treat coping strategy. Its like getting a good report card in grade school and getting to decide what’s for dinner. You are working through this current emotion and you deserve to treat yourself. You’re doing amazing and deserve some nice soothing.
My Personal Favourite Self-Soothing Skill: I love walking to the local dog cafe and getting to cuddle all the pups having their coffee!
Remember: Self-soothing is an important skill and necessary!
Mantra: Treat yo’self!
Advanced: Create or look up a self-care challenge and Do something that is soothing everyday!
Take a warm bath
Have a cup of tea
Go for a walk
Try knitting or crocheting
Try a face mask
Get a massage
Paint your nails
Cuddle a pet
Mindfulness is probably the most important skill I’ll be talking about. Mindfulness is partially combined with every single one of these coping categories. We tend to look at our past or dread our future which creates unnecessary worry and fear. Mindfulness reminds us to stay in the moment we are in right now. If we come back to our breath and back to this moment we will be able to cope a lot easier. Mindfulness can be practised literally doing anything as long as your mind is in this moment.
My Personal Favourite Mindfulness Skill: Guided Meditation with Meditation Oasis
Remember: Mindfulness isn’t a strict practice but something to try and appreciate, if you are finding too many thoughts are arising then circle back to another skill.
Mantra: Inhale here, exhale now
Advanced: look into getting your yoga teaching license or go to meditation training.
Eat something slowly and take notice of the taste
Wash your hands and notice the temperature of the water
Count the different sounds you can hear around you
Smell different lotions and pick your favourite
Come back to the breath
Count your breath
Finger-paint and feel the art within your fingers
Sing and feel the emotions of the lyrics
Go to a yoga class or meditation group
Count the colours in the room
Opposite Action is the exact same as what it sounds like. When we practice opposite action, we are practicing doing the opposite of our impulses. This is helpful when we want to self-destruct or having negative impulses. The point is to release this intense emotion in a non-destructive way.
My Personal Favourite Opposite Action Skill: STOP is defiantly the most useful for me. I have a strategy of laying on the ground with all limbs heavy on the ground, closing my eyes, and being covered in blankets. It’s extremely helpful because I become too tired and comfortable to stand up and act on my impulses.
Remember: Opposite Action is only used when we want to self-destruct. If we are having impulses to “self-soothe” we defiantly want to go with that rather than the opposite action
Mantra: I have control over my actions…
Advanced: create a coping box for each specific intense emotion you want to release
Ripping blank paper
Throwing water balloons
Punching a punching bag
Go for a run
Draw on your skin with a washable pen
Dance to inspiring music
Tap into your creativity
Crisis intervention comes into play when we can no longer cope individually. Crisis interventions vary on location. Calling the local helpline, Kids Help Phone, CARE services, a local shelter, a friend or family member, or your local emergency department such as 911.
My Personal Favourite Crisis Intervention Skill: I personally like to call my sister who lives in British Columbia (I live in Canda) so we came up with the strategy to leave our phones on speaker so we can hear each other, we don’t even have to talk.
Remember: If you are at all in danger call 911 or visit your local emergency department ASAP.
Mantra: It’s ok.
Advanced: remember to have outpatient help or the help of a loved one if you are suffering. it is a helpful preventative skill to use.