Coping skills is a term that is brought up frequently in counseling and in the mental health community, often in reference to how important it is to have healthy responses to life’s stressors. Learning to overcome obstacles and challenges in ways that build resilience is a key factor to living a happy, balanced life. ‘Developing effective coping skills’ is a goal that is seen quite frequently in the mental health practice, and one that we bring up often to clients, but sometimes it is helpful to discuss what the phrase actually means, why it is important, and some examples of what they can be.
Most simply put, coping skills are methods used to face adversity; whether facing a stressful situation, handling anxiety, taking action, being flexible, or letting go. There are many types of coping skills such as mindfulness, distraction techniques, thought stopping, or emotional awareness. For example, mindfulness could include meditation, breathing exercises or yoga.
Distraction could be reading, movies, music, art, puzzles, sports, etc. or anything that redirects attention away from the stressor and into a productive or soothing activity. Thought stopping is being able to recognize faulty logic or distressing negative thought patterns in one’s self and either examining it more closely and reshaping it, or putting an end to it. Different techniques are effective in different situations and can also vary greatly for different individuals.
One of the biggest reasons why developing healthy coping skills is so important is because the alternative – unhealthy coping skills – can be incredibly destructive. These can include substance use such as drugs or alcohol, reckless behavior, indulgences such as over- eating or over-spending, self-isolation, or self-harm. It is unfortunately quite common in the mental health field to encounter people who have made difficult situations far worse due to their destructive coping patterns. Unhealthy coping behaviors can often offer immediate gratification which is why they can sometimes seem appealing in the moment, but the lasting consequences are far worse long term.
Breaking old habits can sometimes be the most challenging part of any new behavior. When we have trained ourselves to react a certain way to stress, it can be very difficult to break free of old coping methods and form new ones. Like any new skill, the more we practice, the better we become, and in time, ideally, we will learn to automatically turn to new healthy coping skills instead of old destructive ones. The better equipped we are to handle life’s obstacles, the happier and healthier we will be.
For a list of healthy coping skills, click here:
New Heights Counseling services Fort Walton, Niceville, and surrounding communities. If you’re interested in developing coping skills approach to your everyday lifestyle our therapists are here for you. Visit our website and book your appointment today. New Heights Counseling