Even if you know what coping skills are and when/how to use them, it can still be hard to know what works for you. This can be daunting when there are so many coping skills out there, but the best way to find effective coping skills for yourself is through trial and error. There isn’t just one right way to have or use coping skills, but a good rule of them for a skill’s effectiveness for you is simply noticing your response. If it makes you feel better, it’s a good match- although you may resonate with some more than others. I’ve created this guide to break down skills for you to try based on personality/characteristics to make finding skills that work for you easier and more personalized! Here they are:
P.S. If you haven’t read the Coping Skills Guide: Part 1, check that out before continuing! This guide is designed to help you find what works for you, but it doesn’t mean you can’t try all of these coping skills. Breaking them down this way allowed me to highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the skills and match them to personalities I feel will respond well to them, but it’s not meant to say you can only fit into one category or only use those skills. If you see more than one set of traits that describe you, definitely give those other skills a try!
If you’re creative/free-spirited/energetic…
Engage your creativity by painting, drawing, crafting, etc.
Distracting yourself with a creative, expressive activity will allow you to distract your mind and engage in something you really like. There are a lot of options for people who are naturally creative when it comes to coping skills: painting, drawing/coloring, sewing, gardening, writing, and baking are all great examples. Using a creative outlet or project as a distraction is a coping skill because sometimes there are problems/emotions you can’t do anything about (whether it be because you literally can’t or because you need to cool down first, etc.) and this method allows for a lot of expression and emotional release while taking your mind off of the problem. An example of when to use this coping skill would be if you ate a fear food and are uncomfortable afterwards, distracting yourself may be helpful. Another example would be if you’re waiting on a stressful call/grade/news/whatever and need to take your mind off of it in a healthy and positive way.
Meditation can take a lot of work to get comfortable with and imaginative people may have a hard time calming their minds, but that is exactly why I think mediation can be a great tool. I have a lot of trouble quieting my thoughts because I’m always thinking about my next idea or thing to do- but meditation allows me to channel that creative thinking by visualizing whatever the specific meditation is asking me to and, at the same time, clear my mind. Meditation can be helpful when trying to calm/ground yourself when feeling anxious, powerless, overwhelmed, or annoyed.
Try 4×4 (“box”) breathing
For this coping skill all you have to do is breathe in four counts and breathe out four counts, repeating several times. It may help to visualize the sides of a square or box. This breathing exercise has been shown to reduce symptoms of physical stress in the body, positively impact emotions, increase mental clarity, and improve further reactions to stress.
Give yourself a pep talk
It can be easy to give our friends and family all the love and encouragement, but it can also be easy to forget to do the same for ourselves! You can do this in front of a mirror, in your head, or by writing it out, but the goal is the same: deliver some positive self-talk. You can choose to flip the dialogue from negative thoughts, for example, instead of saying, “I failed so I am a failure and can’t do anything right” you say, “I didn’t do as well as I hoped/wanted to, but I did my best and can try again next time.” You could also just hype yourself up with compliments, gratitude, and words of affirmation! Either way, this skill is a great way for outgoing and enthusiastic people to put that same energy and love inward.
If you’re organized/strong-willed/ambitious…
Go for a walk/hike
It can be hard for super analytical and organized people to step away from work or “productive” things, but it’s important to take a mental (and physical) break- which is why going for a walk is a great coping skill. You can go alone or with a friend, but be mindful of what you need based on what you’re feeling. If you’re struggling with perfectionist/rigid thinking, feeling frustrated, or feeling anxious- you may just need to let your mind wander. Take a deep breath, take a random route, listen to and watch the world go by. If you’re having a hard time focusing, feeling anxious as a result or feeling distant- try and be mindful throughout the walk. Incorporate box breathing (described above), notice five things, listen to music, and actively decide what route you want to take.
Visualize a stop sign
Making a mistake can cause major anxiety, overthinking, and intrusive thoughts for people who struggle with anxiety or rigidity. This coping skill helps to stop these negative thoughts and clear your mind. All you do is close your eyes or soften your gaze and visualize a stop sign, repeating the word “stop” aloud or mentally until the intrusive/negative thoughts leave your mind. In my opinion, the stop sign is a widely recognized symbol and adds a layer of authority since we’re all trained to obey them, which makes this visualization great for those who are strong-willed. It’s bold, it’s powerful, and you know you have to stop!
Embrace your strengths and complete a small, SMART goal
Checking something off your to-do list or wants list can be a great way to boost confidence, decrease your nerves, and put you in a good mood. If you’re feeling down you don’t want to add stress by setting or tackling a huge, daunting goal, but you can complete a SMART one. SMART stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time bound. For example I could say, “My goal is to organize my closet today while I’m home since it’s been something I’ve wanted to do for a while.” Setting small goals can definitely be feeling down and offer a sense of accomplishment, but this doesn’t mean this should be your only coping skill or that you can’t UN-set/change goals. You have every right to change your mind, focus inward, and start fresh. Just remember to set goals that line up with your wants/needs and values- big or small!
Take a cold shower/put your face into ice water
The freezing cold sensation from your shower or placing your face into water will shock you back into the present moment and help calm you down by activating your vagus nerve. This skill is practical, easy, and your body’s natural response takes care of most of the work, making this a great skill for serious minds- even if you get a little wet.
If you’re always busy…
Take deep breaths
Whether you take in one giant breath and let out a huge sigh or try box breathing, breath is very powerful! It can calm your body and mind down, making it a powerful coping skill. Breathing can also be done discreetly and on the go, which is perfect for busy people!
Use your screen time wisely
Even if you’re busy, you’re likely on your phone/laptop a lot in between responsibilities. Watch how you’re using your screen time. If you’re engaging with things/people/sites that don’t actually serve you and make you feel good or are mindlessly scrolling through your feed- it’s time to change things up. Lots of coping skills (even coloring!) can be done on your device and on the go. Read articles you care about, listen to music, find a good podcast, call a friend, use a meditation app, or put the phone down altogether. It’s no secret social media and screen time has powerful repercussions on our mood, self-esteem, and mental health- so use your screen time to benefit you or not at all.
The first two suggestions I have for busy people help you fit coping skills into your life, but this is your reminder to REST. You deserve it! Rest your mind and your body. You can do this by taking a nap, going to bed on time, watching your favorite show/movie, or taking a bath. If your schedule is so packed you haven’t had time to rest, schedule it in! Do what you have to do to use your coping skills and do some self-care.
All of the coping skills mentioned in this article can and should be used by anyone but hopefully the matching of coping skills to personality I did gives you an idea on what works for you and why. Coping skills are important for everyone to have, whether you struggle with an eating disorder/other mental illness or are trying to improve your emotional regulation skills. If you liked this post be sure to follow my blog via email and follow me on IG @recovroad!
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All content on RecovRoad is based on personal experiences, research, and ideas. Please do not repost/share without credit and be aware that nothing on this blog takes the place of professional help. This is also a formal trigger warning: content about and relating to eating disorders may be triggering to survivors. Please see the “RESOURCES” tab, call the National Eating Disorders Association hotline at 800-931-2237, and remember to take care of yourself.