Resources & Education
Building Your Toolbox: Healthy Coping Skills
Posted by Kristen Fitzgerald on 7/22/2022
Living with mental illness is not easy and can prove to be a consistent problem without a clear solution. Treatments such as medication and psychotherapy are effective in relieving symptoms of mental illness, but it would also be beneficial to know what to do on your own to promote self-regulation. Developing healthy coping skills can help you tolerate, minimize, and deal with stressful life events or various symptoms of anxiety, depression, or PTSD. Managing these symptoms will help you feel better physically and psychologically, as well as positively impact your ability to perform your best.
Here are some coping skills you can try:
- Breathing exercises
- Slow, even breaths will send a message to your brain that everything is okay or will be soon. Before you know it, your heart will slow its pace and you will begin to relax.
- Follow a “4-7-8 breathing rhythm
- Breathe in for 4 seconds
- Hold the breath for 7 seconds
- Breathe out for 8 seconds
- Here is an example of a breathing exercise you can follow at home: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qTN_MtV5TFw
- Exercise not only benefits our physical well-being, but also our mental well-being. Moving your body will release dopamine, the “happy” hormone, which will leave you feeling better. Examples of exercise include:
- Nature walk
- Going for a run or jog
- Going for a bicycle ride
- Playing tennis
- Going to the gym
- Going swimming
- Practicing mindfulness strategies are all about being ‘present’ by connecting with one or more of your five senses. They are sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. Examples of mindfulness:
- Focus on three things you can hear, three things you can smell, and three things your body can physically feel.
- While eating, describe your food using your five senses. What does it taste like? What does it smell like? Does it make a sound when you chew?
- Mental reframing
- This involves taking an emotion or stressor and thinking of it in a different way. For example, getting stuck in traffic can cause you to think “Ugh, this is horrible. I am going to be late because of this”. Or you can reframe that thought, which can look like, “This traffic is bad, but I will still get to where I am going. There is nothing I can do about it, so I will just listen to music.” This approach will challenge the negative thoughts and beliefs that contribute towards your distress. Learning to recognize distorted thinking, you can feel more resilient and optimistic about life events that may have previously caused you stress and worry.
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- This is a relation technique that aims to relieve muscle tension that comes about as a reaction to fear or anxiety. This approach involves going through all the main muscles in your body and sequentially tensing and relaxing them. For example, try tensing your right leg for 10 seconds, and then relax your leg.
- Here is an example of PMR: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q_diV-uqV9w
Just as people do not all learn the same, we do not all cope the same. There are many other forms of coping skills that you can explore. Follow the link to see what else you can try to alleviate your mental health symptoms and promote self-regulation!