50 Positive Coping Skills To Try When Times Get Tough

50 Positive Coping Skills To Try When Times Get Tough

Talking to your best friend is sometimes all the therapy you need.

Being that May 22nd through May 26th is Mental Health Awareness Week, I thought I’d write this to help those who are suffering with mental illnesses learn to cope with stress, anxiety, depression, self-harm and whatever else they are dealing with.

There is a misconception fed by the mainstream media’s mockery of self-help and therapeutic strategies that ‘coping’ is only necessary in the wake of significant trauma or tragedy. Furthermore, we as a culture have grown to believe that coping only looks one certain way -- talking out our feelings reclined on a big, brown leather couch. And that is oh-so far from the truth. Healthy coping skills are any actions you individually take to lower your stress level in a healthy, nondestructive manner in any situation. That situation can be something life-altering, like the loss of a friend or family member, or it can be something as small as stressing over a test. Coping can look completely different for every person depending on their anxiety level in the situation and their personality. It’s time to remove the stigma from coping skills. We all use them more often than we may know. Coping is really just doing something for yourself to help curb stress and to help distract yourself from negative thoughts and urges. You are worth it, so allow yourself to explore what works for you. Some people hate shopping. Do what you love for your own mental health. The stress can wait. Here is a list of 50 healthy and positive coping skills:

  1. Read
  2. Go shopping! Retail therapy is the best therapy!
  3. Clean or organize your area
  4. Exercise! Go for a run or even a walk. Physical activity is important when dealing with mental health.
  5. Study
  6. Make a gratitude journal. There is always something to be thankful for!
  7. Scream into your pillow. Sometimes all you need is a good scream to help you feel better!
  8. Call a friend. A best friend is basically like a therapist, but for free :)
  9. Eat healthy foods
  10. Get enough sleep
  11. Get involved in a worthy cause
  12. Volunteer
  13. Enjoy nature
  14. Write a list of strengths
  15. Journal. I always feel better after I write!
  16. Take a hot and relaxing bath
  17. Cry
  18. Laugh
  19. Go for a Starbucks run. A venti mango black tea or strawberry acaí refresher can always make me feel better!
  20. Watch a movie or your favorite show on Netflix. I’m currently watching Scandal and I highly recommend it!
  21. Spend time with friends or family
  22. Listen to music
  23. Give yourself a mani-pedi and makeover
  24. Draw, paint, or color
  25. Sing, dance, or act
  26. Write poetry or songs
  27. Make your bed
  28. Sit in the sun
  29. Squeeze an ice cube
  30. Chew gum
  31. Suck on a peppermint
  32. Drink tea
  33. Yoga
  34. Rearrange your bedroom
  35. Self-care
  36. Make friendship bracelets
  37. Find a quiet and safe place
  38. Wash and style your hair
  39. Watch the clouds float by
  40. Stargaze
  41. Bake
  42. Contact a hotline or therapist
  43. Meditate
  44. Take deep breaths
  45. Accept and become aware of what you cannot control in a situation, and focus on what you can control
  46. Create a schedule for your day
  47. Go for a drive
  48. Make realistic goals
  49. Stop dwelling on the past
  50. Think positively

There are plenty more positive coping skills, but these are the ones I have found most helpful when dealing with hard times.

If you or anyone you know is struggling, please take advantage of the following:

Mental Illness Hotline: 800-950-NAMI

Crisis Call Center: 800-273-8255 or text ANSWER to 839863

Suicide Hotline: 800-784-2433

Eating Disorder Association Hotline: 800-931-2237

National Mental Health Association Hotline: 800-273-8255

Cover Image Credit: W Grane

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It’s Not You, It’s My Anxiety

I'm not trying to be rude, sometimes I just can't function normally.

Flashback to 2010. I was starting a new school. As any person, all I wanted to do was make a good first impression and make friends. The second day of school, a girl (who later became a close friend) looked me dead in the eyes and said, “I can’t believe you’re actually talking to me. The first day of school, you seemed so standoffish, and you couldn’t even look anyone in the eye. I thought you were too good for me.”

I was shocked. Everyone who knows me knows I’m not like that at all…it just takes me longer than the average person to feel comfortable in certain situations. This wasn’t the first or last time someone made that comment about me, and I wasn’t shocked that I received it. My “standoffishness” stems from anxiety.

Anxiety is unique to each individual who has to struggle with it on a daily basis, so I can’t speak for everyone as I begin to describe mine. My anxiety conjures feelings of nervousness, apprehension, and unease. It is usually triggered by foreign, new, or uncomfortable situations. I will start to overthink all the worst possible outcomes, and freak out.

I’ve never been the type of person that is completely confident or fearless going into something new. I’m hesitant, with fear that I could possibly mess up or do wrong. Sometimes, I think my opinions aren’t welcome, so I don’t bother speaking up. This can cause me stress, and my way of dealing with that is to shut down. I just need a little more time to warm up to something.

If I’m quiet or I look disinterested, that’s just my body reacting to some inner turmoil going on inside me. It’s not anything that’s making me angry, and no, I don’t hate you. I’m literally going through a mental struggle and it’s hard.

Luckily, I’m not this way all the time. When I’m in my element and comfortable, I can properly function like a normal human being. Please don’t take my off-putting behaviors too personally because it’s not you, it’s my anxiety.

Cover Image Credit: Colette Wright

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You Should Never Be Hard On Someone With Anxiety

Panicking isn’t something we look forward to.

It’s definitely easier to judge someone with anxiety and point out their every flaw when you don’t have it. We understand that it’s difficult to understand someone with anxiety; we don’t understand it ourselves. Imagine living a life where you feel as if you’re constantly in danger. You don’t get a second of peace or any quiet time. Turning on the TV just gives your eyes something to focus on while your mind wanders off into deep thoughts loud enough to block out the sound.

You should never be hard on someone with anxiety because no one is harder on them than they are on themselves. You trying to push them isn’t helping either of you because to them, they are trying. Their version of trying won’t be the same as yours and that’s okay. However, you shouldn’t expect them to try as much as you think you would.

You can’t physically see what’s going on in their head. Don’t downplay someone’s thoughts, especially someone who can’t do much to defend themselves when they can’t put into words what they are going through because it’s irrational. Their train of thought is something you can’t even begin to sympathize with.

If it were up to them, they wouldn’t have anxiety at all.

Which brings me to my next point. I am tired of hearing people say that we have an “off and on switch”. If any of us had an “on and off switch” why would we ever bother turning it back on. It’s not like anyone would choose to live a life full of fear. If anyone knew what thoughts went through my head on a daily basis, they’d understand that they’re more than just your everyday thoughts.

If someone is having a brave day, don’t you dare belittle them by telling them what they could’ve improved on or how there was no point in being anxious. Hello, it’s out of our control! How dare you have the audacity to tell us how you think we should handle it? Anxiety is the hardest thing I have ever tried to explain to anyone.

The truth is, no one will ever know the thoughts I (we) have on a normal, everyday basis, and to get out of bed every day and put on a brave face is sometimes crippling.

People with anxiety know how hard it is to do the simplest of things. We also know our thoughts are irrational, that it’s almost impossible for our wildest thought to actually happen. That is not enough. Panicking isn’t something we look forward to and you can call me whatever names help you sleep at night, but you’re damn wrong if you think I (we) don’t push myself (ourselves) at least one time a day. Just because you don’t see any progress doesn’t mean we aren’t progressing. We hit our own milestones and they won’t mean much to anyone but ourselves.

For anyone with anxiety, I hope you find some peace in this. I hope you know you are not alone. Don’t listen to anyone telling you that you aren’t where you are supposed to be. You keep going at your own pace. There is no guide to this life, and there are most certainly no deadlines.

Even on your weakest day, you get a little bit stronger.

Don’t lose hope. Always remember, it is okay to not be okay all the time. Let it out, do what you have to do to pick yourself back up. The cure is within you. Don’t let other people make you feel like you are not doing enough.

To all of the parents with a son/daughter going through this, don’t be so hard on him/her. They are trying to cope with it, as well as understand it. (21 years into this and I still haven’t managed to fix myself.) It does take time. There will be days where he/she won’t want to talk about their day. They will shut you out every time you bring it up because to them, they are disappointing you, and you as their parent, are who they want to make the proudest.

Even with the smallest improvement, make sure it doesn’t go unnoticed.

To all of the siblings, friends, families, boyfriends/girlfriends supporting someone with anxiety, thank you. Thank you for not turning your back when you found out or witnessed us having panic attacks.

I know that we say “no” a lot, from going out for food, to going to your house or to going out in general, but please, don’t stop inviting us. It’s hard to decline an invite, but it is much worse when you’re having a brave day and have nowhere to go.

We notice when we are no longer asked to go out, it does affect us. We appreciate it more than you’ll understand.

Cover Image Credit: Alexus Ruckle

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