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.
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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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A Love Letter To The Girl Who Cares Too Much About Everyone But Herself

You, the girl with a heart full of love and no place big enough to store it all.

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Our generation is so caught up in this notion that it's "cool" not to care about anything or anyone. I know you've tried to do just that.

I'm sure there was a brief moment where you genuinely believed you were capable of not caring, especially since you convinced everyone around you that you didn't. But that just isn't true, is it? Don't be ashamed of this, don't let anyone ridicule you for having emotions.

After everything life has put you through, you have still remained soft.

This is what makes you, you. This is what makes you beautiful. You care so deeply and love so boldly and it is incredible, never let the world take this from you.

Have Your Voice Heard: Become an Odyssey Creator

You are the girl who will give and give and give until you have absolutely nothing left. Some may see this as a weakness, an inconvenience, the perfect excuse to walk all over you. I know you try to make sense of it all, why someone you cared so much about would treat you the way they did.

You'll make excuses for them, rationalize it and turn it all around on yourself.

You'll tell yourself that maybe just maybe they will change even though you know deep down they won't. You gave them everything you had and it still feels as if they took it all and ran. When this happens, remind yourself that you are not a reflection of those who cannot love you. The way that people treat you does not define who you are. Tell yourself this every day, over and over until it sticks. Remind yourself that you are gold, darling, and sometimes they will prefer silver and that is OK.

I know you feel guilty when you have to say no to something, I know you feel like you are letting everyone you love down when you do. Listen to me, it is not your responsibility to tend to everyone else's feelings all the time. By all means, treat their feelings with care, but remember it is not the end of the world when you cannot help them right away.

Remember that it is OK to say no.

You don't have to take care of everyone else all the time. Sometimes it's OK to say no to lunch with your friends and just stay home in bed to watch Netflix when you need a minute for yourself. I know sometimes this is much easier said than done because you are worried about letting other people down, but please give it a try.

With all of this, please remember that you matter. Do not be afraid to take a step back and focus on yourself. You owe yourself the same kind of love and patience and kindness and everything that you have given everyone else. It is OK to think about and put yourself first. Do not feel guilty for taking care of yourself. You are so incredibly loved even when it doesn't feel like it, please always remember that. You cannot fill others up when your own cup is empty. Take care of yourself.

Cover Image Credit: Charcoal Alley

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A Day In The Life Of A College Student Who Has Anxiety

You know it isn't a big deal, but your anxiety doesn't.

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You wake up an hour earlier than you meant to, and you know you'll be falling asleep halfway through your first class of the day, but you can't sleep now. Not since you've seen that your alarm will be going off in an hour anyway. You can already feel the twisting in your stomach, the anticipatory anxiety as you contemplate your plans for the day.

You climb out of bed and walk over to your dresser, where you keep the bottle of pills that keep you from having panic attacks between classes. The medication really does help sometimes, but it's hard to suppress something like anxiety. All you have to do is let yourself think about anything—a certain person, a plan you made with a friend, a memory, even a song. Boom, your stomach hurts and you feel those familiar trills in your chest, the jitters in your fingers, the numbness that makes you think maybe you're going to have a heart attack this time.

You take the pill with a couple sips of water, then get dressed. Your outfit for the day is already lying out on the top of the dresser—you can't fall asleep at night until you've got everything ready for the morning. You leave your residence hall 45 minutes before your first class. Not because you plan on getting breakfast (you can't eat in the mornings because anxiety turns your stomach into what feels like a vat of boiling acid), but because you're too anxious to show up to class right on time. What if you fall on the way? What if a sidewalk is closed? What if the bus doesn't show up? There are too many variables for you to justify leaving anything to chance.

You are tired when you get to your class building, but you can't just grab a cup of coffee. That caffeine would turn you into even more of a mess, and that isn't what you need today. You're all too familiar with the chest pain and trembling that comes along with caffeinated drinks. Just water for you today.

Once class starts (30 minutes after you reach the classroom), you feel okay. Finally, a reprieve from the feeling that you're either going to vomit or experience a chest explosion. Obviously, you prepared for class. Your homework is done, although the quality of your work really depends on how bad your anxiety was when you did it—did you spend time really trying to comprehend the work, or did you just do it as quickly as you could so you could tick that assignment off your to-do list?

At lunch, you know you should eat, so you grab a plate of whatever they're serving in the dining hall today. Your friend already has a table, bless her, so you set your plate down and push your broccoli around while you wait for your stomach to settle. You take small sips of water in the meantime, listening to your friend talk about her day.

"Oh," she says, "are we still going to that concert tonight?"

Oh no. At some point in the great race to do all your homework last night, you'd forgotten to jot down your concert plans in your planner. A stupid mistake.

"Yes," you say, pretending everything is okay, but already this spontaneous change in today's plan has ensured that you won't be eating lunch today.

Your last class is a small one, a discussion-based class. You rarely work up the courage to speak, and that poses a problem for your participation grade. It isn't that you don't have anything to say—you read the class text and always find interesting points in the reading. You just feel an encroaching panic attack whenever you consider speaking up, and you're too nervous to inform your professor of your anxiety. Participation is only 15% of your grade, so you can still get a B even if she gives you a zero for not speaking up. You use this rationalization to convince yourself you don't have to talk to her.

You have three hours between your last class and the concert, so you decide to spend two hours studying and give yourself an hour for dinner with your friend. You're finally a little hungry, so you buy a bag of chips from the little store by the Student Union. You snack on these while you study, but the closer you get to the concert, the more anxiety you have.

The concert is at six, and by five o'clock you can barely breathe. You're very aware that it's just a concert, and you're probably going to enjoy it. You know your friend will be there, so you won't be alone. You know it isn't a big deal. But your anxiety doesn't care. You can rationalize about it all you want, but your chest will still ache and you'll still feel lightheaded.

When you meet your friend at the dining hall again, you realize your anxiety has been a little alleviated now that you're not alone to think about the concert. You're able to eat an entire ham sandwich and a salad. You and your friend finish up dinner and you're feeling better. So long as you're not stuck in your anticipation, you're fine.

At a quarter to six, you and your friend head to the building where the a capella group will be performing. As you expected, the concert is great and you enjoy yourself. It's over at 7:30, so your friend heads back to her apartment and you return to your residence hall. You shower and then sit down to do some more homework. Now that you're done for the day, you can eat, so you snack on a banana and a granola bar.

When you've done all your homework, you brush your teeth and set out tomorrow's outfit. You take another of your pills. You spend several minutes trying to make sure you haven't forgotten something important, then you get into bed. You don't have any extraordinary plans for tomorrow, but for some reason, as soon as your head hits the pillow, you feel that familiar turning in your stomach.

After 30 minutes of hopelessly lying completely still in an attempt to tire out your overactive brain, you sigh and get out of bed. You rifle through your dresser and grab your bottle of melatonin. You take one of the tiny tablets, then get back under your covers. Tomorrow will be easier.

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