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Healthy Coping

No matter how healthy and strong-willed a person is, there will be a time in everybody’s life when they will need to cope with something difficult. Some ways we cope are healthy and build resilience, while others simply help us avoid the real problems or encourage destructive behaviors. Mental health symptoms can begin with stress triggering chemicals in the brain. Coping skills are methods to deal with stressful situations. The goal is to reduce stress and restore the chemical balance in the brain. 

Coping is not numbing feelings. Numbing is actively doing something in an effort to avoid feeling discomfort. Negative coping actions offer only temporary relief, if any. Ignoring or covering up how you feel does not solve the problem, and the next time it happens, you will still have no way of dealing with it.

Examples of negative coping:

  • Drugs
  • Excessive alcohol
  • Self-mutilation
  • Ignoring or bottling up feelings
  • Taking sedatives
  • Taking stimulants
  • Over working
  • Avoiding your problems
  • Denial
  • Having time to yourself
  • Physical activity or exercise
  • Reading
  • Spending time with friends
  • Finding humor
  • Spending time on your hobbies
  • Spirituality
  • Quality time with your pets
  • Getting a good night’s sleep
  • Accept compliments when they are given to you
  • Be sure to make time for your loved ones
  • Give support to others when needed and accept support from others when needed
  • Create and stick to a realistic budget
  • Volunteer in your community
  • Find ways to manage your stress on a regular basis
  • Share your burdens with others, especially those who have been through the same things
  • Identify and address your shifting moods
  • Learn how to be at peace with yourself

Blake Flannery’s (2016) master list of coping methods and skills

  • Write, draw, paint, photography
  • Play an instrument, sing, dance, act
  • Take a shower or a bath
  • Garden
  • Talk a walk, or go for a drive
  • Watch television or a movie
  • Watch cute kitten/puppy videos on YouTube
  • Play a game
  • Go shopping
  • Clean or organize your environment
  • Read
  • Take a break or vacation
  • Pray or meditate
  • Enjoy nature
  • Get involved in a worthy cause
Social/Interpersonal Coping
  • Talk to someone you trust
  • Set boundaries and say ‘no’
  • Write a note to someone you care about
  • Be assertive 
  • Use humor
  • Spend time with friends and/or family
  • Serve someone in need
  • Care for or play with a pet
  • Role-play challenging situations with others
  • Encourage others
Cognitive Coping
  • Make a gratitude list
  • Brainstorm solutions
  • Lower your expectations of the situation
  • Keep an inspirational quote with you
  • Be flexible
  • Write a list of goals
  • Take a  class 
  • Act opposite of negative feelings
  • Write a list of pros and cons for decisions
  • Reward or pamper yourself when successful
  • Write a list of strengths
  • Accept a challenge with a positive attitude
Tension Releasers
  • Exercise or play sports
  • Catharsis (yelling into a pillow, punching a punching bag)
  • Cry 
  • Laugh
  • Get enough sleep
  • Eat healthy foods
  • Limit Caffeine
  • Deep/slow breathing
Limit Setting
  • Drop some involvement
  • Prioritize important tasks
  • Use assertive communication
  • Schedule time for yourself


Links to various resources on the topics discuss on this page. 

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