Coping skills (also known as coping techniques or coping mechanisms) have become a part of many people’s vocabulary over the past year. Many people are talking about coping skills, but do they know what they are and how to use them? 

Coping skills are methods or approaches we can use to manage our emotions, decrease stress, and maintain balance. Coping skills, such as deep breathing, mindfulness exercises, or grounding techniques can be used when you are already feeling irritated, anxious, overwhelmed, sad, or stressed. Coping skills can also be used when you are in a neutral state and can be activities you do daily to keep your stress levels down. These coping skills may include adopting healthy eating habits, exercising, going to bed at an appropriate time, or reaching out to family or friends. 

All of the coping skills mentioned thus far are known as adaptive coping skills. Adaptive coping skills involve taking a healthy, reasonable, and direct approach to problems.  It is also important to mention that people often adopt what are known as maladaptive coping skills. Those may include substance use, overeating, risk-taking behavior, avoidance, and self-harm. These are short-term solutions and should be avoided.

It is good to have a variety of coping skills because what helps you manage your anger may not necessarily help you manage your stress. Deciding which coping skills will work for you will require some self-reflection and getting to know yourself. You may want to develop a list of coping skills that will allow you to implore them in different situations (driving in the car, at home, in public, etc.).

Some healthy coping skills you may want to add to your coping skills toolbox include:

  1. Yoga
  2. Journaling
  3. Painting
  4. Being with other people
  5. Watching TV
  6. Working on a project (car, art, home improvement)
  7. Listen to music
  8. Take a shower or bath
  9. Clean something
  10. Work outside
  11. Mediate
  12. Exercise
  13. Bake/cook
  14. Dance
  15. Color 
  16. Animal watch
  17. Take a walk
  18. Deep breathing 
  19. Get a manicure/pedicure 
  20. Aromatherapy 

If you try a variety of coping skills and they are not effective, you may want to consider group or individual therapy. You may also contact  NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness for support, services, and education in your area.


-Sybil Austin-McDowell