Coping Skills and Coping Strategies

How to build reliable and effective Coping Skills to manage your emotional health

Sean Alexander, LCSW

We often hear the term โ€œcoping skillsโ€, but it isnโ€™t always obvious exactly what that means. We might identify coping skills as things we do to distract, or minimize the discomfort we are feeling in the moment, by whatever is triggering us. At least as a concept, that is not too far off base in so far that "coping skills" are established to help us feel better.

Building reliable and truly effective coping skills requires us to know more about how to establish healthy coping, while recognizing when we are not coping in a healthy way.

This is where a valuable relationship with a counselor becomes essential in teaching you the fundamentals in creating coping skills that are not only healthy, but sustainable.

It is natural to want the quickest relief from what is making you uncomfortable or causing you pain. This is a human motivation. It is natural to not want to suffer.

However, the quickest way to relief is not always healthy for us in the long term. Iโ€™m going to outline some basic characteristics of unhealthy coping mechanisms that bring quick relief, but damage your Mental Health over time.

Characteristics of Unhealthy Coping Mechanisms:

๐Ÿ‘Ž๐Ÿผโ€”Coping strategies that condition us to AVOID our pain, anxiety, or the difficulties in our life, without facing the root of whatโ€™s chronically causing problems.

๐Ÿ‘Ž๐Ÿผโ€” Coping strategies that numb our pain. This can be drug use, alcohol use, hypersexuality, and even refusal to acknowledge a problem. It is not possible to selectively numb emotions. If we condition ourselves to not feel negative emotions, we also numb ourselves from the necessary positive emotions that are essential to feeling comfort, peace, and connection with others.

๐Ÿ‘Ž๐Ÿผโ€” Coping strategies that condition us to solely rely on reassurance from other people around us. Everybody likes and needs reassurance from time to time. But it is also essential to learn how to self-sooth independently.

๐Ÿ‘Ž๐Ÿผโ€” Coping strategies that reinforce our attempts to control everyone and everything in our environment so that we can ensure that things go our way. This can look like perfectionism, obsessive thinking, compulsive behavior, or "dominating" other people. This kind of coping can have a negative effect on the relationships we have with people that are important to us.

๐Ÿ‘Ž๐Ÿผโ€” coping strategies that condition us to avoid contact with other people and lead us to self-isolate. This behavior dramatically increases the severity of symptoms of depression, and anxiety. Often, the more we avoid the things that cause psychological discomfort, the easier we are triggered by the things we are sensitive to.

At this point you might see a common theme in the unhealthy coping strategies listed above. In one form or another they all encapsulate avoidance as a primary characteristic in dealing with unpleasant things in our life.

When I outline the characteristics of healthy coping skills, I like to emphasize the use of the word โ€œskillsโ€. Literally, choosing healthy behaviors and implementing them in your life is a โ€œskillโ€. It is something that is consciously done with intention, that establishes healthy automatic habits.

Characteristics of healthy coping skills:

๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผโ€” Coping skills that encourage us to set realistic expectations for our productivity, and performance in a way that encourages balance in the important realms of our lives. Those realms are work, school, relationships, and the pursuit of our personal interests. Setting realistic expectations combats the stress and pressure of perfectionism.

๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผโ€” Coping skills that encourage us to be honest with ourselves about our limitations and faults, in a way that is non-judgmental. This pushes us towards self-improvement in an affirmative way. Just because we are not perfect, doesnโ€™t mean that we canโ€™t be happy, loved and effective in our lives.

๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผโ€” Coping skills that help us learn acceptance of what we cannot control in our environment, or in those around us. Yet, that also build our confidence in setting appropriate boundaries that are safe, healthy and encourage our happiness.

๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผโ€” Coping skills that build our ability to handle stressful life situations by innovating ways to release stress, build high quality social skills, set realistic goals, and manage possible disappointments and setbacks.

๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผโ€”Coping skills that help us feel and face all our positive and negative emotions in a complete way. This combats the fear some of us have of "feeling" our emotions.

๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผโ€” Coping skills that encourage us to innovate ways to face things that are troublesome, scary, uncomfortable, or difficult in our lives. That might mean setting boundaries in relationships, facing fears created by social anxiety, or overcoming our fear of failure so that we can learn and grow.

๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿผโ€”Coping skills that encourage us to be mindful of our emotional limits so we know when and how to โ€œtake a breakโ€ from being overstimulated by things that might be uncomfortable for us. Yet, allow us to RETURN to the challenge with an effective strategy.

You might notice that healthy coping skills help us face life, and deal with the entire emotional spectrum that it presents. These coping skills are orientated around prioritizing "self-care".

Learning how to implement healthy coping skills can be challenging, especially if you have unhealthy habits that are well-established. This is why a counselor can be one of your biggest allies in helping you turn your life around for the better.

My name is Sean Alexander, LCSW. I am a licensed counselor in the state of Texas and I want to help you build the healthy coping skills you need right now. Please give me a call today to set up a free consultation. Call: 832-349-4811.

I can help you build reliable and effective Coping Skills

to manage your emotional health

I am available for Online Counseling Sessions with you anywhere in Texas through Telehealth

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