- Terri K. Lankford, LPC, NCC, LCAS
Coping Skills 101: The Basics Part I
Coping is defined as to struggle or deal, especially on fairly even terms or with some degree of success (usually followed by with): or to face and deal with responsibilities, problems, or difficulties, especially successfully or in a calm or adequate manner (Per dictionary.com)
A skill is defined as the ability, coming from one's knowledge, practice, aptitude, etc., to do something well: or competent excellence in performance; expertness; dexterity (Also Per dictionary.com)
But put those two together …. Coping Skill. What is that exactly?? And do we throw around that terminology in our day to day life? Well, not often. Or probably not often enough.
Coping Skills are methods a person uses to deal with stressful situations. Obtaining and maintaining good coping skills does take practice. However utilizing these skills becomes easier over time. Most importantly, good coping skills make for good mental health wellness. (www.mhww.org/strategies.html)
Coping strategies and skills are the reactions and behaviors one adopts to deal with difficult situations. Coping strategies come in many forms. Some are helpful and others are hurtful.
Humans tend to learn coping strategies from those they come into contact with while growing up. When a person learns and develops habits of negative coping skills, stressors become catastrophes and confidence in one's ability to cope is diminished.
So here’s the cool thing… Coping Skills aren’t a one size fits all AND there are actually categories of Coping Skills & Strategies that might be more appropriate than others depending on which fit best for you.
Diversions are those coping skills that allow you to stop thinking about the stress inducing situation. Diversions aren't meant to be the final solution, but each can be useful in the basic goal of remaining safe.
As time goes on, move away from diversions and toward those skills that will build resiliency to the challenges that continue. Diversions are only useful if one can recognize warning signs when feeling overwhelming emotions.
Social or interpersonal coping strategies involve interactions with others. Scientific studies have proven the benefits of social support to counteract the effects of stress on DNA. Social supports can be useful for recognizing warning signs and providing assistance in difficult times.
Cognitive coping skills are those that involve using the mind and thought processes to influence the way one feels and behaves. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of treatment that helps people find ways of thinking that improve their mental responses to situations.
Learning to think in more rational ways can be done by recognizing and changing irrational thoughts. Ultimately, a person can become much more stress tolerant and ultimately improve behavioral outcomes.
Tension releasing or cathartic coping strategies involve acting on strong emotions in ways that are safe for oneself and others. Punching a pillow could be a way to release tensions in a safe way.
Be careful with cathartic responses because these tend to become habit forming and may translate to real life scenarios, so the child who practices punching a pillow may envision a person's face and end up actually punching that person's face when angry.
Physical process are directly tied to mental and emotional processes. A person's breathing rate can illicit a response from the sympathetic nervous system. Raising your voice can send signals to your brain that you are angry. In the same way, acting calmly in the face of difficulty can help send signals to your brain that everything is o.k.
Exercise is another thing that can help by producing endorphins, which are naturally occurring drugs that can create a calm or euphoric feeling.
Praying, meditating, enjoying nature, or taking up a worthy cause can affect a person on a spiritual level. Satisfying the need to feel worthwhile, connected, and at peace improve well-being at the core of a person. Spiritual well-being then exudes out of a person in attitudes and actions that are self-actualized. According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, we all need to feel a sense of purpose, but not everyone reaches that level.
Limit setting is a preventative measure to protect against overwhelming stress created by doing too much of something. Limits can be set for one's self or others. An example of setting a limit with others is learning to say "no" when you know you are too busy to help someone. Setting a limit for yourself could include dropping involvement in work activities that are not a good fit for your skills and focusing on those that you are efficient doing, which may mean having to be assertive with your boss about how you can help the most.
Click HERE for the next Post in this series & to read more about WHAT TO DO with this info...
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