Stress takes on many forms- finances, family, children, friends, life, etc. The list can be endless. As such, our coping skills should also take on many forms. Some skills may work great for one situation, though not as effective in another. Some skills may get over used, and therefore, lose effectiveness overtime. To most effectively cope with stress, we should have a variety of coping tools in our stress toolkit to address all sorts of stressors, and to have a variety of back up skills should one skill not be as effective as we need in that moment.
Calming and soothing skills help us relax, calm down and sooth our stressed selves. These skills can be largely individualized to your preferences. Some people enjoy deep breathing exercises, while others may prefer more formal scripted muscle relaxation exercises. Other skills include soothing yourself by using your five senses to calm and relax. What are pleasant things to look at? What is pleasing or relaxing to smell? What would you enjoy listening to? Pleasing to the touch? What tastes are comforting? Resting your eyes on a beautiful sunset, or smelling a bouquet of roses while listening to a peaceful melody may help sooth you when feeling stressed. Taking a warm bubble bath or eating a warm piece of apple pie may also have similar effects.
Active skills are skills that allow us to be more active to cope with our stress and making changes to the situation. These skills may allow us to actively work towards a solution or improvement to the situation, or they may work by keeping us busy and active so as not to succumb to depression or other ineffective ways of coping. Examples of active skills include getting up and doing something, anything. Play a sport, go out with friends; do something you enjoy! Blow bubbles or go for a run, maybe volunteer and give back to your community.
Another way to actively cope is to actively do something to try to change or improve the situation. You can use assertiveness skills to ask for something that you need or want in a situation, or to communicate how you are feeling as a result of a situation or interaction. You may also learn how to better communicate with family or friends or your boss. Taking action regarding a situation rather than continuing to avoid that situation is another way that you can actively cope with a situation.
No matter which coping skills you choose to use, it’s always best to have several skills to use to better match the skill for the situation, as well as to ensure that if one skill isn’t quite working, you have other skills you can use.
Karen M. Rosian, Psy.D.
Licensed Clinical Psychologist