Coping Skills

Coping can look like many things to different people. Sometimes we have to cope on our own, sometimes with others. Sometimes we do it outwardly and sometimes inwardly. This list will include the different types of coping with information for how and when to use them as well as examples of what things are useful and make a positive impact.​​​ Below are 6 types of Coping strategies: Positive Distractions, Grounding, Challenge your Thinking, Emotional Release, Self-Soothing, & Higher Self

Compiled by Kristy Hayes

Positive Distractions

A positive use of distractions is allowing yourself to be distracted by positive activities to help cope with stress. Distractions are to be used in situations that need immediate action to get you through the crisis moment and to ease the stress by redirecting your attention away from it and onto something more calm, peaceful or just different that doesn't trigger feelings about the initial problem.


Distractions provide short-term relief that keeps your mind busy on something else and allows your emotions to decrease intensity in order to give your heart a break to get through the crisis.


You can't do it for very long- it's not meant to be what makes up your life. Distractions won't help resolve the underlying issues and sometimes medication can make it hard to concentrate on activities to distract yourself effectively.​

Sitting Still

Write (poetry, stories, journal).

Do a wordsearch or crossword.

Watch funny videos.

Put a puzzle together.

Watch an old, happy movie.

Rip paper into itty-bitty pieces.

Learn a new language.

Plan a dream vacation

​Read a good book.

​Paint or draw something.

Google weird questions.

Create Amazon wishlist

​Crochet, knit or sew.

Make a special playlist.

Listen to music.​​

Out of the House

​Be with other people.

​Go see a movie.

​Go shopping.

​Go people watching.

​Shoot hoops, kick a ball.​

​Ride a bicycle.

Feed the ducks/ squirrels.

​Go to a friend's house.

Jump on a trampoline.

​Go for a nice, long drive.

Be Active

Build a pillow fort.

Take up a new hobby.

Invent and cook a new dish.

Create or build something.

​Organize your room /closet.

​Move furniture around.

​Find some toys and play.

Start collecting something.

Play video/computer games.

Clean something.

Color-coordinate your wardrobe.

Home or car shopping on-line.​

Do something challenging.

​Plan your dream room (colors/furniture).


Grounding is to be used when you are having trouble concentrating, focusing or are feeling "spaced out" or dissociating or overwhelmed with your thoughts and feelings to the point where you "numb out". It is important to be able to use your five senses to "ground" you or bring you back down to earth and make you more aware of your body and less in your head and stuck in your thoughts. Almost anything can work as long as it uses your 5 senses: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, touching.


Grounding helps slow down, stop or at least decrease the feelings of "spaced out", floating, disconnected from self, feeling numb and puts you more in touch with your body's sensations again by reducing the physical symptoms of anxiety and depression. ​


Sometimes, when feelings are especially intense due to very difficult situations, it can be helpful to stay a little dissociated from things going on- it's one way that your mind protects itself.

Stretch your body.

Hold ice in your palm for as long as you can.

Light some incense or a good smelling candle.

Play with modeling clay or Play-Dough.

​​Wash your face in cold water.

Cook something new.

Put on fake tattoos.

Post on web boards, and answer others' posts.

Play a musical instrument.

Finger painting.

Go for a walk or hike.​​​​​

Go swimming.

Plant some seeds.

Pet a friendly animal.

Try to do handstands, cartwheels, or backbends.

Play tennis, baseball, soccer or basketball.

Exercise (running, aerobics, weight lifting).

Count how many different colors are around.

​Notice features and details on something like a rock, fingers, tree, etc.

Challenge your Thinking

Challenging your thinking is most effective when you have achieved a level of calm such that you are more self aware and can do a little self analysis of your thought life and beliefs. These coping skills are intended to challenge and shift your perspective, your world view and to help you see your part in each situation and your responsibilities for correcting your thinking, beliefs and behaviors.​​ ​


These coping skills can help you learn to shift your negative thinking patterns into more positive ones over the long-term, which can help decrease intense emotions and help you to recognize the importance of logic and rational thinking to shift your feelings.


Sometimes when emotions are still high, this particular coping style is very difficult. Feelings of shame make this particularly hard to use due to feeling defensive, blaming or closed instead of open to new ideas and new ways of thinking.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

Take photographs to get a new perspective.

Read something inspirational or educational.

Write down negative thoughts, list all the reasons why those things may not be true.

Look at yourself in the mirror.

Say positive affirmations out loud.

Ask yourself which words or actions help or do not help.

Practice radical acceptance of things you cannot change.

Check your thinking for any cognitive distortions.

Visit a place you have never been before.

Listen to music in a different language.

Look up new words and use them.

Try to make as many words out of your full name as possible.

Play the “15 minute game.” (Avoid something for 15 minutes, when time is up start again.)

Memorize a poem, play, or song.

Emotional Release

Emotional release is great for intense emotions that feel overwhelming or are compounding on other negative emotions. This is all about getting that emotional energy out in whatever way works for you, even if it looks a little silly. Probably not a good idea to do these things in public, unless you're comfortable with the consequences.


Emotional release coping skills are great for expending energy built up from unexpressed anger or to get out intense fear. Releasing the building emotional pressure is needed to calm things down in order to use other coping strategies that can effect change.


These coping skills aren't possible to do in every situation, especially in front of other people in public. Some of them can feel awkward to do and some might make your behavior seem "crazy".

Learn a new dance.

Practice a new yoga pose.

Let yourself cry.

Watch something funny.

Knock pool balls around the table.

Play drums or bang on pots.

Listen to some music that fits your mood.

Do pushups, jumping jacks or sit ups.

Punch a punching bag.

Hug a stuffed animal.

Hit some tennis balls at a wall.

Hit some balls at the batting cages.

Sort through your photographs.

Text or call an old friend.

Write yourself an "I love you because…" letter.

Make a list of blessings in your life.

Write a letter to someone that you may never send.


The whole point of self-soothing is to make yourself feel better physically and/or emotionally so that you can deal with life better. This can be almost anything. Try them all or make up your own, just make sure it makes you feel good without any negative consequences to anyone else or to your emotions.


Self-soothing coping skills feel good!

That's the point!


Often times when your emotions are not happy, your body isn't happy. Sometimes your body isn't happy even when you're not aware of your emotions. Settling things dow​n and relaxing into your body can sometimes make the feelings pushed down come bubbling to the surface. That's when you need to try coping through emotional release and then come back to self-soothing.

Take a hot shower or relaxing bath.

Listen to music. Sing.

Try some aromatherapy (candle, lotion, room spray).

Go for a swim or dip in a hot tub.

Bake cookies.

Hug a pillow or stuffed animal.

Make hot chocolate, milkshake or smoothie.

Play with modeling clay or Play-Dough.

Draw on yourself with a marker.

Look up recipes, cook a meal.

Look at pretty things, like flowers or art.

Watch fish.

Paint your nails, do your make-up or hair.

Give yourself a facial.

Higher Self

Accessing your "Higher Self" means bringing out the best part of yourself and behaving in ways that make you feel good about your character, your integrity, your future and your "self" (who you are in your inner world that no one sees). Rather you are religious, spiritual or non-religious, chances are you believe in something and that something helps you to guide your decisions, behaviors and relationships. Being aware of what you believe in is the key. What do you believe in? Goodness, love, kindness, giving back, friendship, honor, something else? Think about it. It matters.


Accessing your "higher self" makes you feel part of something bigger than yourself. Doing nice things for others gives all kinds of different great feelings and often times causes a greater appreciation and gratitude for your own life.​


Sometimes doing nice things for others can be a great way to escape your own problems. Don't use it to avoid your own issues.

Smile at five people.

Walk in nature.

Watch a sunset.

Play with little kids.

Clean up trash at your local park.

Walk a neighbor's dog.

Sing a song to someone just to see them smile.

Write a note of appreciation for someone.

Perform a random act of kindness for someone.

Volunteer at a nonprofit organization.

Buy a meal for a homeless person.

Hug a friend or family member.

Buy coffee for the person behind you in line.

Make a list of goals for the week/month/year/5 years.

Search on-line for new songs/artists that reflects your mood, feelings.

Watch Youtube videos that are uplifting, wise and encouraging.

Pray. Read scriptures or wise quotes.

Seek to connect more with God or your High Power.

Yoga. Meditation.

Say positive affirmations.

Have a GREAT coping skill you want to share?