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Coping Skills Training 101: The What, Where, Who, When and Why of coping skills!

Well folks, the month of June is here, and the summer is looking promising!  So many events are opening back up, the restrictions are decreasing, and it appears we may be able to return to life the way we previously knew it.  This is great news!

“So, Katrina, now that things are better, I can put those coping skills conversations with my counselor aside as I won’t need them, right? “

Not quite.  Although I wish I could promise every single one of you that you will never come across hard times again and that your life moving forward will be nothing but sunshine and rainbows, I would be lying. The truth is that any human being has the potential to be significantly impacted by events in the world both big and small.  Sometimes we have warning that these events are taking place and sometimes, we are just blindsided.  Additionally, it is important to note that many times these events are something that may be out of our direct control such as the illness of a family member, loss of a job, or loss of a loved one.  In these situations, the only thing we may have to get us through is our ability to cope.

“Alright, so what exactly are coping skills?”

Coping skills – also referred to as coping strategies – are activities, behaviors, strategies that an individual can utilize to achieve a reduction in emotional distress.  These skills can be a combination of things including activities, hobbies, outlets, supports, and the list can go on.

“Is there a place I’m supposed to get these skills from or where am I supposed to use them?”

So, coping skills are really found when you truly evaluate and explore the strategies in your life that make you feel better.  They are not isolated to one specific place nor are they exclusively to be used in one setting. If you find that singing brings your mood down from a 10 (worst) to a 4 (better) then sing your heart out! You can sing in the car, in the shower, or wherever you can (without upsetting others around you of course).  Love watching YouTube videos of cute animals?  Play them at home, on your phone, or while you are waiting for an appointment!

“Makes sense. Now who uses coping skills?”

Believe it or not, we all use coping skills in our day-to-day life, and we don’t even realize it.  An example may be taking a walk to get away from some stress or venting to a friend to help blow off some steam.  At the end of the day, each and everyone of us use coping skills to some degree, but some skills may be more destructive versus productive which I will get into later.

“Ahhhhh, I got ya!  Now is there a good time for me to use the good skills?”

Good question! So, my recommendation is always to be practicing use of different skills and techniques. Reason? By trial and error, you may come across something that truly helps you and you had no idea! In my own experience, I took a crochet class one time to just simply say I tried it. Well low and behold, I found something that was relaxing for me and it has become a major go to when my emotions run high.  Now I don’t just do this exclusively when I am upset, but rather do this whenever I have an opportunity.  I will say when I am having a bad day, it is nice to know that when I go home, I have something to look forward to helping me unwind and it has become such a part of my life that it’s hard to forget to use it!  Another example is when people utilize the gym as their means to cope. I will say going to the gym regularly is great for someone overall, but it is especially important to be going regularly if you plan to utilize this for those not-so-great days. Reason? The last thing we would want is you to go to the gym only when you are angry without practice or familiarity with the equipment as you could get hurt!

“Alright, Alright. Now, why exactly do I need these? Can’t I just take medication and I will feel better?”

Oh, my friend, I wish it was that simple.  Contrary to popular belief, there is no such medication that you can take that will make life problems completely go away.  Now don’t get me wrong, psychotropic medication can do wonders in helping someone who struggles with mood regulation, but it by no means makes the world’s problems go away.  Think about it this way: say someone accidentally hits your car in the parking lot and leaves. You come outside and see all the damage. What is your reaction?  I know I would be upset!  In this situation, there is no magic pill that will find the person who hit your car, file the police report, pay the insurance deductible, fix the damage, and stop your car insurance from going up, right?  Right. This is a perfect example of where skills would need to come in to play to help you manage the emotions that come with this event.

“Well, I have to be honest. I never understood why counselors always talk about skills, but you gave me some insight! What skills are out there and where can I begin learning them?”

Stay tuned! Coping Skills Training Part 102 will be coming soon.  Need more? Don’t hesitate to check us out at Spectrum Health and Human Services. We would be more than happy to work with you on skills and help you become the best version of you that you want to be!

By Katrina Norris

Clinical Director

Spectrum Health and Human Services Springville Counseling Center

Coping Boxes are tools for kids to help them relax. Items that connect to the senses invite calming.


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