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Types of Coping Skills and Why They Are Important

Updated on September 14, 2017
Filip Stojkovski profile image

Passionately interested about the arts, especially drawing and painting. Professionally works as a game designer and developer.

Coping skills or coping strategies are things people do to deal with stressful situations. In another article I have written about dealing with situations when people are mean to you, but here I'll write in a more broad sense. Sometimes stress is not caused by other people, but may be a result of a difficult situation. We naturally find ways to deal with painful situations since early childhood. Coping skills are basically behaviors we develop to cope with changes in our life. However, not all coping skills are good or healthy. For example: some people tend to get angry and blame others when they get in a stressful situation while others cope by trying to solve the problem. Sometimes we may develop coping skills that are ineffective and harmful for us. That’s why it’s important to identify what kind of coping skills you are using in your life and change them if they are negative.

So What Separates Good Coping Skills from Bad Coping Skills?

Good coping skills are effective and don’t cause additional problems in your life. They usually consist of healthy and non-addictive behaviors. Bad coping skills cause problems for you and people in your life and they are related to addiction and behavioral problems. Here are a few common examples of bad coping skills:

Blaming Yourself

Blaming yourself without doing anything to solve the problem only creates more negative emotions towards yourself and more stress. A lot of time we blame ourselves for things that are not our fault. Even when a stressful situation is truly your fault you should be focused on fixing it the best way you can, instead of focusing on blaming yourself.

Blaming Other People or Being Aggressive

Blaming other people feeds the belief that don’t have any control or responsibility in your life. Attacking and being aggressive to others can be toxic to your relationships and your career.

Working Too Much

Working too much without any direction can give you an illusion that you are solving the problems in your life, when in fact you just wasting a lot of time and energy while not producing any solutions.

Denying the Problem

Denial is a very common defense mechanism. People often get in denial when they face difficult changes in their life. It is a bad coping mechanism because it makes you unable to face the problem and solve it.

Substance Abuse

It's one of the worst coping skills. By using substances to deal with stress you can become dependent on the substance and that can destroy your health, your finances, your relationships and basically your life.

Comfort Eating

It can destroy your health, your weight and make you have an unhealthy relationship with food.

Eating Disorder Behaviors (Binging, Purging, Starving)

A lot of people use eating disorder behaviors to gain ‘control’ of their lives. Their control on their weight and eating gives them a false sense of control in life. These types of coping mechanisms are also extremely harmful and can even be life threatening because they can cause an eating disorder.

Other Addictive Behaviors

Basically all addictive and self-indulging behaviors can be forms of negative coping skills.

If you feel like you have adopted negative coping skills in your life (most of us have to a certain degree), become aware of them and start replacing them with positive ones such as:

Physical Relaxation

Physically relaxing activities such as yoga, listening to relaxing music, progressive relaxation etc help you decrease the physical and psychological symptoms of stress and anxiety, and help you recharge you brain.

Problem Solving

Problem solving is a good coping skill because it focuses on removing the stressor. Oftentimes instead of focusing on solving the problem we focus on feeling negative about it.

Changing Your Expectations

Keeping the same expectations when you get disappointed with something is only going to cause you to feel more disappointed. Changing (lowering) your expectations saves you a lot of stress and frustration.

Asking for Support

Asking for help and support in the right places can make us feel a lot better and help us cope and solve problems knowing we are not alone and we can count on other people.

Humor

Finding humor in minor stressful situations can help you replace negative emotions with positive ones and deal with life stress and disappointments much more easily.

Changing Your Perspective on the Problem

A stressor can stop being a stressor if your change your perspective on it. You can change how you feel about something by adopting different thoughts and behaviors.

Exercise

Exercise releases endorphins and decreases your stress and anxiety. It’s also healthy for you and helps you maintain a healthy weight.

Meditation

When you are stressed that energy feeds impulsive thinking patterns that may not be very smart. Meditation can give you both better resistance over stress and a different perspective that is not that much reactive. Remember, the same stimuli cause different stress levels with different people. What does that mean? Your perspective on the situation is very important.

Hobbies

Having a hobby is one of the healthiest coping skills. Research has shown that people who have a hobby deal with life stressors more efficiently, and are less likely to engage in addictive behaviors.

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    • denise.w.anderson profile image

      Denise W Anderson 

      12 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

      There was a time in my life when I was steeped in negative coping skills, most of them in the form of distorted thinking patterns that ended up becoming as harmful as addictions! It took time in the Mental Health Unit and treatment with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to set me on the right path. Now, I am much more likely to use positive coping skills when life gets tough!

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