Coping Skills Ultimate Guide

Empower Yourself

Healthy coping skills improve wellbeing, get us through challenging times, and leave us feeling capable and in control.

Life can be complicated, but coping doesn't have to be. This guide will help you build a versatile and easy-to-use coping toolbox filled with healthy ways to relax, connect, problem-solve, and more.

Where would you like to begin?

The Self-Care, Stress, and Coping Connection

Stress, self-care, and coping are interconnected parts of our emotional and psychological wellbeing. They work together to help us respond to challenges and live a healthy, fulfilling life.  

Here’s how: 

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  • Self-care is the ongoing care of yourself and your wellbeing.

  • Regular self-care promotes overall health, self-worth, and productivity. 

  • Consistent self-care strengthens our coping skills, helps us manage stress, and prevents burnout.

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  • Stress is your body's natural physical and psychological response to threat or challenge.

  • Moderate stress can motivate us and helps us learn and grow.

  • Chronic and/or intense stress can have a negative impact on our overall health.

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Coping Skills

  • Coping is a means of getting through challenging situations, problems, or emotions.  

  • Healthy coping skills promote health and wellbeing, resilience, positive relationships, and quality of life.

  • Coping skills improve our decision-making and problem-solving.

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How You Cope Matters

When used consistently, healthy coping strategies have long-term benefits like better health, problem-solving, and emotional balance. Coping skills are healthiest and most effective when they help us adapt to change and build resilience over time. 


Are Your Coping Skills Healthy for You?

Everyone's needs and preferences are different. What's helpful for someone else may not be helpful for you, or there may be times when you need to try out a new coping skill. 

Here are a few ways you can tell if your coping skills are healthy for you:

Emotional Balance

Rather than bottling up our feelings or getting overwhelmed, healthy coping skills help us name and experience our feelings in a balanced way.

Problem-Solving & Skill-Building

Healthy coping skills can help us identify and address root problems, look for solutions, and build essential skills.


Healthy coping skills are actions or habits that we can include in our daily lives and continue to find beneficial in the long run.

Counselor tip: Make a list of at least ten coping skills, take a short break, and come back to highlight your top three. Collect any items you would need ahead of time and keep them someplace easy to find. Try to use these three coping skills at least once in the next week. You can keep building from there.

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Do Things You Enjoy

Things you enjoy and creative outlets give you a chance to escape, recharge, and fuel up on positive emotions. Doing things you enjoy is a healthy distraction and a way to channel your energy into something positive for you.

Try these coping skills:

  • listen to uplifting music
  • play with a pet 
  • start or practice a hobby
  • learn a new skill you've always wanted to try
  • do something just because it's fun
  • do something just because it feels good
  • read a fiction book in your favorite genre
  • explore a new genre of movies or books
  • listen to a funny podcast
  • listen to an audiobook
  • find a creative outlet
  • plan three things to look forward to in the next week
  • use humor or laughter
  • play a board game
  • learn a new card game
  • make something from scratch
  • watch a video about your favorite hobby
  • share a hobby with a friend
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Create a Healthy Lifestyle

Healthy daily habits can help you feel like a superhero during times of stress. They boost your physical health, immune response, mental health, and all-around resilience. Give yourself variety and take a holistic view of your wellbeing as you develop your healthy lifestyle.

Try these coping skills:

person writing in a journal

Change Your Perspective

Changing your perspective is like giving your mindset a makeover. To shift your perspective, look at the same situation from different angles, pay extra close attention to the positives, and take a step back to remember what matters most to you in life.

Try these coping skills:

  • write down 3 of your recent successes or achievements
  • practice acceptance by saying, "This is what happened, and I don't have to judge it or myself."
  • develop a spiritual practice
  • practice positive self-talk
  • create a personal affirmation
  • imagine how someone you admire might look at a stressful situation
  • reframe challenges or failures
  • read a helpful nonfiction book
  • learn your personal strengths
  • practice gratitude: what are three things that you appreciate right now?
  • practice optimism: what are three things you're looking forward to in the next week, month, or year?
  • create a vision board
  • make a list of your most important values
  • make a list of your vision for your future
  • give yourself a short distraction break when you're overthinking
  • learn about negative thinking patterns
  • limit exposure to negative news
  • reflect on past successes
  • connect with your spiritual beliefs
  • focus on the present moment
  • practice self-acceptance
  • talk to yourself like you'd talk to a friend
  • practice empathy
  • look for the glimmers of hope
  • look for something to laugh about
  • try a positive psychology activity
  • read or listen to a memoire of someone you look up to
  • learn about other people's life journeys
  • start a journal
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Express Your Feelings

Giving your thoughts and feelings a voice provides self-awareness and a healthy emotional release. By taking the time and space to express your feelings, you also set yourself up for better problem-solving, connection with others, and stress management.

Try these coping skills:

  • write a bullet list of your thoughts and feelings
  • talk about your feelings with someone you trust
  • give yourself a 10-minute venting session
  • try guided journal prompts
  • reach out for professional mental health support
  • give yourself the time and space to cry
  • create a playlist of empowering songs
  • watch an inspiring movie
  • watch a comforting show
  • tell someone, "Thank you."
  • tell someone, "I'm sorry."
  • tell someone that you care about them
  • hug someone you trust
  • tell someone you forgive them
  • send a heartfelt text
  • find a creative outlet for your feelings
  • practice deep breathing 
  • practice naming your emotions
  • move your body to release pent up energy and emotion
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Connect with Others

Connection is an essential element of our wellbeing. It offers us emotional support, a sense of belonging, and opportunities to bond. Having other people in our lives also helps us get through difficult times by giving us a fresh perspective and a helping hand. Researchers have found that healthy social connections boost our mental and physical health too.

Try these coping skills:

  • check in with a friend
  • tell a friend how you're feeling
  • tell a friend a funny story 
  • ask for help
  • help a friend
  • spend quality time with someone
  • cook a meal for friends
  • plan a social event 
  • talk with someone supportive
  • find or start a community of like-minded people
  • volunteer
  • perform a random act of kindness
  • build a social support network
  • join a book club or social group
  • host a movie or board game night
  • explore the community with a friend
  • introduce yourself to a classmate
  • talk with a peer counselor
  • start a new tradition
  • learn about healthy relationships
person writing in a notebook

Organize, Prioritize, and Problem-Solve

When life gets complicated, organizing, prioritizing, and problem-solving can give you clearer thinking and help you keep a proactive approach. The best part is, feeling more capable and organized creates a positive feedback loop. Small victories build confidence and motivation for tackling the larger challenges that may lie ahead.

Try these coping skills:

  • create a to-do list
  • schedule time for self-care
  • schedule time for problem-solving
  • use a planner or calendar
  • put at least one next step in a stressful situation into your calendar
  • research a problem 
  • break down problems into smaller parts
  • make a list of questions you can find the answer to
  • make a list of possible solutions for a stressful/challenging situation
  • clean or organize one space where you work or live
  • do one thing to expand your comfort zone
  • practice a new skill that will help make a challenging situation easier
  • ask a mentor for advice 
  • set healthy boundaries 
  • create a daily routine
  • try the Pomodoro time management technique
  • set a SMART goal: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely
  • do something you've been procrastinating
  • donate to a food bank
  • donate old clothes
  • evaluate your goals, priorities, and expectations
  • do a digital detox
  • practice problem-solving skills
  • take a break from social media
  • set up a comfortable work space
  • try time blocking
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Relax Your Body and Mind

Relaxation is like a reset button. It gives you a chance to slow down and come back stronger. This is great for focus and productivity, keeping your body and mind healthy, getting better sleep, and feeling better all around.

Try these coping skills:

  • meditate
  • visualize yourself in a calm place
  • take a 5-minute break to take your mind off of a stressful situation
  • do something soothing or relaxing
  • listen to calming music
  • take 5 minutes to breathe
  • give yourself space when you need it
  • turn on music and move with it however you like
  • get a coloring book
  • make a collage
  • take a warm bath or long shower
  • take a break in nature
  • practice aromatherapy
  • light a candle
  • try binaural beats or sound technology for focus, relaxation, or sleep
  • give yourself a hand, face, or foot massage
  • get a massage
  • try grounding exercises
  • count to 10 before reacting
  • use a stress ball or fidget toys
  • create a calm space for yourself
  • play brain games or work on a puzzle
  • go stargazing
  • breathe fresh air
  • use a stress-reducing app

Set Goals, Evaluate, and Adjust

As you build your coping skills toolbox, it's important to set goals, check in with yourself, and adjust along the way. These three elements help us become more proactive, develop personal insights, and get the most benefit from our coping skills. Goal-setting and self-assessment skills will make you a lifelong learner and contribute to your long-term wellbeing.

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How to Set Coping Skills Goals

To begin, assess where you are and what you want to achieve. What are your current challenges, triggers, or stressors? What do you know works for you? What do you want to achieve? Why is this important?

Consider the actionable steps you feel ready and able to take and set at least one meaningful and realistic goal.

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How to Evaluate Your Coping Skills

Check in with yourself at regular intervals, whether that's a set time every day, every week, or every few weeks. This is great for self-care and helps you pay closer attention to how your coping skills are working. 

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How to Adjust Your Coping Skills

Maintain a curious mindset and remember why you've set your coping skills goals. To fine-tune your coping plan, consider where you need more variety, support, or resources and make small, sustainable changes.