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Coping Mechanisms

Often, mental health is treated with a “one size fits all” lens. Mental health problems are extremely specific, and often the methods to alleviate your distress may be unique to you. This list of coping mechanisms is what works for some people, and not meant to tell you what will or won’t work- it’s just a jumping off point to help you figure out what works for you!


1. One of my go-to coping skills is distraction. I know it sounds simple but it can be extremely effective. There are plenty of examples so try to find a few that work for you. My favorite is going for a walk while listening to music that matches my mood. I also like watching very happy media, like sitcoms, to try and balance out my mood a bit. 

2. Changing your body temperature activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates your flight or fight response, calming you down. I personally love this one and I often find myself holding ice or rubbing an ice cube on my face when I feel stressed. I also enjoy taking a hot shower (not too hot but warm enough to really feel the heat) because it relaxes my entire body.

3. When I need a quick release of energy, I do a brief activity that gets my heart rate up. These bursts of exercise release endorphins that leave me feeling a bit better about the situation. My go-to's are doing jumping jacks while moving in a box-like-shape for 30 seconds and sprinting the length of my backyard a couple times. 

4. Sometimes, you just need to relax, and it is ok to give yourself the permission to relax for a while. In order to self-soothe, I like to make each action I do intentional. I like to take a calming shower with my favorite shampoo, feel the texture of a soft blanket, light candles, and wear the most comfortable clothes.

5. If your emotions have calmed down a bit, but you are still in a little distress, contributing to the community can be a great skill to utilize. Doing something nice for someone else cannot only help another person, but it can help you feel accomplished. This can be something as simple as sending a text to check in on a friend, or if you have more time, you can do some community service.

6. One of my favorite skills is called alternate rebellion. Alternate rebellion requires you to do something "out of the norm" (for you) instead to turn to a destructive or maladaptive coping skill. You can write out something angry and rip it up, dye your hair, have a dance party in your room, or do anything you want

7. Checking the facts might seem like a useless thing you already do. However, checking the facts requires you to take a second to think about what is actually happening, therefore, helping you center your thoughts and not dive into all the "what ifs" or lies your mind tries to tell you. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • what are the concrete facts about the situation?

  • Is there anything/anyone you blame? If the answer is yes, ask yourself, is there anything I can really do about it? If the answer is no, it can help you realize that your anger may be wasted. 

8. It really helps me to accumulate the positives in the short term. Write a list of the little things that make you happy. I promise there are more than you think.

9. If I am anxious about a future event, I like to cope ahead.​ I feel better once I have a plan in place. This allows me to gain some control while also realizing that there are some things that I can't control.

10. Radical acceptance is one of the hardest skills to use but also the most freeing. Radical acceptance means you stop fighting reality and let go of suffering. It helps me to understand that, while something might be my reality right now, everything comes to an end, including how I feel at the moment. It is difficult to accept that you can't change some situations-but don't take that as giving up. Find what you can change about a situation, and use that to keep going. 

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