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  • Writer's pictureEaston Gaines, MSEd, PsyD

Cope with me: healthy skills for awful feelings

When life feels tough, coping skills can assist in tolerating, minimizing, and navigating emotions. Effectively managing stress helps us feel better and be the best versions of ourselves.

But not all coping skills are created equal. Sometimes, it’s tempting to engage in strategies that will give quick relief but might create bigger problems for future you. Thus, it's important to practice healthy coping skills that will help you reduce your emotional distress or rid yourself of the stressful situations you face.

Healthy coping skills serve as the sturdy foundation upon which we can weather life's storms. They empower us to confront challenges head-on, rather than avoiding or numbing our emotions. Here are some essential healthy coping skills to help you navigate through difficult times:

1. Recognize and Validate Your Emotions:

The first step in coping with tough emotions is to acknowledge and validate them. It's okay to feel sad, angry, anxious, or overwhelmed. These emotions are a natural part of the human experience, and denying or suppressing them only leads to further distress.

Take the time to identify what you're feeling and why you're feeling that way. Use compassionate self-talk to reassure yourself that your emotions are valid and worthy of acknowledgment. Remember, you don't have to justify your feelings to anyone else – they are yours to own and honor.

2. Practice Self-Compassion:

Self-compassion is the practice of treating yourself with kindness, understanding, and acceptance, especially during times of difficulty. Instead of berating yourself for struggling or making mistakes, offer yourself the same warmth and support you would give to a friend in need.

Be gentle with yourself, recognizing that you're doing the best you can with the resources you have. Treat yourself with the same level of care and compassion that you would extend to a loved one. Remember, you are worthy of love and kindness, especially from yourself.

3. Build a Support System:

No one should have to navigate through tough times alone. Building a support system of friends, family members, or trusted individuals can provide a valuable source of comfort, encouragement, and perspective.

Reach out to your support network when you're feeling overwhelmed or in need of guidance. Share your thoughts and feelings openly, knowing that you'll be met with understanding and empathy. Surround yourself with people who lift you up and remind you of your strength and resilience.

4. Engage in Healthy Coping Activities:

When faced with tough emotions, it's important to engage in activities that help you manage stress and promote emotional well-being. This could include exercise, meditation, creative expression, spending time in nature, or pursuing hobbies and interests that bring you joy.

Find healthy outlets for your emotions that allow you to express yourself and constructively release tension. Experiment with different coping activities to discover what works best for you and incorporate them into your daily routine.

5. Practice Problem-Solving Skills:

In addition to managing emotions, healthy coping involves addressing the underlying issues or stressors contributing to your distress. Practice problem-solving skills to identify potential solutions and take proactive steps to address challenges in your life.

Break down problems into manageable steps, brainstorm possible solutions, and consider the pros and cons of each option. Take action where you can and seek support or guidance when needed. By taking control of the situation and working towards solutions, you'll feel empowered and more capable of managing whatever comes your way.

Coping with life's challenges requires resilience, self-awareness, and healthy coping skills. By recognizing and validating your emotions, practicing self-compassion, building a support system, engaging in healthy coping activities, and practicing problem-solving skills, you can navigate through difficult times with grace and resilience.

Remember, coping is not about avoiding or suppressing emotions but rather about facing them head-on and finding constructive ways to manage them. With practice and patience, you can cultivate a toolkit of healthy coping skills that will serve you well throughout life's journey.

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