Meenal Patel, Licensed Professional Counselor

When we see our therapist or even people surrounding us, they often ask, “What are some coping skills that you use?” You might say: reading, journaling, meditation, cooking, self-care, etc, but what exactly is a coping skill and how do we know it is helping us?

There are two types of coping skills that therapists talk about: Problem-Focused Coping Skills and Emotion-Focused Coping Skills.

So, what do these both mean and how do they differ? Problem-focused coping skills are when you are trying to change a situation. If you are feeling uncomfortable in a situation, then you will use problem-based coping skills to change the situation. Emotion-focused coping skill is when you are trying to avoid the situation and work towards forgetting about what is occurring. You are trying to manage your emotions and not allow them to interfere with what is happening around you. For example, your sports coach has told you that you are not preforming as well as you should, and they are concerned with your way of handling certain situations when you thought you were doing awesome. If you were to use a problem-focused coping skill, you would go speak to your coach and identify where are areas that you can improve on, where did they get this information from, etc. Trying to find a way to solve the situation. With emotion-focused coping skill, you might then process your emotions around it and try to work harder and even distracting yourself from what has occurred and just forget about what your coach said.

Here are some examples of both of the types of healthy coping skills discussed:

Health Problem-Focused Coping Skills:

  • Learning how to manage your time more effectively (turning off technology, being more social and with family and friends, etc)
  • Finding healthy boundaries with people around you
  • Identifying a support network and seeking professional help if needed
  • Create to-do lists
  • Walk away from the situation

Healthy Solution-Focused Coping Skills:

  • Journaling
  • Exercising
  • Self-care
  • Color
  • Garden
  • Cooking
  • Yoga
  • Smile
  • Taking a bath
  • Aromatherapy
  • Meditation

These are not ultimate, complete lists, but they are some that you can start identifying with if you do not have any. Writing down coping skills that work for you can be helpful in times of distress. Wavering between problem-focused and solution focused are completely acceptable as you are trying to figure out for yourself what works best in certain situations.

Of course, with healthy coping skills, there are also unhealthy coping skills:

  • Drinking excessive amount of alcohol
  • Engaging in illegal substances
  • Being around negative people or unsupportive networks
  • Overspending
  • Restricting food/eating too much
  • Sleeping too much

Trying to refrain from engaging in the unhealthy coping skills is important. We might sometimes slip into unhealthy coping skills but being mindful and trying to not allow ourselves to stay there for a long period of time.

Now that you know there are different types of healthy and unhealthy coping skills, which one do you tend to lean towards the most? If you are leaning towards the unhealthy coping skills, identifying more positive ones in your life can make you feel better and more accomplished. If you are struggling with identifying coping skills that work for you, contact our therapists at Symmetry Counseling to gain more insight on what you can do help yourself. Utilizing coping skills can be difficult, but that is why we, at Symmetry Counseling, are here to help you.