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Why You Don’t Use Coping Skills – And How to Use Them Anyway

Amanda Ann Gregory, LCPC, EMDR Certified 

You’ve learned many methods to manage your emotional and physical health. You know that these skills work and you know that you should use them. But, you’re not. Why? You might think you’re lazy or forgetful. Yet, the reasons you’re not using coping skills can be complicated. 

Here are a few common reasons you may not be using your coping skills:

You’ve convinced yourself that you don’t have the time. This is one of the most common reasons I hear as a therapist. We live in a world in which we are encouraged to always be “on,” and it’s easy to feel that we simply don’t have the time to use the very skills which will help us to be engaged, healthy, and productive. 

Consider these interventions if you feel that you do not have enough time to cope:

  1. Assess how much time your coping skills will actually take. The time spent using coping skills will vary from person to person, as it depends upon their unique needs. Some people benefit highly from a 5 minute meditation, whereas others need at least 20 minutes of meditation. Try to identify how long your skills would actually take, not how long you feel they would take. A 5 minute meditation should only take 5 minutes, and perhaps a minute or two to sit and prepare if needed. Do you realize that you’re looking at 7 minutes at the most? Or are you assuming you need to block off 30 minutes to an hour? 
  2. Tailor your skills to better meet your time restrictions. Once you’ve assessed how long a coping skill will actually take to implement, you can adjust the skill or your environment to better meet your availability. Instead of going to the gym for a 45 minute workout, you might take a brisk walk for 10 minutes after work. Instead of meditating at home in the morning, you might do so on your 20 minute commute to work. 

Your body’s homeostasis is disrupted. Your body is constantly trying to keep a state of equilibrium in order to cope with external elements. This is an amazing survival technique! Your body makes constant changes in order to keep a constant temperature and pH balance, to name a couple. If your body is used to feeling a certain way (say, as anxious, stressed, depressed, or fatigued), it might try to stick with that feeling. For example, let’s say that deep breathing helps your body to feel calm. If your body is not used to feeling calm it may feel odd or as if something isn’t right. Your body might simply be struggling to get used to this new positive experience. 

Try these methods to help your body to achieve a new homeostasis:

  1. Acknowledge that your body simply isn’t used to feeling this way. It can help to be aware that change itself is uncomfortable. If you are used to feeling anxious most of the time, then feeling calm might initially feel uncomfortable. 
  2. Create and reinforce a new habit. One of the best ways to create a new homeostasis is to create a new habit; this new habit would be a coping skill that you use consistently. The key to creating and reinforcing a habit is consistency, not perfection. For example, it’s better to meditate 4 days a week for 4 consecutive weeks than to meditate for 7 days a week for 1 week before stopping. Consistency is key. 

You may not believe that you deserve or should feel better. Coping skills can dramatically improve your health, mood, and overall quality of life. Yet, if a part of you struggles with low self-worth, you may not use coping skills because coping does not align with how you feel about yourself. You may not spend time with friends if you believe you’re unlovable. You may not exercise if you believe you’re weak. You may not meditate if you believe that you don’t matter. 

Consider these interventions if you feel that self-worth is an obstacle: 


  • Try to identify how you truly feel about yourself. Admitting low self-worth is the first step to healing. You can start by identifying whether you have any negative core beliefs. 
  • Seek Counseling. Changing low self-worth can be a monumental task and you may need the help of a therapist. Symmetry Counseling provides individual, family, and couples counseling. Contact Symmetry Counseling at (312) 578-9990 to schedule an appointment. 


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