For a long time I thought that the most important part of a healing process was to have more self-awareness and to understand everything that happened in the past, which caused the suffering in the first place. The more experience I have had working with clients, I realized that even though processing emotions and talking about cause and effect is important, developing the skills to move forward is vitally important. Even though I believe that psychotherapy can be an essential part of a healing process, I would often find that while working as a therapist, I didn’t feel that enough importance was placed on moving people forward once they have processed everything. Not that it doesn’t happen! But it was a huge reasons I felt more called to life coaching than therapy. We need skills to move forward and improve our life circumstances.
Skills need to be taught! The best part of a skill is that most anyone can have a skill if they are willing to practice and do the work. Coping skills are not a talent, but a choice that you make if you want to feel better and make things happen. I often tell my clients that the difference between them and someone who they believe “has it more together,” is that person has probably mastered skills that support emotional stability. And they can too! So without further ado here are my top five coping skills and suggestions on how to implement them.
1. Look at something enjoyable
This could be anything!
- Go into nature or to a museum and take in the sights.
- If you aren’t motivated to go anywhere you can make a pintrest board of beautiful images. The process of looking for images will help shift your focus away from what is troubling you and help calm you down.
- You could even do a google search for images as well and find a few that could be your go-to when you are feeling stressed.
- You could look around the room you are in and in your mind name everything you see.
- Find pictures of happy memories or loved ones and try to remember how you felt during those experiences or how you feel when you are around the people you love.
Why this works: When we are feeling distress it is not a time to take action on whatever trigger or challenging situation that has presented itself. You want to find a way to switch gears to ground yourself, so that you become calm enough to figure out what you need to do (or not do) next.
2. Listen to something calming
I say “calming” for a reason. You could listen to whatever you want, just make sure it isn’t anything that will rile you up or taking you down more. For example, if I am sad it is not a time for me to listen to one of my favorite songs, Billie Holiday’s “Good Morning, Heartache”. That song also used to be my alarm in the morning, which wasn’t the most cheerful way to start the day.
- So yes music! Make a playlist of songs that make you feel good, or at the very least don’t depress you.
- Nature sounds can be great, whether it is ocean or rain sounds.
- Listening to a guided meditation (I will have some to offer you soon, promise!)
- Have a conversation with someone and really listen to them without any agenda or need to respond. It will keep you present and less focused on what is troubling you.
- Sit in stillness and take note of any sounds that may be going on in your environment. Really stretch yourself by taking in any sounds outside (if you are inside) or inside (if you are outside).
Why this work: Sounds can be very powerful in supporting you in decreasing feelings of distress. Music can influence or emotions in some profound ways, especially live music. Actually listening during conversations can also strengthen a connection and cause a person to be more willing to support you when you are going through something. Our sense of sound is yet another way to change the channel in your stressed brain and give you a break from whatever is brining you grief. I would even suggest having a song you listen to when you wake up (I changed my alarm to something more upbeat) to start your day on a more relaxed or joyful note.
3. Taste something delicious
Now this is not an excuse to emotionally eat, but there are ways to use taste in healthy ways.
- Take note of what your mouth tastes like right now. This may sound strange, but you would be amazed how much you may be able taste. Open you mouth and feel the air on your tongue.
- Pop a mint in your mouth or a peace of gum. Try to focus on the taste for as long as you can and/or be aware of each chew. Surprisingly very calming if you can stay focused!
- Cook yourself a delicious meal and sit down without distractions and enjoy! Notice the different tastes and textures and eat slowly and really make the meal an experience.
- Buy your favorite type of chocolate and break off a small piece and savor it like it is the last piece of chocolate you will ever eat.
- Make yourself a cup of tea or a coffee and sit yourself down and truly taste your drink of choice.
Why this works: Tasting something can be such a sensual experience, so get creative. Nowadays everyone is in such a rush that meals become a task instead of a time to enjoy nourishing yourself. Use the sense of taste to become more in touch with your body and less engaged in whatever external madness may be occurring.
4. Touch something soothing
This is one of my favorite coping skills. I am constantly petting my dog, holding my husband’s hand and buying soft blankets. Touch can be such a comfort!
- Do you have a pet? Take time each day to pet them (as much as they will allow). Really feel there fur and the different textures. They will feel calmer too!
- Give your loved one a massage. This could go for your kids, partner or anyone you feel comfortable touching. Make your hands your brain and experience skin on skin contact or the fabric of their clothes. Head massages are fun because you can experience the texture of hair and enjoy how wild your “victim’s” hair will look afterwards.
- Have a pair soft pair of pajamas, slippers or a blanket you can put on and feel the comfort of having something soft on your body. Don’t be afraid to do this at anytime during the day. I relish the days I can stay in my PJs all day under the covers.
- Baking is a great way to use touch. Baking bread and really feeling the dough or any part of the baking process is an opportunity to get centered.
- Do some gardening. If you are not a gardener you can just put your hands in the dirt. Don’t be shy! There is something to be said for touching dirt and feeling more connected to the earth.
Why this works: It just does! A huge part of learning coping skills is also learning how to soothe ourselves. Often we did not get the comfort we needed as children and we do not know the first thing when it comes to taking care of ourselves when we are upset. When we think about comforting children, a huge part of that is touching them. So how can you baby yourself a bit? Your feelings will thank you in return.
5. Smell something yummy
I saved the best for last! I have a bold statement to make: scents can change your life! There are so many smells that can help manage your mood is some very profound ways.
- Buy some candles a put them in different rooms in your home. Your whole family will love it. Walking into a room that smells fresh can help calm nerves or wake you up when you need more energy or relax you at bedtime.
- Pick bath products that smell good. Citrus is always a great choice. Nice smelling products can make a shower or bath feel luxurious and becomes a great self-care experience.
- Buy some fresh cut flowers that smell divine. Put them on your nightstand so you can enjoy their fragrance when you wake-up in the morning and when you go to bed. It is a wonderful way for those of you that live in the city (me included) to bring a bit of nature inside.
- Get cooking! You could get in touch with all five senses with this activity. Food smells are the best, so look up some recipes or make your favorite dish and enjoy. When I have time or motivation to cook (which isn’t often) I love the experience of smelling onions and garlic on the stove.
- The best way I have found to get in touch with your sense of smell is ESSENTIAL OILS. If you don’t have any GET SOME NOW. I cannot stress this enough. The right essential oil will change your life. The best part is you can bring them with you practically anywhere for instant relief. Have a bottle at home, in your car, in your purse and at the office. It is a great way to manage stress and (depending on the oil) lift whatever mood state you may be experiencing. There are also so many ways to use them and I would really encourage you learning more if any of this resonates with you. If you are interested in learning more about essential oils visit my dōTERRA info page and see if incorporating them into your life would be worth it.
I encourage you to make a plan to incorporate a few of these suggestions. Try it out when you are in a good headspace to see what you think and make a good day even better. I find that creating a practice around coping skills will make it the most effective. Getting in touch with your five senses is a very pleasant experience and for you parents out there, a great skill to teach your children so they learn how to soothe themselves. These suggestions may seem very simple, but it can make a world of difference in the quality of your life. it is also a great way place to start in managing emotions better.