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Introduction to Coping Skills

by Meghan Shafer, LMSW

Welcome to the first installment of a series of posts that will be focused on coping skills. In this first post, I’d like to focus on two things- what exactly are coping skills and why do we need them?

Oftentimes, when we experience any sort of change in life it can lead to experiencing psychological stress. Psychological stress refers to a person’s emotional, behavioral, and biological response to a “perceived threat” in their environment. This type of response activates what is called the Sympathetic Nervous System in our bodies. The SNS regulates blood pressure, heart rate, and affects the immune system. High rates of stress lead to a compromised body, physically. Mentally and emotionally, psychosocial stressors often prompt reactions of depression, anxiety, impaired concentration and decision making capabilities, a feeling of disconnect from the environment and those around you, and intrusive/negative thoughts.

Events that are perceived to be both positive and negative can prompt a stress response.

Psychological stressors can come in all shapes and forms. Events that are perceived to be both positive and negative can prompt a stress response. Some examples include a break-up, getting a new job, moving to a new city, experiencing the loss of a family member, and so on. As a response to stress and the side effects that accompany it, the body and the mind will search for a way to cope in an effort to battle the body’s reactions and try to maintain stable mental health and emotional well being.

Developing coping skills can help you tolerate, minimize, and deal with stressful or uncomfortable situations in life. Of course, a person can develop both healthy and unhealthy coping skills. For example, a negative coping skill would be utilizing excessive amounts of alcohol in order to deal with getting fired from a job. Within this series, we will be exploring a new healthy coping skill each week.

Learning and honing an array of coping skills will allow you to not only be able to tackle any major stressors that may be currently affecting your life at this moment, but will give you the chance to better deal with events that occur in the future. Not every person finds the same success in each coping skill, so remember to keep at it and find the strategies that work for you!

In the next post, we will be exploring the use of breathing exercises…