Coping skills and wellness activities are very important tools to be developed and honed inlife. Counseling can be a great place to work on and develop these.
Positive coping skills and wellness activities all contribute to feeling more balanced, grounded, and being able to overcome obstacles with more peace and bounce back
(resilience). Coping skills are used in the moment of distress or difficulty. Wellness activities are more preventative and used regularly. They are things done ahead of time to help us have more reserves and feel better overall. Many things can be both a coping skill and a wellness activity, the difference is the timing in which they are used.
Examples to illustrate the difference:
- Exercise is a wellness activity when done regularly to promote health and wellbeing. It is a coping skill when feeling anxious and overwhelmed and going on a run to feel more grounded and clear-minded.
- Journaling is a wellness activity when done daily as maintenance and release. It is a coping skill when feeling really angry at someone and overwhelmed and using it in the moment to feel more calm and have clarity on how to proceed.
Coping Skills: Coping skills are anything that we can use, in the moment, to help us handle stressful situations or difficult emotions.
Now, there is a whole spectrum that I like to talk about with coping skills, as there are some coping skills that are very effective, but have negative-long term-consequences and some coping skills that add to overall life-quality as they are used.
Coping that has become an addiction, works well in the moment, or is negative in the long-run:
- Food i.e. binging, purging, not eating at all
- Social Media
- Video Games (not addicted)
- Call a friend
- Breathing exercise
- Pet a pet
- Make a cup of tea
The goal is to find, try, and identify several positive coping skills that work for you (different ones are more effective for different people or even different emotions and situations).
Wellness Activities: Activities that help to promote overall wellbeing and healthy mental health. Same as coping skills, different ones work for different people. Some people love gardening, some woodworking, some journaling, walks with friends, walks alone in the woods, etc. The goal is to find what keeps your tank full and then weave it into your life in a regular way.
A great quote from James Clear,
“You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. Your goal is your desired outcome. Your system is the collection of daily habits that will get you there.
This year, spend less time focusing on outcomes and more time focusing on the habits that precede the results.”
If your goal is mental health or to feel less anxious, but there is no regular thoughts and behaviors to support that, you are going to sink to your “system” which is what the status quo has always been for you. A great way to change the “system” to support your goal would be to find wellness activities that help you feel good, and then weave them into your life in a disciplined and regular fashion.
An example of a system of wellness activities to support mental health: Every morning write down three things grateful for, take a walk 5 in the woods 5 days a week, journal every other night, spend every Thursday evening alone [insert hobby here].
As already stressed, different coping skills and wellness activities work for different people. The goal is to identify different ones that sound good to try, try them out, and see which ones work best for you. Then, integrate the wellness activities that work well for you into your life and practice being mindful of distress and practice using identified coping skills in the moment rather than sinking into the negative event or emotion.
List of Some Coping Skills and Wellness Activities
- Take slow, deep breaths
- Use positive self-talk
- Foster an attitude of mindfulness and acceptance*
- Take a walk
- Write Poetry
- Spend time on or start hobbies (fishing, gardening, hiking, woodworking, knitting, juggling, drawing, puzzles, taking pictures, baking, etc)
- Eat healthy food
- Drink lots of water
- Sleep hygiene/ try to get minimum 8 hours sleep
- Listen to music
- Write a list of things to be thankful for
- Volunteer to help something you care about
- Get organized (buy a calendar or planner to write down schedule, write to-do lists)
- Slowly count to 10
- Say something kind to yourself
- Talk to a trusted friend of family member
Coping Practices that may require some learning (there are many resources for these online/youtube)
- Progressive muscle relaxation
- Guided imagery
- Mindfulness meditations
- Use of self-compassion skills
- TIPP skills
- Tapping/ Emotional freedom technique
- Butterfly hug
- Body Scan
- Butterfly Hug
~this is not an all-inclusive list, there are many other good coping practices and wellness activities out there! You are likely already using some coping and wellness in your life already!~
*Mindfulness is about being completely in-touch with and aware of the present moment in a non-evaluative or non-judgmental way. Mindfulness can help you take a step back from your thoughts, potentially reducing the extent with which they fuel anxiety and fear. It is an increase of awareness in the moment versus autopilot.