Coping Skills

Coping Skills

How To Understand and Better Develop Your Coping Skills

Coping skills are the things that people do to deal with problems, stress, negative emotions, or situations that might be risky. For example, being able to not think about something unpleasant is a form of coping with it. Some coping skills can be more effective than others, and people who have an addiction often have problems with their coping skills. For many, alcohol or drug use becomes a coping skill by itself because it promotes relaxation. When a person drinks, it becomes easier to have fun and forget about problems but for those with addiction, this coping skill is ultimately harmful.  Substance abuse is not an effective coping skill because it leads to temporary effects and might do more damage than good. So, what are some coping skills the person can develop?

Avoidance is the first skill to be discussed. Avoidance can be harmful if the person uses it excessively, for example, to avoid anything challenging, like difficult conversations. However, in the case of addiction, avoidance of high-risk situations can be a useful skill. This skill involves having awareness of the things that might trigger a relapse and working to avoid these situations. Anger or loneliness might be common triggers, so the person might try to avoid situations they know will make them feel especially out of control or isolated. Triggers might involve people who can supply drugs or places where there is a strong association with substance use. Going into a bar after a stressful day at work, for example, is a situation that can be identified as high-risk and is best avoided.

Stress management is associated with different coping skills but one that may be mentioned is the skill to relax. Relaxation can be a skill because many people can take control of this process by applying specific techniques. Relaxation can help us release tension in healthy ways. Learning breathing techniques, meditation, or muscle relaxation can help us take control of our bodies when needed and defuse the stressful situation before it escalates.


Diversion is another useful coping skill, albeit, like avoidance, it is one to be used with caution. Diversion refers to learning how to distract the mind from negative thoughts, emotions, or patterns by engaging in a pleasant activity. Common and healthy diversions can include going for a walk, reading a book, playing a game, calling someone on the phone, and so on. The key to diversion is learning which activities are truly relaxing and pleasant, as well as when to apply what kind of diversion suits your current mood. For example, when one is feeling tired and stressed, reading might be too demanding, it could be best to watch a funny movie or take a hot bath. Learning the habits that most help us get our minds off of things is an important aspect of this habit.

Social coping skills encompass a wide category of behaviors that involve other people.  This can include talking to a friend, texting someone, reaching out to a therapist, sharing something in a support group, or even simply meeting a friend for coffee. Knowing when to reach out and to who is important. For example, some people might want to reach out to their parents even if they know that they will probably receive criticism. It is important to see who can give us the support we need at the moment.


Organizing can be a coping skill. When we feel overwhelmed, organizing our schedule and prioritizing the tasks in front of us can help us feel more relaxed. Sometimes, cleaning or making lists can give us a sense of control, especially when we feel that we don’t have enough control over our situation.

There are other coping skills, including a wide variety of behaviors that help you reduce the stress you feel and enhance your emotional well-being. For example, writing and journaling can be tactics that are used to regulate emotions and to do introspection, while exercise is a way of relaxing and a diversion.

It is important that you find coping skills that work for you and that are the most effective without being harmful. Developing new coping skills allows us to reduce the negative impact of addiction and resist the temptation to use. There are always situations we need to cope with, and it’s best to avoid using drugs for this purpose. Know yourself and allow yourself to experiment and see what works best. For example, a person who has a high energy and trouble sitting still may benefit more from walking, going outdoors, and exercising rather than reading or taking a bath.  It all depends on what works for you.

Coping skills are essential because they allow us to deal with negative events and situations effectively. They help us resist stress and avoid drug use in the future. Coping skills, when they are tailored to who we are, will help us throughout our lives.

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