The other day I wrote a post about my new coping skills toolbox. It’s just a box that I bought and painted. I put pieces of wood with many of my coping skills on them into the box. Now, I don’t have to try to think of a coping skill when I’m having trouble, I can just grab the box.
But, what is a coping skill? Coping skills do NOT stop a mood swing. If you are in the process of mania or depression, a coping skill will not stop it. What it WILL do, however, is make that swing a little easier to deal with. Depending on who you are, some will work better than others. Some work better on anxiety, some work better on depression and some are best with mania. And some won’t work for you at all. But, everyone can find at least one that will help if you can commit to it.
- Pray – obviously this depends on the degree of faith in your life. But, if you have faith in a higher power, whatever it may be, appeal to it, ask for help. You know best how to deal with your prayer and I won’t try to explain it to you here.
- Breathing Exercises – There are a ton of these and anyone who is in therapy or under the care of a psychiatrist has probably heard of at least one of them. My personal favorite it “square breathing”. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, exhale for 4 seconds. Repeat until you have calmed down a bit. This gives you extra oxygen and takes your mind off your personal issues for at least a few minutes, clearing your mind and hopefully helping you think a little clearer.
- Grounding – I have trouble with this one, but it works for a lot of others. Sit calmly and engage all 5 senses. What do you see, hear, smell, feel and taste? This is, at heart, a mindfulness exercise. It is designed to take you out of the swirl of your symptoms and ground you in the exact moment you are occupying.
- Affirmations – Yes, positive mantras. I have resisted this for years and years and years as stupid. I have terrible self-esteem and feel ridiculous standing in a mirror saying that I am beautiful or smart, or whatever. But, it doesn’t have to be like that. “My husband/wife/significant other loves me and supports me”. “I’ve gotten through difficult times like this before and I can do it again”. “One step at a time, I can do this”. To my surprise, some of this is actually starting to work for me.
- Gratitude – Another one I have trouble with. Write down what you are grateful for at this moment. Your significant other, your children, your parents, I’m not in the hospital, I’m alive, I have somewhere to live, I have food to eat … etc. When I’m deep in it I usually have trouble being grateful. Keep a list somewhere to remind yourself.
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation – I love this one, especially at bedtime. Lay in your bed (this is how I prefer, but you can sit), get comfortable. Start at your feet or your head (I prefer feet) and work to relax your body, piece by piece from the bottom up. You may need to contract muscles to get them to relax. Don’t forget joints like elbows and knees and don’t forget your jaw (mine is always tight). This activity can actually help lull you to sleep.
- Journal/Blog – Get it out of your head and down on paper! It can really help to just spew all the things that you are thinking out, but sometimes it’s so personal you don’t want to share it with family or friends. Write it down. You can keep it or throw it out when you are done, but get it out.
- ABC Game – I really like this one and it’s great for elevated moods like anxiety or hypomania. Pick a subject. I usually start with the names of people that I know or have known. Start at A and name something. Keep moving through the alphabet. A for Adam, B for Ben, C for Christine, etc. If you get stuck on a letter, just skip it, but don’t worry about it. The process of thinking about this, helps calm the mind. This one works really well for me.
- Color – A lot of people get a lot out of coloring. The mere act of concentrating on staying within the lines or picking a color or imagining how you want the finished picture to look stops your mind from dwelling exclusively on whatever you are spinning around in your head.
- Read a book – This didn’t used to work for me, then I started reading books for teens. The Maze Runner series and The Lorien Legacies Series are two sci-fi series that I have used. They are ridiculously easy reads and they don’t take a lot of brain power, but I found them engaging enough to keep up with. And they had the added benefit of redirecting my mind for awhile.
That’s just a few of the tons of different coping skills that you can use. I hope that you are able to pull at least one out of this list to help you.
Please feel free to put other ideas in the comments section. I’m always looking for more and you never know who may find exactly what they need in your comment!