Living with Chronic Pain
What Are Coping Skills?
All changes in life, good or bad, require some type of adaptation. Coping skills include the management of stress, time and lifestyle. It also incorporates problem-solving and decision-making. Strategies of coping involve distraction, soothing and balancing.
Coping skills require making necessary adjustments to manage stressful situations and negative events, while addressing them effectively. This includes short-term stress, such as facing a work deadline or moving to a new home, and long-term stress, such as dealing with chronic pain or enduring long-lasting financial issues.
Positive and negative coping skills
Coping skills can be either positive or negative. Positive coping skills include returning to a state of calm, which generally benefits health and wellness. However, negative coping skills involve numbing unfavorable emotions, which may be harmful to health and wellness.
Examples of negative coping skills include avoiding a stressor instead of taking steps to address it, or using alcohol or drugs as a way to numb feelings surrounding a stressor. Examples of positive coping skills include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Using techniques, such as grounding and mindfulness, when faced with an unexpected stressful situation
- Participating in soothing activities, such as taking deep breaths, getting a massage, or listening to favorite music
- Making lists of potential solutions or positive outcomes
- Making a “to do” list and identifying tasks that can be delegated or eliminated
- Expressing or releasing negative emotions, instead of bottling them up
- Practicing positive self-talk
- Asking for help from a family member, friend, or therapist
- Prioritizing a healthy lifestyle, by getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and becoming physically active
Individuals may be best able to cope with stressors by using a variety of positive coping skills, depending on the type of stressor. Certain skills work better for some individuals than others; therefore, it is important to try various coping skills and identify the ones that work best. Coping skills should be practiced prior to a stressor occurring.