List of Coping Skills and Mechanisms to Know About

Each one of us experiences uncomfortable emotions and feelings at some point in our life. These emotions might be caused due to any unforeseen event or changes that one can’t easily adapt to.

Circumstances like the loss of a loved one, change in workplace/school, and difficult relationships are a few of the causes of emotional distress1. Emotional distress is very normal but how you deal with these uncomfortable emotions is very much important.

The way one deals with these uncomfortable emotions is known as a coping mechanism. One should have a list of coping skills and mechanisms to deal with emotional distress.

What are Coping Skills?

The word cope implies dealing effectively with something difficult. Coping skills are skills that one develops to minimize, tolerate and deal with stressful or unpleasant events in their life.

Coping normally includes acclimating to or enduring negative occasions or real factors while attempting to keep your positive mental self-portrait and passionate harmony. Coping happens concerning life changes that are seen to be distressing.

Coping Mechanisms

To replace these negative stress responses and enhance the mood, we learn or develop coping mechanisms.2 Coping behaviors are formed subconsciously, and that too at an early developmental age. Humans tend to learn these coping behaviors from those with who they come into contact while growing.

Why are Coping Skills Important?

Coping skills are strategies and techniques that help decrease negative sentiments when somebody is feeling under pressure. Those sentiments may be the aftereffect of tension, outrage, discouragement, or simply broad everyday pressure or stress.

Working on coping methodologies can help children and young adults figure out how to deal with their feelings better. Set forth plainly, coping skills or coping mechanisms help us manage the uncomfortable emotions, feelings, and stress we regularly manage.

Without them, we’re inclined to over-speculate circumstances, over-exaggerate issues, and behave irrationally. Healthy coping skills permit us to balance pressure, think obviously, and feel better emotionally.

Every individual should have a list of coping skills that work given that what works for one individual may not function for another.

Coping Styles

There are two kinds of coping styles, problem-focused and emotion-focused.

1. Problem-focused mechanisms:

Also known as instrumental mechanisms, are typically focused on solving the problem to decrease stress. Problem-focused coping 3is useful when you need to change your circumstance, maybe by eliminating something stressful from your life.

For instance, if you’re in an unhealthy or toxic relationship, your anxiety and stress may be best settled by cutting off that relationship (rather than alleviating your feelings).

2. Emotion-based mechanism:

It helps people handle the emotions or feelings of distress caused by the problem. Emotion-focused mechanisms are useful when dealing with your sentiments when you either don’t want to change your circumstance or when conditions are out of your control.

For instance, if you are grieving the passing of a friend or family member, it’d be important to deal with your sentiments or emotions in a sound and healthy manner (since you can’t change the condition).

Further coping mechanisms can be classified broadly as avoidant or active. The coping mechanism, which involves creating awareness of the stressor and a conscious effort to reduce the stress, is an active coping mechanism. On the other hand, when one avoids or ignores the problem, he/she is using the avoidant coping mechanism.4

List of Coping Skills

There is no one particular list of coping skills that would be universally effective. Each one of us can make our own list of coping skills from the ones given below.

A) Positive Coping Skills

Here’s a list of adaptive coping skills that’ll help you deal with distressing emotions like anxiety, anger and sadness, and irrational thoughts.

1) Diversion 

Diversion is useful when one can recognize the overwhelming emotions and their warning signs. These are only useful when the basic goal is to stay safe in the short run

While diversion coping skills are not the absolute solution, it helps you temporarily distract until you can think clearly and avoid irrational thoughts. Examples include:

  1. Playing an instrument, dancing, and singing.
  2. Drawing, painting, or coloring.
  3. Exercise or go for a walk.
  4. Writing/Journaling.
  5. Reading a book.
  6. Listening to music
  7. Watch a show or movie
  8. Clean or organize your environment
  9. Take a shower or bath
  10. Play a game

2) Social/Interpersonal 

Social coping skills are helpful as scientific studies have proved that social support can counteract the effect of stress on DNA.

These coping skills involve a friend, loved one, or a therapist that can help you more accurately identify a problem and provide you with objective support and advice. Here are some examples:

  1. Talk to a trusted person
  2. Set healthy boundaries
  3. Be assertiveness
  4. Learn to say ‘no.’
  5. Help someone in need.
  6. Spend time with a loved one
  7. Use humor to disperse a situation
  8. Care for a friend and encourage them

3) Cognitive 

Cognitive skills help one change the way they think and thus make them stress-resilient. These coping skills help you identify toxic thinking traps and help you reverse negative thoughts or replace them with positive ones.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a type of treatment that helps people adapt to thinking to improve their mental responses to situations. Examples are:

  1. Make a gratitude list
  2. Practice self-awareness or self-monitoring
  3. Make a pros and cons list of any decision
  4. Cognitive restructuring (changing your mindset)
  5. Reward yourself upon goal achievement
  6. Write a list of your strengths
  7. Lowered expectations
  8. Be flexible.

4) Physical

Physical coping skills involve bodily actions. Physical skills are of help as physical processes are directly related to mental and emotional processes. Examples are:

  1. Enough sleep
  2. Deep breathing
  3. Meditating
  4. Eating healthy
  5. Exercising
  6. Limited caffeine intake
  7. Have proper routine
  8. Eat some dark chocolate

B) Negative Coping Skills

There are certain negative or unhealthy coping mechanisms, too, which one should be aware of. These coping strategies may bring temporary relief, but they will negatively affect you in the long run.

Just like positive coping skills, we develop negative coping skills subconsciously too.

list of coping skills
Photo by Dominik Kempf on Unsplash

A few of them are:

  1. Substance abuse
  2. Procrastination
  3. Gossiping
  4. Self-isolation
  5. Criticizing self or others
  6. Hostile or violent behavior
  7. Self-harm
  8. Manipulating others
  9. All-or-nothing thinking
  10. Self-sabotaging behavior
  11. Binge eating
  12. Overgeneralization
  13. Throwing temper tantrums
  14. Overthinking
  15. Vandalism

If individuals find themselves using negative or unhealthy coping skills, they should make a conscious effort to replace them with positive coping skills. One should do so in the long run, and it is the positive or healthy coping skills and mechanisms that will prove beneficial for them.


Coping strategies that work for you might not work for someone else and vice versa. Since we all have our unique ways of coping with stress and anxiety, the list of coping skills useful to us is fairly different.

One can develop coping strategies that facilitate positive coping by being self-aware and introspecting. Dealing with any emotion is an inside thing, and the individual themselves can only figure out what works best for them.

One could always take the help of a therapist in dealing with distressing or overwhelming emotions. One could always make their list of coping skills independently, but there is no harm or shame in taking external help.

You might also find that certain coping strategies work best in a certain situation or for a specific emotion. For example, after a really long day, you might enjoy doing certain activities or hobbies, but it might not be effective while you are sad. It might so happen that talking to a loved one is the best-suited coping skill for you when you are sad instead of engaging in a hobby.

When it comes to coping skills and mechanisms, there is always room for adjustment and improvement. We can’t control what life throws at us, but we can control how we deal with it. So each one of us needs to have the right coping skills.

Why Do They Quit
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  1. Stewart-Brown, Sarah. “Emotional wellbeing and its relation to health: Physical disease may well result from emotional distress.” Bmj 317.7173 (1998): 1608-1609. ↩︎
  2. Skinner, Ellen A., and Melanie J. Zimmer-Gembeck. “The development of coping.” Annu. Rev. Psychol. 58 (2007): 119-144. ↩︎
  3. Carroll, Linda. “Problem-focused coping.” Encyclopedia of behavioral medicine. Cham: Springer International Publishing, 2020. 1747-1748. ↩︎
  4. Cheng, Cecilia, Peizhen Sun, and Kwok-Kei Mak. “Internet addiction and psychosocial maladjustment: Avoidant coping and coping inflexibility as psychological mechanisms.” Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking 18.9 (2015): 539-546. ↩︎

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Shivangi Somani

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