got coping skills?

I can pretty much guarantee that anyone who has been to even one therapy session has heard the term "coping skills."  It's a major buzz word among psychologists!  As someone who's been in therapy for literally half her life, I can probably name about a gajillion coping skills.  (Okay, maybe not that many, but definitely a lot.)  Don't be believe me?

  1. Soak in a warm bubble bath.
  2. Go for a long walk in the woods.
  3. Breathe in for ten seconds.  Hold it for five seconds.  Breathe out for fifteen seconds.
  4. Squeeze an ice cube as tightly as you can.
  5. Talk with a person you trust.
  6. Play with a puppy.
  7. Spend 30 minutes per day practicing yoga.
  8. Make a list of positive affirmations.
  9. Listen to an upbeat song.
  10. Squish a stress ball.

...I can keep going, but I'll spare you.

For years, everyone (i.e. parents, teachers, counselors, etc.) told me to use my coping skills to manage my anxiety, depression, anger, etc.  It used to annoy the heck out of me!  "They don't help!" I would yell.  "Stop telling me what to do.  You don't know what it's like inside my head!"  The truth was, I had no idea if they worked or not because I never actually tried using them in times of distress.   

As a youth peer advocate, I regularly hear from clinical staff that this youth or that youth would do so well if only they utilized their coping skills.  And that's the key, isn't it?  A person can know all the coping skills, but if he doesn't put them into practice, they won't help him manage his emotions.  (Though embarrassing to admit, it's only very recently that I've begun to grasp this simple concept.)  Well, I've decided that if I'm gonna talk the talk, I'd better walk the walk.  A few weeks ago, I did a group activity with the youth I work with called The Power of Music.  I created a playlist on Spotify of upbeat, inspirational songs to use during the workshop.  When the workshop was over, I promptly forgot about the playlist...until two days ago, when I felt myself beginning to slip into a funk.  For whatever reason, I began thinking about that playlist and the workshop I did with the youth...and then I got out my iPhone, slipped in my headphones, and pressed PLAY.  Did listening to the music fix my problems?  Nope.  Did it help improve my mood?  YES!  After listening to the music, was I motivated to begin addressing the deeper issues that caused the funk in the first place?  ABSOLUTELY!

Bottom line?  Coping skills are useless until they are put into practice.  It's a simple yet regularly forgotten concept.  I'm just here to remind you of the obvious.  You're welcome.


P.S.  The playlist I referred to in this post is called Rainbows and Unicorns.  (Back in the day, whenever I was feeling down, my mom would tell me to read books about happy things like rainbows and unicorns, instead of the murder mysteries I so often chose...hence the name.)  You can check it out HERE.  If you have any suggestions for songs I should add to the list, feel free to leave them in the comments!