a statewide queer people of color organization

Positive Coping Strategies for Enduring Distress

While building strong self-care habits is important for long-term or overall mental wellness, they don’t happen overnight, and sometimes you need strategies that can be implemented right now. When we are in moments of distress, emotions and panic have a tendency to take over. In these moments, it’s helpful to acknowledge the feelings and then turn to coping skills—the strategies we use to deal with stressors and difficult situations.

 

Below are a few categories and examples of positive coping skills; use them to inspire you to recognize effective coping strategies that you may employ for yourself during times of distress.

 

Self-Soothing

Comfort your senses with things that are calming, pleasant, or simply appealing to you.

  • Find something that’s soft to the touch or has a texture that brings you joy. Hold it and feel it in your hands or on your body. For example, your favorite blanket, a treasured stuffed animal, cool stones, or even trinkets that remind you of a fond memory.
  • Put on some good music. You could even make playlists for various moods so you have music ready to go. If you’re a musician yourself, play something. Listen to guided meditations, like this Black Lives Matter Meditation for Healing Racial Trauma. Find a podcast that is uplifting or soothing to you.
  • Eat something yummy.
  • Look at some pretty artwork. Scroll through pictures of friends and loved ones. Keep a board of your favorite pictures on your wall. Save a small picture of something (or someone) cute or nice or lovely in your wallet.
  • Find a smell that’s calming and really notice it. Light some candles or burn some incense. Put on some fragrances you love.

Distractions

Take your mind away from the distress for the moment to save yourself from becoming overwhelmed.

  • Read a book.
  • Watch a movie or TV show you like.
  • Hang out with a friend.
  • Play a video game.
  • Clean or organize your environment.
  • Play with or care for an animal companion.
  • Exercise or play sports.

Opposite Impulse

Balance the inputs in your personal world by actively seeking something that fills an “opposite” emotion.

  • Watching funny videos. Like this one.
  • Reading affirmations.
  • Do something to help someone else.
  • Encourage others.
  • Make a gratitude list.

Emotional Awareness

Identify and externalize your feelings.

  • Write in your journal about what’s going on.
  • Express your emotions through art (visual, musical, crafting, etc).
  • Talk with someone you trust—a friend, a therapist, a family member.
  • Re-interrogate and manage your expectations of the situation.
  • Allow yourself space and time to cry, laugh, scream, or whatever you need.

Mindfulness

Accept and validate your feelings.

  • Meditate.
  • Practice breathing exercises.
  • Prioritize peacefulness and relaxation.
  • Acknowledge your feelings as “guests” in your house, and sit with them until they leave.
  • Take a shower, take a walk, or go for a drive.

Crisis Plan

Keep contact information for loved ones, support networks, and hotlines easily accessible.

  • Keep your friends on speed dial.
  • Look up local or national hotline services that are available to you. These may be phone, text, or chat services.

 

For many of these coping strategies, it may be particularly helpful to make some preparations ahead of time. Having encouraging reminders, positive affirmations, and fond pictures visible around the spaces you spend the most time in makes it easy to use them to ground yourself. Preparing playlists for different moods saves you from digging up the songs you want to hear in the moment. You could even put together a small “self-care first aid kit” with small bits from each strategy to keep in your room or even your bag; it could contain a small snack or candy you like, a scented item, positive affirmations, trinkets and reminders, pictures, etc.

 

If you are interested in building a coping skills firsr aid kit with allgo’s Health and Wellness program, join us on June 14th, 2017 from 6:00 to 8:00 at allgo!