Anxiety and depression affect millions of Americans. Many people cope with anxiety and depression silently, feeling they need to “be strong” for others around them. This thinking is understandable, but it’s important to honor your feelings and get the help you need. Even if self-help is your only option, there are positive steps you can take.
What Are Coping Skills?
Coping skills are the mental, emotional, and behavioral tools that allow us to maintain focus and perspective when dealing with difficulties – and the strong feelings those difficulties create.
When anxiety and depression combine, they can make ordinary challenges seem overwhelming. Luckily, it is possible to develop coping skills and grow more resilient. By adopting certain patterns of thought, you can change your response to stressful situations.
While it can be helpful to practice coping skills with professional help, you can often achieve a great deal on your own. By consistently exercising new coping skills, they will become habits.
How Can I Develop Stronger Coping Skills in Everyday Life?
Everyone’s problems are different, and that includes your experiences of anxiety and depression. However, healthy coping skills are broadly the same for everybody. That means it is possible for anyone to learn them.
Some ways to improve coping skills include:
Make Time to Breathe
Negative emotions often seem to pour into us instantly in response to outside events. The first step to stronger coping skills is realizing you can choose how to respond to a crisis. That doesn’t mean avoiding your emotions, but making enough “space” in your mind to think things through. Many people find that taking long, deep breaths while counting mentally to ten helps – it can reduce physical tension, helping you feel more balanced.
Put Things in Perspective
In an average day, everyone faces challenges, big and small. Anxiety and depression can make small problems seem gigantic through catastrophizing, assuming the worst. You might notice your mind leaps to worst case scenarios when a problem arises. Don’t feel bad! You can train yourself for healthier thoughts. Ask yourself: “How likely is this outcome, really?” And: “What other outcomes are more likely than this worst case scenario?”
Think in Terms of Action
Sometimes, circumstances in life may make us feel helpless – as if there’s nothing constructive we can do. The thing is, there’s always something, no matter how small. If you try to focus only on solutions that will totally resolve the problem, you may get frustrated. Instead, think: “What small step can I take right now to make things a little bit better?” Take action on that and then, when you’re done, try to build on it.
Develop Positive Habits
Avoiding problems is not healthy, but giving yourself time to think can help. However, it’s important to make that time count. Instead of watching TV or eating a snack while you worry, try to get outside for a walk. Stay active – exercise, engage in a creative hobby, or do chores or other small tasks you need to get done. A brief break can refresh you and help you think more clearly when you return to the issue.
Don’t forget: Self-help can be useful, but it’s not your only option. Connecting with a support group or professional help can give you the resources you need to make lasting, positive change. Deciding to do things differently is the first step toward wellness. The professionals at Rockland’s Behavioral Response Team are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to talk to you about anything that might be causing stress, anxiety or emotional trauma. We can also come to your home or place of work to assist if necessary. All of our services are free and confidential. Call us day or night at 845-517-0400. Don’t wait, get help.