Maybe you’ve had a hard day at work or got into a fight with your friend. Maybe you’re going through a significant (and stressful) transition. Or maybe it’s just been one of those days.
Either way, whatever the specific situation, caring well for yourself during a tough time means being able to turn to a variety of healthy tools and techniques. Which means that it’s important to essentially keep a running list of strategies that work best for you.
The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Deck by psychologists Matthew McKay, Ph.D, and Jeffrey C. Wood, PsyD, features 52 cards with invaluable practices. Below are 10 coping strategies to consider adding to your collection.
- State how you feel. This might seem obvious, but many of us don’t name our feelings. Yet, saying how you’re feeling in the moment (and out loud) validates your emotion, and validates you. It conveys the message that it’s OK to feel this feeling. Plus, it’s the first step in helping you choose a helpful coping strategy.
- Engage in a pleasurable activity. List the activities you enjoy doing (and used to enjoy doing). Do one activity each day for the next week. Actually put it on your calendar, and be specific about “what, where, when, and how.”
- Soothe yourself with scents. List the scents that smell good to you and that relax you. These might include certain candles, herbs, flowers, perfumes, colognes, essential oils, and food. Try to keep some scents with you when you’re not at home.
- Soothe yourself with sound. List the sounds that help you to feel relaxed and calm. This might be anything from certain songs to sounds of nature to white noise to a loved one’s voice. Download several sounds to your phone, and listen to one of these sounds today.
- Reconnect to your values. List your most vital values. Think of your values like “compass headings that point you in the right direction in life.” Next, list the specific actions that honor these values and move you toward fulfilling them. Commit to taking one of these actions this week.
- Use supportive coping thoughts. The way we talk to ourselves, the messages we tell ourselves, affect how we handle every situation. Pay attention to your self-talk. And create a positive coping thought to support you, such as “I’m a survivor” or “I won’t give up.” Remind yourself of your strengths and power.
- Practice band-of-light meditation. Sit quietly, and imagine a narrow band of white light moving down your body. As it moves, pay attention to the sensations in each body part that pass below the band. Try not to judge these sensations; just observe them.
- Observe your thoughts. Set your timer for 5 minutes. Visualize your thoughts coming and going, one by one. Imagine your thoughts drifting away like clouds or floating by you in a stream. Try not to get attached to them, or to judge them.
- Ask your wise mind. Put your hand on the center of your stomach below your rib cage. Focus on a question or decision that you need to make. Next, connect to your wise self, and ask him or her for guidance.
- Problem solve using your ABCs. That is, start by brainstorming alternative thoughts, behaviors, and solutions for the problem you’re facing. Next, evaluate your list and choose the best ideas. Lastly, pick a time and place, and commit to trying one new response.
Pick the strategies that speak to you, and practice them regularly. Of course, different situations might call for different strategies. Overall, try to maintain a flexible mindset: If one technique isn’t helpful, reach for something else.
And, if you’re finding it especially hard to cope, don’t hesitate to work with a therapist. Each of us can benefit from professional help at different points in our lives. And seeking that help means we’re strong, not weak.