Coping skills: A way for adolescents to manage difficult emotions

What are coping skills?

Healthy coping skills are a valuable tool to have in life. Life is inherently full of stressors just as it brings joy, meaning, and connection. When the stressors or traumas of life overwhelm someone’s distress tolerance, it often leaves the person in a vulnerable state. As with most living creatures, one of our first responses to stress or harm, real or imagined, can be to put distance between ourselves and the source of the stress. When utilized properly, coping skills can be a healthy and effective way to manage our emotions, put distance between ourselves and our stressors, or to problem solve.

Types of coping skills

There are many forms of coping skills, however, at ilearn wellness group we end each day with a coping ahead group where we focus on three types of skills: distraction, grounding, and problem-solving.

Distraction skills involve getting some distance from the source of stress by engaging in something that allows you to move your thoughts from the source of stress to something that is less activating. This can often be something that someone enjoys, such as gardening, cooking, watching a favorite television show, or playing a sport. It can also be neutral but engaging – such as completing laundry, organizing your closet, or focusing on a project you have been planning to return to. The key to distraction skills is that you give yourself some time and space to recover from the triggering situation. It is important to note that distraction skills are just distraction, so they do not resolve any underlying problems inherently. However, they allow you to clear your mind so that you can more effectively face challenges.

Grounding skills involve bringing yourself back to the present moment, your body, and your mind. They focus on increased awareness of yourself, your environment, and how you are feeling. It can help bring you back to the present moment and interrupt difficult thoughts. Some grounding skills include breathing exercises, using temperature or scent to connect back to the current moment, and progressive muscle relaxation.

Problem-solving skills help address the sources of stress head on. Problem-solving skills are important, as they allow us to work through current issues and find solutions that allow us to understand ourselves better and produce solutions that support our needs whenever possible. There are many problem-solving skills that are drawn from CBT, ACT, and DBT. At ilearn wellness group, we offer therapeutic groups for all three of these modalities and explore problem-solving skills and coping techniques that are useful in helping our patients address situations that may be causing them stress in their lives.

Coping skills are a useful tool to have when navigating the challenges life brings our way. Learning these skills at an early age can allow you to utilize these skills and concepts throughout your life when you encounter situations that overwhelm your normal ability to cope with stress. Many of us already do some coping skills on our own – even without learning about them. Building upon and expanding these skills can increase your success in managing difficult emotions and problem solving in your life. For more information about our psychiatric day treatment program, please contact us today!

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