If I have a situation that causes me pain, the first thing I need to do is figure out how to feel better. After that, I can try to resolve the situation. This is where my coping skills come in. My coping skills are anything I can think or do to make me feel better. They range from meditation and mindfulness to re-watching comedy specials on Netflix and cuddling with my husband. Some are extremely simple, like reading or cleaning when I’m on the manic side. Others are just statements I reread that I have written down on index cards that I keep in my “toolbox”, which is the box I keep my helpful written tools in, and is made out of a re-purposed shoe box.
Examples of statements that help me include the following below. Remember that they are true for you, too, and you are free to write them down yourself to use when you get upset.
You are strong.
You can do hard things.
You are so loved.
You have been through this before, and you always come back. It just takes time. Wait it out.
You are enough. You are more than enough. It is unbelievable how enough you are.
You will not let depression win. Just be stubborn enough to not let it take you out.
You are loved. Always. No matter what.
You are worthy.
Stay where your feet are.
This WILL pass.
You are beautiful, inside and out.
Breathe. Breathe. Slow down.
Forgive yourself immediately.
You will survive this and be happy again.
This is not your fault.
You are loving kindness.
I also have many actions I can take to feel better. Here are the actions from my toolbox.
Read a book.
Call a friend.
Lay down, close your eyes, and relax from toes to scalp.
Listen to an affirming spottify playlist.
Do the big/medium/small ears centering meditation. This is where you sit silently with your eyes closed and imagine your ears are getting bigger. When they are very large, listen for all the sounds you can hear outside of the room you are in. Once you can hear all the sounds, shrink your ears to half their previous size, and listen to everything you can hear inside the room you are in. Imagine your ears going back to normal, and listen carefully for all the sounds inside your body. This helps to ground you in the present moment, and it also helps with fear and anxiety. It is a very quick and easy meditation, and only takes a few minutes.
Drink cold water.
Sing until you are warmed up.
Hold ice cubes in both hands and feel them melt. This is good for distracting your brain from your anxiety, which calms you down for a little bit. It’s good for panic attacks, but the relief doesn’t always last, so have another skill prepared for after.
Walk. Thinking while walking helps you process emotion, due to the bi-lateral communication between the two hemispheres of your brain.
Go outside and ground yourself. You ground yourself by noticing something near you, and trying to take in as much information about it as you can, sight, smell, touch, color, lines, your emotional response to it, its history and where it originated. You can do this with anything. I recommend a tree or a plant.
Meditate any way you like.
Splash cold water in your face.
Watch something comforting you’ve seen before on Netflix. This one is great for depressive and dissociative episodes, especially comedy specials. They have no plot to follow, it’s okay if you tune out sometimes, they have the same volume all the way through, and if you’ve seen it before, you’re not being challenged by new information at a time when you already can’t process things you usually know.
Write about all of your feelings.
Talk to mom. She wants to help.
Think about science.
Color in your coloring book.
Do crunches or lift weights.
Find the MOMENT.
Warm up like you would before a voice lesson.
Ground yourself in the moment.
Make sure you’ve eaten. If you haven’t, have fruit. This one is a good solution for when I don’t want to eat anything at all.
Read a book.
Lay down, close your eyes, and relax slowly from toes to scalp.
Meditate by watching your breath.
Cuddle with Chris.
Take a hydroxyzine. Hydroxizine is a non-addictive anti-anxiety medicine that I use as-needed for anxiety attacks and episodes. You have options when it comes to psychiatric medication, so keep your doctor informed if something doesn’t work or causes problems.
Those are all of the skills and tools in my toolbox. I have others that are newer and I haven’t written down yet, and I will add them to this article as they occur to me.
I highly recommend building your own toolbox, no matter what your issue is. Try the ones above to find out if they work for you, and add to it whenever you find something soothing; either a thought or an action. It will give you a physical touchstone whenever you need it.
I wish you the best of luck in developing your own set of coping skills.