Coping skills are methods a person uses to deal with stressful situations. Obtaining and maintaining good coping skills does take practice. However utilizing these skills becomes easier over time. Most importantly, good coping skills make for good mental health wellness.
Some good coping skills include:
- Meditation and Relaxation Techniques: Practicing deep breathing techniques, the relaxation response, or progressive muscle relaxation are ways to help reduce stress and induce relaxation.
- Time to Yourself: It is important to set aside time everyday to allow yourself to relax and escape the stress of life. Give yourself a private, mini vacation from everything going on around you.
- Physical Activity: Moving around and getting the heart rate up causes the body to release endorphin’s (the body’s feel good hormones). Exercising provides some stress relief.
- Reading: Escape from reality completely by reading. Reading can help you to de-stress by taking your mind off everyday life.
- Friendship: Having friends who are willing to listen and support one through good and bad times is essential.
- Humor: Adding humor to a stressful situation can help to lighten the mood.
- Hobbies: Having creative outlets such as listening to music, drawing or gardening are great ways to relax and relieve everyday stress.
- Spirituality Actively believing in a higher power or divine being can have many health benefits. In recent studies, it has been found that people who pray have better mental health than those who do not.
- Pets: Taking care of a pet helps distract the mind from stressful thoughts. Studies Show that pets are a calming influence in people’s lives.
- Sleeping The human body needs a chance to rest and repair itself after a long and stressful day. Sleeping gives the body this chance so that it is ready to perform another day.
- Nutrition Eating foods that are good for you not only improve your physical health, but they play a major role in your mental health. When your body gets the proper nutrients, it is better able to function in every capacity.
The next time you find yourself faced with a difficult or stressful circumstance, remember to practice your new coping skills. These skills lead to good mental health and happier you.
Ten Tips for Better Mental Health
- Build confidence – identify your abilities and weaknesses together, accept them, build on them and do the best you can with what you have.
- Accept Compliments – many of us have difficulty accepting kindness from others but we all need to remember the positive in our lives when times get tough.
- Make Time for Family and Friends – these relationships need to be nurtured; if taken for granted they will dwindle and not be there to share life’s joys and sorrows.
- Give and Accept Support – friends and family relationships thrive when they are “put to the test.” Just as you seek help when you are having a tough time, a friend or family member might come to you in their time of need.
- Create a Meaningful Budget – financial problems are big causes of stress, especially in today’s economy. Over-spending on our “wants” instead of our “needs” can compound money worries. Writing down where you money is going helps you keep a closer eye on your finances.
- Volunteer – being involved in community gives a sense of purpose and satisfaction that paid work cannot. Find a local organization where you life skills can be put to good use.
- Manage Stress – we all have stressors in our lives but learning how to deal with them when they threaten to overwhelm us will help to maintain our mental health.
- Find Strength in Numbers – sharing a problem with others who have had similar experiences may help you find a solution and will make you feel less isolated. Even talking about situation with people who have not experienced what you are going through is a good way to gain outside perspective.
- Identify and Deal with Moods – we all need to find safe and constructive ways to express our feelings of anger, sadness, joy and fear. Channeling your emotions creatively is a wonderful way to work off excess feelings. Writing (keeping a journal), painting, dancing, making crafts, etc. are all good ways to help deal with emotions.
- Learn to Be at Peace with Yourself – get to know who you are, what makes you really happy and learn to balance what you can and cannot change about yourself.
Meditation / Relaxation Techniques
Deep breathing is one of the easiest stress management techniques to learn, and the best thing about it is that it can be done anywhere! When we become stressed, one of our body’s automatic reactions is shallow, rapid breathing which can increase our stress response. Taking deep, slow breaths is an antidote to stress and is one way we can “turn-off” our stress reaction and “turn-on” the relaxation response. Deep breathing is the foundation of many other relaxation exercises.
- Get into a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down.
- Put one hand on your stomach, just below your rib cage.
- Slowly breathe in through your nose. Your stomach should feel like rising and expanding outward.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth, emptying your lungs completely and letting your stomach fall.
- Repeat several times until you feel relaxed.
- Practice several times a day.
Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR)
A Simple Exercise that will Help You Relax in 10 Steps:
- Sit in a comfortable position, with eyes closed. Take a few deep breaths, expanding your belly as you breathe air in and contracting it as you exhale.
- Begin at the top of your body, and go down. Start with your head, tensing your facial muscles, squeezing your eyes shut, puckering your mought and clenching your jaw. Hold, then release and breathe.
- Tense as you lift your shoulders to your ears, hold, then release and breathe.
- Make a fist with your right hand, tighten the muscles in your lower and upper arm, hold, then release. Breathe in and out. Repeat with left hand.
- Concentrate on your back, squeezing shoulder blades together. Hold, then release. Breathe in and out.
- Suck in your stomach, hold, then release. Breath in and out.
- Clench your buttocks, hold, then release. Breathe in and out.
- Tighten your right haamstring, hold then release. Breathe in and out. Repeat with left hamstring.
- Flex your right calf, hold, then release. Breathe in and out. Repeat with left calf.
- Tighten toes on your right foot, hold, then release. Breathe in and out. Repeat with left foot.
Yoga originated in India several thousand years ago as a system of physical and spiritual practices. It was formalizaed in the second century BC in the form of the Yoga Sutras, attributed to the scholar Pantanjali. The word ‘yoga’ means ‘union’ or ‘yoke’ or ‘joining’. Originally, yoga was a method for joining a regular imperfect human being with the divine principle, or God. It is aimed to unite the mind, the body and the spirit.
Top Ten Reasons to Try Yoga
- Stress Relief – Yoga reduces the physical effects of stress on the body. By encouraging relaxation, yoga helps to lower the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Related benefits include lowering blood pressure and heart rate, improving digestion and boostin the immune system as well as easing symptoms of conditions such as anxiety, depression, fatigue, asthma and insomnia.
- Pain Relief – Yoga can ease pain. Studies have demonstrated that practicing yoga asanas (postures), meditation or a combination of the two reduces pain for people with conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, auto-immune diseases and hypertension as well as arthritis, back and neck pain and other chronic conditions. Some practitioners report that even emotional pain can be eased through the practice of yoga.
- Better Breathing – Yoga teaches people to take slower, deeper breaths. This helps to improve lung functioning, trigger the body’s relaxation response and increase the amount of oxygen available to the body.
- Flexibility – Yoga helps to improve flexibility and mobility, increasing range of movement and reducing aches and pains. Many people can’t touch their toes during their first yoga class. Gradually they begin to use the correct muscles. Over time, the ligaments, tendons and muscles lengthen, increasing elasticity, making more poses possible. Yoga also helps to improve body alignment resulting in better posture and helping to relieve back, neck, joint and muscle problems.
- Increased Strength – Yoga asanas (postures) use every muscle inthe body, helping to increase strength literally froom head to toe. And, while these postures strengthen the body, they also provide an additional benefit of helping relieve muscular tension.
- Weight Management – Yoga (even less vigorous styles) can aid weight control efforts by reducing the cortisol lelves as weel as by burning excess calories and reducing stress. Yoga also encourages healthy eating habits and provides a heightened sense of well being and self esteem.
- Improved Circulation – Yoga helps to improve circulation and as a result of various poses. more efficiently moves oxygenated blood to the body’s cells.
- Cardiovascular Conditioning– Even gentle yoga practice can provide cardiovascular benefits by lowering resting heart rate, increasing endurance and improving oxygen uptake during exercise.
- Focus on the Present – Yoga helps us to focus on the present, to become more aware and to help create mind/body health. It opens the way to improved concentration, coordination, reaction time and memory.
- Inner Peace – The meditative aspects of yoga help many to reach a deeper, more spiritual and more satisfying place in their lives. Many who begin to practice for other reasons have reported this to be a key reason that yoga has become an essential part of their daily lives.