Positive Coping Skills for Responding to Stress

Positive Coping Skills for Responding to Stress

Inner Fokus offers a weekly skill-based, non-therapeutic group known as the Strong(her) Girls Group at our Laguna Beach office for girls 7 – 12 and 13 – 17 years old. Each meeting aims to empower girls with a range of activities, such as skits, yoga, mindfulness, relays, and art projects. The topic this month is Positive Coping Strategies. Though we are teaching these skills to children and teenagers, I realized that I needed a refresher on the information for myself and thought others might feel the same way.

We all have our own set of stressors in our microsystems (family, friends, workplace, school, etc.). Stress is not in and of itself problematic; the problem lies with how we respond to various stressors and how we experience that stress-response. Before we talk about how to cope with stressful situations, let’s learn about the two different types of stress: distress and eustress.

Distress is “negative” stress. Typically, when we are in distress, we feel overwhelmed, out of control, and spun out. Some examples of stressors that tend to lead to distress include:

  • injury or illness to yourself or loved ones
  • death of a loved one
  • unemployment
  • relationship conflicts
  • sleep problems
  • fears involving failure, loss, safety, etc.
  • repetitive negative thought patterns
  • worrying and anxiety for the future
  • unrealistic expectations

    Eustress (pronounced you-stress), on the other hand, is “positive” stress. Eustress motivates us and focuses our energy and is often a response to a task that we perceive as within our reach and/or that feels exciting. Some examples include:

    • starting a new job
    • getting a promotion
    • taking new classes
    • starting a new hobby
    • holiday season
    • taking a vacation

      So now that we know about the two different types of stress, it’s important to know how we can cope with eustress and distress in a positive way. Here are some examples of positive coping strategies:

      • play an instrument
      • take a walk or go for a drive
      • play a game
      • take a break
      • work out
      • drink water or herbal tea
      • write, draw, paint
      • go for a hike
      • go out into nature
      • talk to a friend
      • set boundaries and say “no”
      • assertive communication regarding what is going on for you
      • volunteer
      • play with an animal
      • get enough sleep
      • eat healthy foods
      • engage in mindfulness or meditation
      • schedule self-care time
      • listen to your favorite podcast
      • positive self-talk
      • sports
      • watch TV/movies

        While we have many options (not all listed above) to positively cope with stress, sometimes we use negative coping strategies instead. Sometimes we don’t even realize we are doing it until we think about it more so. Here is a list of negative coping strategies:

        • acting violent
        • yelling at someone
        • overeating or undereating
        • drinking too much alcohol or caffeine
        • smoking/vaping/drugs
        • reckless driving
        • risky sexual behaviors
        • lashing out at others
        • withdrawing from others or events
        • withdrawing from family and friends
        • compulsive spending
        • avoiding responsibilities
        • procrastination
        • overscheduling
        • putting yourself or others down

          As you can probably imagine, these negative coping strategies are not helpful for you or anyone else around you. Next time you find yourself engaging in a negative coping strategy, consider how you might shift your response into a more productive and effective strategy, such as those listed above in the positive coping strategies list.

          Can you think of any other positive coping strategies that you might add to this list? Please email or comment on this blog and share your thoughts with us!

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