Coping skills are the behaviors we use to manage life stressors. Coping skills can be positive or negative. Some examples of positive coping skills include reading, meditating or exercising. Some examples of negative coping skills include smoking cigarettes, overeating and overspending. Positive coping skills allow individuals to deal with challenging life circumstances in healthy ways, while negative coping skills may make individuals feel better for a while, but usually have negative consequences.
While in therapy, therapists help clients identify negative coping skills and provide support and encouragement as clients work to reduce their use of these behaviors. At the same time, clients are encouraged to identify and implement positive coping skills. Clients may also be asked to identify positive people in their lives they can use as members of their support system—people they can count on when they are feeling overwhelmed.
Coping skills can be thought of as a toolbox. When stress occurs in life we try to “fix it” or at least manage it using the tools in our toolboxes. Individuals with toolboxes full of positive coping skills are better equipped to handle stressful life experiences in a positive way. Positive coping skills can help reduce feelings of anxiety and depression and foster peace and emotional stability during stressful life events.