Here at Genesis, we talk a lot about coping skills during counseling. What are coping skills and why are they so important? Coping skills are activities or actions that a person can take to manage overwhelming emotions. We all do things to help us cope with our feelings throughout any given day, even if you’re not aware that what you are doing is a coping strategy. Some coping skills are more healthy and effective while other coping skills, like skipping work to binge watch TV, excessive drinking or self-harming, may end up causing more problems or may not always be helpful. 

Learning and developing healthy coping skills is foundational for trauma treatment. Women experiencing current abuse find creative ways to cope with and survive the verbal, emotional, physical or sexual abuse by their partners. We also know that victims of trauma may experience increased feelings of depression, anxiety, numbness, shame or anger, and may feel very overwhelmed or stressed while trying to survive their current situation. Victims of trauma may also be dealing with PTSD symptoms and triggered memories, feeling like the abuse is happening all over again. During a trigger or when a victim is feeling overwhelming emotions, the use of coping skills can help her stay connected to the present moment and help her manage her feelings so they do not become too unbearable. 

It’s normal that people may have to adjust their ways of coping during certain life stages or times, as we have seen for many people during the current Covid-19 pandemic. After a woman leaves an abusive relationship, she may have to learn new ways of coping if she no longer has the same access to strategies that used to help her feel calm. If you find yourself needing new coping strategies or find that your current coping skills are not always the most helpful,

Here is a list, from A to Z, of some healthy coping skills to consider trying:

A – Affirmation statements (for example: “I am strong,” “I am doing the best I can,” or “This feeling I have is temporary. I will get through this.”
B – take a Bubble Bath
C – Crafting activities or Coloring
D – Deep breathing – take a slow, deep breath in through your nose, hold your breath for a second, and then breathe out through your mouth slowly for as long as you can. Repeat this several times
E – Emotional release – let yourself cry, laugh, yell or physically let out emotions with exercise or a dance party
F – talk to a Friend or Family member for support
G – play a Game on your phone as a distraction
H – take a Hot shower
I – Imagine a calming or peaceful place. What are the sights, sounds, textures, smells or tastes in this place?
J – Journal – if it is not safe for you to keep a physical journal, try jotting down some thoughts on your phone/computer in a note and then deleting the note.
K – learn to Knit or take a Kickboxing class
L – Listen to music
M – guided Meditations or relaxation exercises (you can find lots of these for free online or on phone apps, including on the Genesis Client Services YouTube page)
N – Nap
O – Organize a closet
P – Do a Puzzle
Q – Find some Quiet time
R – Read a book
S – use your five Senses to ground yourself (what are 5 things you see? Hear? Feel? Smell? Taste?)
T – Treat yourself to your favorite meal. (Self-care doesn’t always have to be big, expensive endeavors or elaborate spa days. Find small ways you can treat yourself and show yourself some love, because you deserve it!)
U – Use aromatherapy with calming scents
V – watch funny animal Videos
W – go for a Walk. Patterned movement, such as walking or rocking in a rocking chair, can be really helpful to calm down an overwhelmed or anxious brain.
X – EXamine and challenge negative thoughts. If someone you loved was saying those same thoughts, what would you say to them? Chances are it’s a lot more kind than what we tell ourselves.
Y – Yoga
Z – join a Zoom group call to stay connected to others 

I hope this list helps you as you brainstorm new healthy coping skills to try. If you are a current client or someone who is interested in starting counseling, you can reach out to Genesis to find out more about our coping skills counseling groups by calling 214.389.7700.

Written by Victoria O’Connor, women’s and children’s therapist at Genesis Women’s Shelter & Support