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My Guide To Building A Coping Toolbox

photo of woman lying on floor while painting

This blog comes directly from pages out of Francesca Reicherter’s “You Are Not Alone: The Workbook.” For more content and exercises, this workbook is available for purchase on and amazon.

Coping mechanisms are tools we use to help us through when our emotions feel overwhelming. There are many different types of coping mechanisms! One that works for you may not work for others, and that is okay. Everyone will have different things that help them at different times for different emotions and situations. Sometimes coping mechanisms that worked in the past do not work in the future, and that is okay too. As we grow and change, what works for us may also change.

Coping Mechanism Examples:

  • Art (Examples: coloring, painting)
  • Breathing (Examples: breathing exercises, meditation, yoga)
  • Cooking (Examples: bake, cook a meal)
  • Exercise (Examples: run, walk, sports)
  • Music (Examples: listening, dancing, singing)
  • Read (Examples: affirmations, books, magazines)
  • Writing (Examples: in a journal, poem, song, story)

Note: This is not a complete list of coping mechanisms. There are many different coping mechanisms, and the goal is to find what works for you.

My Guide To Building A Coping Toolbox

Determine which coping mechanisms you are already using. What helps you feel better when you are sad or angry or jealous? If you know the answer to at least one of these, this is a coping mechanism that you are currently utilizing. Now, ask yourself this, is this coping mechanism helping or harming me? What do I mean by that? For example, if you are engaging in a form of self-injury to numb your emotions, this coping mechanism is not truly helping you.  But, if you are journaling and expressing your feelings in a safe manner, then this coping mechanism may be helping you to process, feel, and heal.

Next, make a list of 5 coping mechanisms. You can either choose from the above list, the answers you have from the above question, or research other coping mechanisms! I want you to take the coping mechanisms 1 at a time and practice. Practicing our coping mechanisms when we do not need them is important so that we are ready to use them when we need them!

Write down the name of the coping mechanism and how you are feeling before trying it. Then, practice using the coping mechanism. Afterward, write down how you feel. Did you feel different? Was the difference positive or negative? If you noticed a positive difference, add this coping mechanism to your coping toolbox. (Repeat this 4 times, 1 for each coping mechanism.)

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