www.whyville.net Jan 18, 2015 Weekly Issue

Guest Writer

Coping Strategies

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Lately I have seen a lot of people who have expressed that they are having difficultly coping in their situation. So I've decided to make a master list of coping strategies that I know of that may help some of you. Most of these coping strategies come from DBT (dialectical behavioural therapy) and CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). It takes practice for these skills to work. So if using one doesn't help, try a different one! Hopefully you'll find a coping strategy that will work for you!


ACCEPTS are distress tolerance skills that can help you distract yourself from situation that is causing you stress. These are skills you can use when you are not able to problem solve. Each letter of the acronym stands for a skill:

Activities: engage in exercise/ hobbies, clean, visit a friend, go watch a movie, read a book Contributions: do some volunteer work, give something to someone else/ make something for someone else (like a card), do something thoughtful, so something nice for someone else.

Comparisons: compare yourself to people coping the same as you or less well than you, compare how you cope now to how you coped in the past. (Personally I don't like this skill and if comparisons will make you feel worse do not do it!)

Emotions (Opposite): Listen to emotional music, watch a funny video, do the opposite of how you are feeling (ie. talk to a friend when you feel like isolating yourself)

Push Away: push the painful situation out of your mind temporarily, an imaginary wall between you and the situation, put the pain on a shelf; box it up for awhile (but do remember to go back to it!)

Thoughts: switch your focus by counting to 10, counting colours in a room, doing a word puzzle/ Sudoku, 3 Things

Sensations (Other): hold or chew ice (I find this really helpful!), listen to loud music, take a hot or cold bath or shower, squeeze a ball or toy.

Self Soothe

Self soothe is another distress tolerance skill that has to do with comforting, nurturing, and being kind to yourself. You self soothe using the 5 senses:

Sight: go for a walk, look at nature, sit in a garden, look at pretty pictures, watch the weather, light a candle and watch the flame, look at the clouds or stars.

Sound: listen to music, listen to the sounds of nature, sing to your favourite song, hum, be mindful of any sounds that come your way.

Smell: smell food being cooked, walk outside in nature, smell a flower, light a scented candle, use a favourite perfume or lotion.

Taste: Have a treat and eat it slowly, savouring each bite. Cook your favourite meal. Drink tea/coffee/hot chocolate. Treat yourself to dessert. Chew your favourite gum.

Touch: Take a bubble bath. Pet your dog or cat. Feel the softness of a shirt. Sink into a really comfortable bed. Hug a stuffed animal. Play with your hair. Put on some comfy clothes. Put lotion on your whole body.

IMPROVE the moment

Improve the moment is a distress tolerance skill, that works to replace negative events with more positive events.

Imagery: Imagine a very relaxing scene. Imagine a secret room within yourself, and go into the room whenever you are being threatened. Close the door on anything that can hurt you. Imagine everything going well; imagine coping well. Make up a fantasy world that is calming and beautiful and let your mind go to it. Imagine hurtful emotions draining out of a pipe.

Meaning: Find or create meaning in your life in order to survive pain. Make lemonade out of lemons.

Prayer: Completely open yourself to the moment. It's not a "why me" prayer; rather, it's more like radical acceptance in that you accept what is, right now.

Relaxation: Change how your body responds to stress and crises. Do a relaxation exercise, like deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation.

One Thing in the Moment: Focus on one thing in the moment, instead of remembering past suffering or future suffering. Be mindful.

Vacation: Take a "vacation from life's stresses" by stopping to cope actively and either retreating into yourself or allowing yourself to be temporarily taken care of by others.

Encouragement Be your own cheerleader! Talk to yourself as you would talk to someone you care about who was in a crisis.

3 Things

I mentioned three things earlier, and I'll explain it in case you don't know how to use it. 3 Things is a form of mindfulness that helps you focus your attention on the present moment. It snaps you back into reality so that you can focus on what you need to do in order to deal with or tolerate a situation. It helps when having an overwhelming experience or emotion, and it can be done silently without anyone being aware you are doing it. This is what you do:

1. Look around and name three things you see
2. Listen for three things you hear
3. Name three things you feel (physical sensations)
4. Repeat this sequence with "2 things" and then "1 thing"

Riding the Wave

Riding the wave is an important skill that can help you get through a difficult time. It's important to be aware of your emotions and how you feel, and to step back and notice the emotion. Experience your emotion as a wave. Think of other times you have felt similar and have gotten through it (ridden the wave). Notice how your emotion rises and falls (similar to a wave). Don't judge your emotion or ignore it. Avoid blocking the emotion or engaging in destructive urges. Try to remember times you felt differently an opposite emotion). Practice self soothing.


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