A List of Coping Skills for Anger, Anxiety, and Depression

Updated on September 26, 2018
Blake Flannery profile image

Blake has worked in the mental health field since 2002 educating and inspiring hope on the journey toward recovery.

What Are Coping Skills and Strategies?

Coping strategies and skills are the reactions and behaviors one adopts to deal with difficult situations. Coping strategies come in many forms. Some are helpful and others are hurtful.

Humans tend to learn coping strategies from those they come into contact with while growing up. When a person learns and develops habits of negative coping skills, stressors become catastrophes and confidence in one's ability to cope is diminished.

Use this list of positive coping skills to identify new strategies to become more resilient in the face of challenges. Then look at the list of negative coping strategies to look for items to replace with more positive coping skills.

Exercise Is an Excellent Coping Mechanism

A good workout can make you feel a lot better.
A good workout can make you feel a lot better.

Positive Coping Skills

Here's a list of coping skills that will help you when you are feeling strong emotions such as anger, anxiety, or depression. These activities are not likely to create more stress or problems, so these help you be more resilient and stress tolerant.

Diversions

  1. Write, draw, paint, photography
  2. Play an instrument, sing, dance, act
  3. Take a shower or a bath
  4. Garden
  5. Take a walk, or go for a drive
  6. Watch television or a movie
  7. Watch cute kitten videos on YouTube
  8. Play a game
  9. Go shopping
  10. Clean or organize your environment
  11. Read
  12. Take a break or vacation

Social/Interpersonal (with others)

  1. Talk to someone you trust
  2. Set boundaries and say "no"
  3. Write a note to someone you care about
  4. Be assertive
  5. Use humor
  6. Spend time with friends and/or family
  7. Serve someone in need
  8. Care for or play with a pet
  9. Role-play challenging situations with others
  10. Encourage others

Cognitive (Of the Mind)

  1. Make a gratitude list
  2. Brainstorm solutions
  3. Lower your expectations of the situation
  4. Keep an inspirational quote with you
  5. Be flexible
  6. Write a list of goals
  7. Take a class
  8. Act opposite of negative feelings
  9. Write a list of pros and cons for decisions
  10. Reward or pamper yourself when successful
  11. Write a list of strengths
  12. Accept a challenge with a positive attitude

Tension Releasers

  1. Exercise or play sports
  2. Catharsis (yelling in the bathroom, punching a punching bag)
  3. Cry
  4. Laugh

Physical

  1. Get enough sleep
  2. Eat healthy foods
  3. Get into a good routine
  4. Eat a little chocolate
  5. Limit caffeine
  6. Deep/slow breathing

Spiritual

  1. Pray or meditate
  2. Enjoy nature
  3. Get involved in a worthy cause

Limit Setting

  1. Drop some involvement
  2. Prioritize important tasks
  3. Use assertive communication
  4. Schedule time for yourself

Yelling: Positive or Negative?

As long as you're not yelling at someone else, a good yell might help release tension.
As long as you're not yelling at someone else, a good yell might help release tension.

How Each Category of Coping Skills Helps

Diversions are those coping skills that allow you to stop thinking about the stress inducing situation. Diversions aren't meant to be the final solution, but each can be useful in the basic goal of remaining safe.

As time goes on, move away from diversions and toward those skills that will build resiliency to the challenges that continue. Diversions are only useful if one can recognize warning signs when feeling overwhelming emotions.

Social or interpersonal coping strategies involve interactions with others. Scientific studies have proven the benefits of social support to counteract the effects of stress on DNA. Social supports can be useful for recognizing warning signs and providing assistance in difficult times.

Cognitive coping skills are those that involve using the mind and thought processes to influence the way one feels and behaves. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a type of treatment that helps people find ways of thinking that improve their mental responses to situations.

Learning to think in more rational ways can be done by recognizing and changing irrational thoughts. Ultimately, a person can become much more stress tolerant and ultimately improve behavioral outcomes.

Tension releasing or cathartic coping strategies involve acting on strong emotions in ways that are safe for oneself and others. Punching a pillow could be a way to release tensions in a safe way.

Be careful with cathartic responses because these tend to become habit forming and may translate to real life scenarios, so the child who practices punching a pillow may envision a person's face and end up actually punching that person's face when angry.

Physical process are directly tied to mental and emotional processes. A person's breathing rate can illicit a response from the sympathetic nervous system. Raising your voice can send signals to your brain that you are angry. In the same way, acting calmly in the face of difficulty can help send signals to your brain that everything is o.k.

Exercise is another thing that can help by producing endorphins, which are naturally occurring drugs that can create a calm or euphoric feeling.

Praying, meditating, enjoying nature, or taking up a worthy cause can affect a person on a spiritual level. Satisfying the need to feel worthwhile, connected, and at peace improve well-being at the core of a person. Spiritual well-being then exudes out of a person in attitudes and actions that are self-actualized. According to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, we all need to feel a sense of purpose, but not everyone reaches that level.

Limit setting is a preventative measure to protect against overwhelming stress created by doing too much of something. Limits can be set for one's self or others. An example of setting a limit with others is learning to say "no" when you know you are too busy to help someone. Setting a limit for yourself could include dropping involvement in work activities that are not a good fit for your skills and focusing on those that you are efficient doing, which may mean having to be assertive with your boss about how you can help the most.

Drinking Alcohol Is Not a Good Coping Mechanism

It might feel like it helps in the moment, but it's not a healthy solution in the long run.
It might feel like it helps in the moment, but it's not a healthy solution in the long run.
Overindulging in anything (food, substance, etc.) may be an unhealthy and temporary fix.
Overindulging in anything (food, substance, etc.) may be an unhealthy and temporary fix.

Negative Coping Skills

Here's a list of coping strategies that will cost you in the long run. These do more harm than good in most cases and can make life more stressful.

Diversions

  1. Procrastination
  2. Abusing drugs or alcohol
  3. Wasting time on unimportant tasks

Interpersonal (With Others)

  1. Blaming
  2. Isolating/withdrawing
  3. Mean or hostile joking
  4. Gossiping
  5. Criticizing others
  6. Manipulating others
  7. Refusing help from others
  8. Lying to others
  9. Sabotaging plans
  10. Being late to appointments
  11. Provoking violence from others
  12. Enabling others to take advantage of you

Cognitive (of the Mind)

  1. Denying any problem
  2. Stubbornness/inflexibility
  3. All or nothing/black or white thinking
  4. Catastrophizing
  5. Overgeneralizing

Tension Releasers

  1. Tantrums
  2. Throwing things at people
  3. Hitting people
  4. Yelling at others
  5. Destroying property
  6. Speeding or driving recklessly

Physical

  1. Suicide
  2. Self harm
  3. Developing illnesses

Intrapersonal

  1. Making fun of yourself
  2. Self-sabotaging behaviors
  3. Blaming yourself

Indulging

  1. Spending too much
  2. Gambling
  3. Eating too much
  4. Setting dangerous fires
  5. Continually crying

Gambling Is a Poor Coping Mechanism

It's a powerful distraction, but it can also be a devastating one.
It's a powerful distraction, but it can also be a devastating one.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

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      • wpcooper profile image

        Finn Liam Cooper 

        12 months ago from Los Angeles

        Yes there are some good coping skills I hope to implement and I also realized that some of the activities I've been using to pass the time are unhealthy ways of coping.

      • profile image

        Marti litwiller 

        15 months ago

        This gave me some new coping skills. Thanks

      • profile image

        Kierrstyn 

        16 months ago

        Does eney one have a good idea if u are upset about school

      • profile image

        LennyBaby 

        21 months ago from CT

        Very Good list!

      • profile image

        Mike 

        23 months ago

        Outstanding!

      • profile image

        NANDINI SETT 

        2 years ago

        Anger, Anxiety, Depression are symptoms due to chemical imbalance of serotonin and dopamine. Doctors like to term mental illness and there is pharmaceutical medicines to control very difficult situation for which a person having these symptoms lose interest in life completely.

        Life is beautiful and must be enjoyed. Travel and see nature through lens, exercise to increment serotonin. Already people have mentioned everything I have written. Hence before I finish I would like to add meditation common to each religion in the World is also an excellent method to stay away from anger, anxiety, and depression..... Cheer up. All the best

      • Esther  Strong profile image

        Esther Strong 

        2 years ago from UK

        This is a VERY useful and practical resource to keep at hand and action.

      • Jean Bakula profile image

        Jean Bakula 

        3 years ago from New Jersey

        This is a very well thought out and thorough list of coping strategies and ideas for dealing with depression and anxiety, Blake. My husband of 34 years died a year and half ago, and my son has been accused of a serious crime he did not commit, and although I know I will survive, some days are so overwhelming. Sometimes it's not about getting through the day, it's about getting through the hour. I make small lists with a few of the activities you mention here, and refer to it every time I feel overwhelmed. Artistic things seem to work for me, also reading, meditation, and aromatherapy. Shopping is nice too, but as you point out, can be expensive and become a problem in itself.

      • sheilamarie78 profile image

        Sheilamarie 

        3 years ago from British Columbia

        Stress can do a job on us. These are some good strategies.

      • Blake Flannery profile imageAUTHOR

        Blake Flannery 

        3 years ago from United States

        Writing in a journal is a great way to gain insight, get your thoughts organized, and vent. I'm glad it worked well for you. Looking back at a journal years later can help you see the progress you've made over time. I hope you have a better year this year!

      • letstalkabouteduc profile image

        McKenna Meyers 

        3 years ago from Bend, OR

        Thanks for the list of coping skills. It's always good to try new ones. I had an especially trying year and could not have survived without journaling each day. It kept me sane.

      • Blake Flannery profile imageAUTHOR

        Blake Flannery 

        3 years ago from United States

        Katelyn,

        I mention in my list that overindulging in just about anything can be costly. Shopping is just one of those things. Every coping skill has costs and benefits. Although jogging has physical and emotional benefits, it may also lead to worn out shoes, more dirty laundry, soreness, and injury. These costs are all more likely to happen the more time you spend jogging. At some point the benefits are out-weighed by the costs. The point is, we humans need a diverse set of coping strategies to help us be more resilient. Shopping, even for just the necessities, can be a nice reason to get out of the house, do a little walking, and hang out with a friend (or have some alone time).

      • Katelyn Weel profile image

        Katelyn Weel 

        3 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Great ideas, it's nice that you have branched out beyond the usual vague suggestions like "get more exercise" "start a journal" etc.

        I would hesitate to include shopping in that list though, since consumerism is not known to actually make people happier and while "retail therapy" might give a short term good feeling (it feels good to bring home new clothes once in a while) I think it could contribute less positively overall, and might lead to a downward spiral. I also think that putting yourself in an environment where you are being hammered by advertisements telling you that your life will be better if you purchase this or that might be counterproductive in fighting off depression.

      • tsmog profile image

        Tim Mitchell 

        3 years ago from Escondido, CA

        Thank you for sharing! They hit home today and have energized me to use what you have shared. Voted up and shared.

        tim

      • subatomiclex profile image

        subatomiclex 

        3 years ago from Oceanus Procellarum

        Local support groups would also be useful for some, but overall a very comprehensive and thoughtful list from positive to negative.

      • MandiGirl profile image

        MandiGirl 

        4 years ago from Arkansas

        Very informative, useful article.

      • janshares profile image

        Janis Leslie Evans 

        4 years ago from Washington, DC

        Hi Blake, very comprehensive list of coping skills for stress, anxiety, and depression. I think many could benefit from having this at their fingertips for when they become overwhelmed and forget what works. I've had that problem with my clients who struggle to remember their go-to lists of coping skills. I've bookmarked this article to share. Excellent job, voted up and useful.

      • profile image

        Tony 

        5 years ago

        I've been having a hard time but I believe this will help.

        Thanks

      • donabhatt profile image

        donabhatt 

        6 years ago from Hyderabad

        All of us go through this ups and downs. Your suggestions are well researched and very helpul. thanks

      • sadie423 profile image

        sadie423 

        6 years ago from North Carolina

        That is a great list of positive skills!

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