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Why is it so Important to Practice Coping Skills?

“I need to learn a healthy way to cope with…” is one of the most common goals I hear from people starting individual counseling. I believe that this is a great goal for therapy. Developing healthy coping strategies helps empower you to learn ways to gain back control of your response in situations you may be feeling a loss of control in. To achieve this goal we often spend time during sessions identifying and processing stressors and triggers, working to identify and learn the best coping skills to practice.

Despite this hard work, there are times where I hear from clients that coping skills don’t work for them. They have tried using them and it just didn’t work. In fact, sometimes people tell me they felt more frustrated and disappointed after trying to use a skill and finding it did not provide the relief they expected. In these situations I usually learn that they are waiting until they are experiencing a stress or trigger and remembering in that moment our plan we discussed in session to use a coping skill. The problem is that the stress of the moment (heightened emotions/tense environment) prevents effective use of a coping skill. This leads to frustration and the belief that “coping skills don’t work”.

We wouldn’t wait until the day of our soccer game to learn how to dribble the soccer ball, so why do we wait until we are mid-panic attack to learn a breathing exercise? Just as we would not expect to ace a test without ever reviewing the material it is important to practice coping skills before we are in a moment of crisis.

So what gets in the way of doing this? The short answer is that we often feel silly practicing coping skills. Breathing techniques and grounding skills seem simple when we are not experiencing emotional distress so we skip it. After all, we have so much to do in a day, who has time to meditate when we feel okay today? To this I say: Just a few minutes a day can make a huge difference. No need to dedicate an hour each day to practice coping skills. In fact simply dedicating a few minutes per day to practicing a healthy skill can not only make using these skills in a time of crisis become a natural reflex but it can also ensure we are practicing a few minutes of self-care each day. Who doesn’t need that?

If you’re wondering what some examples may look like I made a short list of ideas below:

  • Practice a five minute morning meditation to start your day. You can use a guided meditation or simply sit quietly and check-in with how you are feeling physically/emotionally before jumping into the chaos of the day.
  • Practice a breathing technique before bed. Focus on your belly rising and falling as you feel your body relaxing.
  • Go on a short walk during your lunch break. Challenge yourself to not use electronics and to instead focus on the sights and sounds around you.

Mental Health Supports at Main Line Counseling Specialists

Our goal at Main Line Counseling Specialists is to provide every member of the family with the specialized support they deserve to improve their mental health and thrive. Our team of expert mental health therapists provide collaborative services for families in our Paoli, PA counseling practice or online to anyone in Pennsylvania. In fact, it’s not unusual for different therapists in our practice to see various members of a family and collaborate.

Whether you’re looking for individual therapy, premarital counseling, couples & marriage counseling or just support during a stressful life transition, our therapists have the skills and the compassion to help. We are based out of Philadelphia (technically our counseling office is in Paoli, PA) but also able to offer online counseling services to anyone in the state of Pennsylvania.

Lastly, our Licensed Professional Counselors offer clinical supervision to new professionals motivated to grow as clinicians. We’re able to provide support to clinicians gaining experience in various specialties within mental health and pride ourselves on being very supportive of the Pennsylvania clinicians we supervise.