What Are Coping Skills: Ways To Manage Stress And Emotional Trauma

How do you deal with stress when you face challenges? You need coping skills, and this article explains this concept in detail.

Many individuals encounter stress in their daily lives. You may experience stress in the workplace, at home, or even at school.

Stress could also be physical, social, and psychological. If you do not know how to handle stress the right way, it could affect you and the people around you.

Coping skills help you to handle challenges that contribute to stress. The purpose of this article is to enlighten you more about coping skills and how it is beneficial to all parts of your daily life.

Definition Of Coping Skills

Coping skills can be defined as an action, a string of actions, or a thought process to meet a stressful or unpleasant situation. It also involves a direct approach to problems.

They are also known as the actions we take consciously or unconsciously to manage stress, challenges, and emotional traumas. We can also define coping skills as the steps we take to defend our minds from unpleasant situations.

When you exhibit any healthy habit to reduce your stress level, you are using a coping strategy. These skills help you tone down your emotions when you feel anxious, sad, angry, stressed, or overpowered. They also keep your feelings in the right place to avoid doing the wrong things, worsening the situation.

Coping skills are otherwise known as coping mechanisms or coping strategies.

Examples of popular strategies that can help you cope include sleeping, listening to music, strolling down the street, and so on.

However, not all coping skills produce the same results, and some can increase your stress level and be harmful to you in general.

Types Of Coping Skills

There are ways in which stress can be handled through different coping skills. They include; problem-focused strategy and emotional-focused strategy.

1. Problem-focused strategy

Problem-focused coping involves facing a situation or challenge head-on. The problem-focused coping strategy helps to confront the problem, which always produces lasting results to such problems.

For instance, if you get a call from your child’s school with the news that your son was involved in a fight and has been suspended from the school for a period, you can use problem-focused skills to reduce your stress level and solve the problem by speaking directly to your son and teaching him how to react and resolve conflict.

Another step to take can be enrolling your son in an anger management session which could be good for him in the long run, especially during the suspension period. This method of coping skill is very effective for long-term results.

However, not all challenges can be handled through problem-focused coping skills. If you lose someone very close to you, there is absolutely nothing you can do to bring the person back from the dead. So problem-focused coping strategies cannot be effective in this situation.

Problem-focused skills can be helpful in situations and stressors that are well under your control.

This method of coping skills is known to be well-used among optimistic people who are not afraid of any setbacks or challenges. They are ready to tackle anything that will stress them.

Examples of problem-based stress techniques include;

A.  Problem-solving

This is an excellent skill to use when faced with a challenge that you know you can handle. Before any challenge gets out of hand, you must be ready to solve the problem head-on. Doing this reduces the level of stress and emotional trauma that comes when you ignore such problems.

Examples of problem-solving include; breaking up with an abusive partner, improving your bad grades, and discussing with the person causing you stress.

B. Time management

Time can be a stress factor when not managed well. This is very common among people that are overwhelmed in their workplace or school. If you are always busy and have no productivity to show for it, you are not making good use of time, which can lead to stress.

Time management is a beneficial tool that you can use to handle stress. When you allocate tasks according to their priorities and stick to your to-do lists, you find yourself accomplishing more under less pressure.

A lousy time management habit is waiting for deadlines before finishing important projects. This is common among students who wait until exam week before preparing.

C. Seek help

Seeking help is another important problem-based coping skill. When you are challenged by something in your workplace, school, family, or relationship, you can ask for support from the people around you.

Not everyone may be well qualified to help you reduce stress due to low experience and negative influence. You can start by speaking to people who have your best interest.

It could be your team lead at work or your counselor at school and it could also be an elderly relative who knows how to handle such situations.

Asking for support can go a long way in solving your problems resulting in reduced stress. It is known to be one of the most effective problem-solving coping strategies.

D. Avoid the problem

It would help if you also avoid things that will stress you so that there would not be a need for you to be under pressure.

Life can be unpredictable and anything can happen in our lives. However, a problem-focused coping strategy is mainly useful for situations you can control.

Instead of allowing the problem to escalate and become an issue that causes stress, you can totally try to avoid the problem.

This includes learning how to say no to people because not every request is to be accepted. Doing this will help you keep your stress level at the barest minimum.

2. Emotional-focused strategy

An emotional-focused coping strategy helps you to guide your emotions from reacting to the challenges that contribute to stress. It is different from problem-focused coping skills where you aim to terminate the problems that contribute to stress.

Emotions such as anger, anxiety, fear, sadness, and other negative thoughts can be experienced when encountering problems that you cannot handle directly. When you use emotional-focused coping skills, you regulate your adverse emotional reaction.

The main aim of this coping skill is to redirect attention away from the stressors. For example, you could try to speak positively about a certain challenge to reduce the negativity caused by such a problem.

Others try to avoid the emotional issue by distracting themselves from the negative feelings. They are usually cut out from reality.

An emotional-focused strategy is a short-term solution to challenges because it keeps your mind away from negative thoughts, but the problems are still there.

Some causes of emotional stress include the death of a loved one, terminal illness, divorce, loss of job, or means of livelihood.

This emotional stress may not be solved immediately, but there is a need to handle the stress positively.

Avoiding the reality caused by such problems may be bad for an individual. The best way to handle emotional stress is to accept it and be at peace with it.

Examples of emotional-based stress techniques include;

A. Distractions

When you distract yourself from emotional traumas, you take your mind off that issue until you have the strength to confront it. This helps when you have unexpected bad news. You can distract yourself by working on something productive to keep your body and mind busy.

You can also embark on physical exercise. This will allow you to channel your emotions into exercise activities and release negative energy.

People who often use exercises as a means of distraction cope better with emotional challenges than those who bottle those negative feelings inside them.

B. Praying and Meditating

Praying can be very helpful for people who believe in the supernatural. This can help them get over traumatic experiences because they understand that everything happens for a reason and all will be well.

Religious individuals are highly influenced by what they believe in and they know that whatever pain they are going through currently is only temporary.

On the other hand, meditation allows people to get in touch with their emotions in a calm way. Like prayer, meditation grants peace to the hearts and emotions of people who partake in it.

Meditation is not only an exercise for the mind, it also has effects on the body too. It helps to ease the mind and body from stress and tension.

C. Writing Journals

If you do not like talking to people about how you feel and how stressed you are, writing journals might be a good way to cope with emotional tension.

When you write your personal experiences in your journal, it helps you reflect on many things and brings calmness to you by unloading the burdens in your heart.

Furthermore, ensure you put down more positive experiences than negative ones. You can always look back at the positive times and have something to be grateful for when you encounter challenges. Writing journals can easily help you manage your stress level.

D. Therapy sessions

Psychotherapy helps you unburden your emotions when you speak to a professional. The professional should be willing to guide you through your challenges and assist in making you feel better emotionally.

This coping strategy can be recommended when you have an overwhelming and traumatic experience like rape, abuse, and even near-death experiences.

Therapy sessions are not restricted to only personal sessions alone. Group sessions allow people with similar stress causes to speak up and watch out for one another. This is highly effective for those with good interpersonal skills.

Negative Coping Skills

Not all coping skills give positive results, some make you feel worse off than before. You should always try to handle stress the right way and avoid these negative strategies that will be listed below.

  • Drugs
  • Alcohol
  • Isolation
  • Blaming others
  • Living in denial
  • Self-harm
  • Compulsion
  • Constant brooding
  • Suppressing emotions

Embarking on such coping strategies would not manage negative emotions. It only makes you forget your challenges for a while without any reasonable solution.

The impact of these negative coping skills can be detrimental to the physical and mental health of individuals and those around them. If such emotions are not well taken care of, it may lead to addiction and depression and the ultimate result could be suicide.

Benefits Of Coping Skills

1. Self-confidence

Positive coping skills can improve your self-confidence and self-esteem. You can always be positive about how you feel about yourself and how others feel about you.

2. Reduces health risks

When you embark on the right coping skills, you keep your mind and body healthy. Managing your time, especially at work can reduce the amount of stress you face which could affect your health. Exercising and meditating are also good for your health.

3. Strong mental health

Coping skills can strengthen your mental health and reduce your chances of falling into depression caused by stress.


When do you use emotional coping skills?

You can use emotional coping skills to regulate negative emotions caused by stress and negative experiences like death.

Why is it important to cope with stress?

Coping helps you adjust or tolerate negative realities while keeping a positive frame of mind.

Do children need coping skills?

Yes. Every individual including children needs coping skills because they are prone to emotional stress. Also, acquiring coping skills early sets them up for success in life.

How can you build coping skills?

You can build coping skills through therapy, self-love, regular exercise, avoiding hard drugs and an unhealthy lifestyle, and always practicing gratitude.


To sum it up, this article has given you an understanding of what coping skills are. Coping skills can be positive or negative and the benefits of positive coping strategies are well outlined.

Always try to avoid situations that would affect your stress level and when you are faced with a negative reality, look at the positive side of the challenge by using the right coping skills.

Also, try as much as possible to constantly maintain your physical and mental well-being as this helps you to be better prepared to handle stress or challenges.

Perhaps you are interested in helping others maintain a mentally stable and balanced lifestyle, kindly check the post on how to become a life coach to know more.

I hope this article was helpful. Thank you for reading.