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What’s your favourite coping skill? Video games? Jogging? Taking a nap? Each of us have our own repertoire of coping skills which we use to help us cope better with difficult situations, whether it’s extreme boredom, an urge to self-harm, or anxiety before a class presentation. Although the seriousness of the situations and their impact may vary individually, experience tells me that there’s a surprising overlap in what we find helpful.

In one of my volunteer roles as Crisis Counselor with Crisis Text Line, ‘99 Coping Skills’ is one of my go-to referral resources to share with texters. Think that’s a whole lot of coping skills? Not so, because most of our toolboxes are filled with a variety of coping skills, and even our favourite coping skill rarely works in all situations. I recently pulled up this list to see how many of the 99 coping skills I had used myself or am still using, and the results surprised me. So I’m sharing the list with you (with added commentaries from yours truly). Here are the next 7 on the list:

5. Be with other people.

I can’t help but admit that I’m a social animal after all, but there seems to be a time and place for being with other people AND enjoying it. I’m in a bit of a unique situation where, for my PA program, the 40 of us in the same cohort spend up to 40 hours every week of the semester. To tell you the truth though, there have been moments when I felt ‘alone’ even when technically I was in the room with 39 others, and these were the times I wasn’t really connecting with any one of them on any meaningful level. But it has much to do with the stress and pressure of being a PA student than anything else, at least in my case, because I enjoy spending time with my classmates most of the time. In fact, spending time with my classmates outside of the classroom tends to make me feel ‘cool!’ Enough about me though: who do you like to be around? Who do you confide in? Who are the people in your life that love and accept you exactly for who you are and you feel 100% comfortable being with? Consider reaching out to them when you feel stuck or alone. It just might be what you need to feel better about yourself, about a situation, about the world, or…just better than before.

6. Watch a favorite TV show.

One of the best things about living in the U.S., for me, is an easy access to endless TV shows. And there are so many good ones! The vast majority of my all-time favourite TV shows are from the States, and I have so many memories associated with them. Off the top of my head there are 3rd Rock From The Sun, Ally McBeal, Friends, Life As We Know It, and Sex And The City. Then there are the newer favourites, such as iZombie, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Younger, Grace And Frankie, and Faking It. The older favourites helped me through difficult times by taking me to familiar, comfortable places where I temporarily ‘escaped’ the troubles of reality. The newer faves help me wind down after a long day of study, and I always make sure to squeeze in at least one short episode of something before I hit the bed.

7. Post on web boards, and answer others’ posts.

Since this is in the context of coping skills, I’m thinking more of websites for information and resources or where you can connect with peers or like-minded people, like those on anxiety, volunteer activity, specific hobbies, self-harm, or depression. And in this context, I can certainly see the helpful benefits of posting in forums or replying to posts, especially if you can meet people who’s going through a similar difficulty as you.

8. Go see a movie.

I’m a massive horror fan, although I find that it’s getting harder these days to truly scare me. The last time I went to see a movie was with some classmates. We picked a certain time on a certain day of the week because the ticket was much cheaper then. We went out to dinner afterwards as well, and it turned out to be such a great mood booster for all of us – and all this under $20! And just for the record, you don’t necessarily have to go to the movie theatre. You can instead have a movie night with friends, family, or others, but make sure you have a bucket of popcorn handy (plus a comfy couch, perhaps).

9. Do a word search or crossword.

Honestly, I haven’t done either of these in a long while, and I mean it must have been more than a year. I know it can be intellectually stimulating and calming. But more often than not, I’ve found myself aggravated because I couldn’t think of almost half the words for a crossword. For this reason I tend to prefer a word search over a crossword, which is usually way more fun and relaxing.

10. Do schoolwork.

Doing schoolwork as a coping skill? Let me think…I’m studying anywhere between 60-80 hours every week, and schoolwork is usually something I use coping skills to take a break FROM, not the other way around! But I can see how, for example if you’re in secondary school, working on a project or assignment could help distract from boredom or intrusive thoughts, especially if you’re working on something related to your favourite subject or something you’re particularly passionate about. Also, regardless of the purpose of schoolwork, I believe that education is one of the best and most effective ways for us to grow and build a better future for ourselves, so there’s that.

11. Play a musical instrument.

Long story short, the last time I played a musical instrument at least semi-competently was in primary school when I learned to play a xylophone…or something like that. The truth is that I’ve always wanted to learn to play at least one musical instrument but never got around to it for one reason or another. Things might change soon enough though, because a former workmate gave me a used guitar for practice about a year ago, and I’m hoping to get lessons to get started. I hear that learning to play a musical instrument takes a lot of practice and patience, which is why I admire anyone who can.

Music seems to be a common and popular coping skill for many people, and there are also so many ways you can enjoy it, from listening and writing to singing and playing an instrument.


99 Coping Skills. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.yourlifeyourvoice.org/Pages/tip-99-coping-skills.aspx

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More on Mental Health on Campus:

What Campus Mental Health Centers Are Doing to Keep Up With Student Need

If You’re a Student Who’s Struggling With Mental Health, These 7 Tips Will Help

The Hidden Stress of RAs in the Student Mental Health Crisis


  • Hwal Lee

    Thrive Global Campus Editor-at-Large from Radford University

    Hwal Lee is a community health PA and mental health advocate. Besides movies and boba tea, mental health education and outreach is his favourite hobby. Hwal completed his counsellor training in Australia, and is a nationally certified Adult and Youth Mental Health First Aid instructor in the U.S. He may have recently graduated, but learning must go on.