Reviewed by Kristen E. Holm, PhD, MPH

Coping skills help people manage stress. It’s important to be intentional about using your coping skills. Start by making the most of your existing coping skills, and then consider whether you need additional skills. If you need to develop additional coping skills, start exploring new things. Keep an open mind to learn which additional coping skills might work well for you.

Coping skills could be put into two broad categories: 1) activities, and 2) ways of thinking about stressful situations. Activities include things like reading, exercising, and breathing techniques. Ways of thinking about stressful situations include noticing and challenging automatic thoughts that tend to increase stress (such as jumping to negative conclusions), looking for positive aspects of difficult situations, and having a sense of humor.

You may need to “lighten your load” as part of coping with a chronic illness. Your time and energy are likely even more limited now than before you became ill. You may need to learn how to become comfortable saying “no” to requests from others. It’s okay (and, in fact, necessary) to prioritize your own self-care. 

It’s also important to recognize which aspects of your health condition are under your control. Meeting with your doctors, following through with medical recommendations, and utilizing your coping skills are important aspects of managing your health condition that are under your control.

Ultimately, it’s important to develop a variety of coping skills. If you need help developing additional coping skills, a therapist can work on this with you.

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