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  • Writer's pictureHalf Holistic Living

Self Care vs. Coping Skills

Often times people confuse self care with coping skills. I have asked people in my life, clients, friends, family members, and so on... what do you do for self care, and what are your coping skills for when you need them. I ran a group for a large group of community based staff at a local community mental health center. On a Monday I asked the question to this group "Who practiced self care this weekend, raise your hand? followed by, what did you do for self care this weekend" Only three people raised their hands for the first part of this. Why? because they didn't understand that self care is as simple as taking care of yourself, washing daily, eating well, working out, taking a nap. ALL of these are self care. I wrote this handout for the presentation, and the feedback was great from the staff. We were able to discuss and see the different in self care and coping skills. I won't get into to many details, I will let you read the following that breaks up the two.


What are coping skills? Coping is the conscious effort to reduce stress. Psychological coping mechanisms are commonly termed coping strategies or coping skills. Often these skills are taught in a therapeutic setting to help clients deal with stress, anxiety, and depression. These may be taught in an individual or group setting. Coping skills refer to the specific efforts, both behavioral and psychological, that people learn and potentially master to help tolerate, reduce, or minimize stressful events

Why do we use coping skills? Coping skills are those daily strategies and activities that we use to help deal with, work through, or process our emotions. We all have them, but often forget to use them. We have learned them from our families and the people who have influenced us most in our lives. There are both positive and negative coping skills and strategies, and it’s important to be aware of where your coping skills fall. As you would expect, positive coping skills are much more beneficial!!!

Who needs coping skills? Everyone! Coping skills help us all, they are beneficial in dealing with stressful, uncomfortable, and distressing situations. They help us deal with “life” and it’s challenges.

When do I/we use coping skills? We generally use coping skills when things are challenging us in life. When we are in a stressful situation, trying to overcome a fear, to help alleviate anxiety and/or depression.

Where can I or do I use coping skills? There are SO many coping skills available to you, you can use them ANYWHERE! While some may be better suited at home or in a private setting, others can be used anywhere you might be.

Types of coping skills: self-soothing, distraction, opposite action, emotional awareness, mindfulness, crisis plan

Examples of coping-skills:

Reach out to a support

Do an art activity

Listen to music




Practice positive self-talk

Go for a walk/run/workout



Gentle Streching

Do a puzzle/crossword


Take a hot shower/bath


What is self-care? Self-care is learned, purposeful and continuous. In philosophy, self-care refers to the care and cultivation of self in a comprehensive sense, focusing in particular on the soul and the knowledge of self. Self-care should be a part of your daily routine and helps benefit mood and ADLs. Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept in theory, it’s something that is very often overlooked. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also key to a good relationship with oneself and others.

Why do I need self-care? Self-care helps with overall physical and mental health. It helps us from becoming burnt out, overwhelmed, anxious, helps us refocus, and reduces the negative effects of stress.

Who needs self-care? Simple answer. We all do. You, me, your neighbor, bus driver, teacher, doctor… and so on. We all need and deserve proper self-care! It benefits productivity, self-esteem, overall health and wellness, recharges you, and helps prevent disease.

Where do I start self-care and where do I practice self-care?

· Stick to the basics. Over time you will find your own rhythm and routine. You will be able to implement more and identify more particular forms of self-care that work for you.

· Self-care needs to be something you actively plan, rather than something that just happens. It is an active choice and you must treat it as such. Add certain activities to your calendar, announce your plans to others in order to increase your commitment, and actively look for opportunities to practice self-care.

· What I often emphasize to my clients is that keeping a conscious mind is what counts. In other words if you don’t see something as self-care or don’t do something in order to take care of yourself, it won’t work as such. Be aware of what you do, why you do it, how it feels, and what the outcomes are.

· Where to practice self-care… ANYWHERE!!! There are many different things a person can do for self-care and many things that are part of daily living. Come up with a self-care routine that works for you and that you enjoy!

When do I practice or use self-care? Self-care is something that should be implemented into your daily routine! It can be practiced ANYTIME of day.

Examples of self-care:

· Shower/Bathe daily

· Eat a balanced diet/don’t skip meals

· Workout

· Get dressed in the morning (even if you have nothing to do and nowhere to go!)

· Allow enough time for sleep (7-8 hours a night for adults)

· Make and keep medical appointments

· Keep up a daily meditation or mindfulness


· Do at least one relaxing activity every day, whether it’s taking a walk or spending 30 minutes unwinding.

· Do at least one pleasurable activity every day; from going to the cinema, to cooking or meeting with friends.

· Look for opportunities to laugh!

Self-care misconceptions:

o Self-care is selfish… NO!!!! IT IS NOT!!! IT IS NECESSARY for EVERYONE!

o It is not something we force ourselves to do

o It is not something that we DON’T enjoy

o It is the same as coping skills (NO, It is not!)

o It’s not enjoyable

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