Use these easy 100+ coping skills for anxiety, depression, anger, stress, and more to help you stop overthinking, slow a downward spiral, or prevent an explosion. If you’re struggling with negative or intrusive thoughts, overthinking, or anxious worrying, choose an activity that distracts you and immerses you and takes you out of your head. If you’re having big feelings that aren’t born primarily from negative and unhelpful thoughts, choose an activity that helps you feel safe and lean into those feelings (like writing, drawing, talking, and otherwise expressing them). After you’ve ridden that wave of emotion, then choose a calming activity or fun distraction. If you find nothing is helping, and your thoughts and emotions often feel out of control and overwhelming, find a good therapist to help you find what will work best for you.
These coping skills can help quiet your mind and your body to help you find a calmer place in yourself and climb back toward the light. Try what interests you, use what works, and ignore the rest. Then feel free to print this list or copy your favorite ideas on sticky notes and post them where you’ll see them when you need them.
2. Put on temporary tattoos. This can be soothing and expressive, and they are some great options out there these days.
3. Move your body. Walk, stretch, wiggle, or do a quick yoga video. Feel your body while it moves. Get out of your mind and into your body. It really helps. If your energy is super low or you’re struggling with chronic pain, do some gentle yoga and modify it as needed.
4. Write (poetry, stories, journal, blog, letters to your future self, etc). You can write about your feelings, or about something completely random. It can be expressive, distracting, or soothing. You decide. Use a guided journal if you don’t know how to get started.
5. Draw, scribble, or doodle on paper. This can help with anxious energy or a need for distraction.
6. Be with other people. Being around other people can help you feel more connected and less alone, and meeting new people, while anxiety-provoking, can lead to lasting friendships which are good for your health.
7. Watch a favorite TV show. Choose something comforting or uplifting, and not something that will feed a negative mood.
8. Post on discussion boards, and answer others’ posts. You can use Facebook groups, or help people out on Yahoo questions or Ask.com. There are limitless opportunities. Put some good out there by helping people, offering advice, and answering questions, or stretch your intellect in a healthy debate.
9. Watch a movie. Choose a funny distraction, or something that makes you cry (if you need to cry), or whatever will take you out of your head or help you tune into your heart.
10. Watch funny videos. Laughter is good medicine. Try to get in at least one laugh each day.
11. Play an online/video game for a predetermined amount of time, something you might not normally play or haven’t played in a long time.
12. Do a Sudoku, word search, or crossword. Use your brain for something new and immersive.
13. Do schoolwork or research a topic that interests you and doesn’t feed your low mood.
14. Play a musical instrument or sing. Music is healing, it can increase your confidence, and it’s just plain fun.
15. Paint your nails, give yourself a facial, do your make-up or hair. Etc.
16. Study the sky. Watch the clouds. Stargaze. Feel a part of something bigger and re-enact childhood shape-spotting in the clouds.
17. Punch a punching bag (as long as you’re not angry). An active boxing video game counts, too. We all know exercise is good for your mental health, and even a minute or two counts. And if you’re a people pleaser and/or struggle to express anger, this can be a great choice. (If you’re already angry, some traditional “venting” can make it worse. Better to take a fast walk.)
18. Hold an ice cube. This is a good grounding technique to bring you out of your mind and back into your body. If you are feeling scattered or restless or numb, try this and really pay attention to every physical sensation as the cube melts. Focus on feeling instead of thinking.
19. Let yourself cry. We all need to cry sometimes. Better out than in.
20. Have an orgasm. Arousal and orgasm release pleasure-inducing endorphins and you don’t need a partner.
21. Take a nap (if you are tired). Avoid if sleeping excessively is one of your symptoms.
22. Take a hot shower or relaxing bath. Self-soothing and self-care combined.
23. Play with a pet. It doesn’t even have to be your pet. (But get permission first.)
24. Go shopping, within your budget. Limit yourself to gift cards to stick to your budget. If you have no budget, then create and fill up a wish list online.
25. Clean something. Your room, the stove, etc. Changing your environment can change your mood, and a cleaner and more organized space can bring some peace inside your mind as well.
26. Knit, crochet, embroider, cross-stitch, or sew. You can do these mindfully or mindlessly, immersing yourself and distracting yourself.
27. Read a good book. There are just so many. A great distraction or escape, or an opportunity to learn. And audiobooks totally count.
28. Go sit under a tree. A big tree, preferably.
29. Listen to a podcast. Preferably one you find funny or entertaining. Let your mind go fully to what you are hearing.
30. Listen to music. Sing along, too, if you like!
31. Try some aromatherapy (candle, lotion, room spray). Many people report feeling benefits to their mood and energy with certain scents.
32. Meditate. Try a guided meditation. Go slow and don’t expect perfection. Meditation is a practice, and it is never perfect.
33. Learn how to finger-weave. A fun and repetitive skill that keeps your hands busy, settles your mind, and creates something all at once.
34. Pet a purring cat.
35. Ask an old person to tell you a story. Contact an elderly relative or visit a senior center and make someone’s day!
36. Ask a child to tell you a story.
37. Learn a story and practice telling it.
39. Follow a guided meditation or visualization.
40. Practice a guided relaxation.
41. Go somewhere very public and people-watch.
42. Bake cookies.
43. Alphabetize your CDs/DVDs/books.
44. Paint a picture. Or a wall.
45. Rip paper into tiny pieces.
46. Shoot hoops, kick a ball, juggle, dribble.
47. Write a letter or send an email.
48. Plan your dream room (colors/furniture/accessories).
49. Hug a pillow or stuffed animal.
50. Focus mindfully on your feet, a cup of tea, a rock, etc.
51. Dance like nobody’s watching.
52. Make hot tea, hot chocolate, milkshake or smoothie.
53. Play with modeling clay or play dough or oobleck.
54. Build a pillow fort. Seriously. Body pillows work the best, just FYI.
55. Go for a drive with music playing and the windows down.
56. Complete something you’ve been putting off.
57. Draw on yourself with a marker.
58. Learn a new skill or take up a new hobby.
59. Look up recipes, cook a meal.
60. Look at art.
61. Create or build something.
62. Write a list of your strengths.
63. Write a list of words you’d like people to use to describe you.
64. Rearrange your room.
65. Get together with friends and play a game.
67. Make a list of blessings in your life.
68. Go to a friend’s house.
69. Start collecting something.
70. Clean up trash at your local park.
71. Perform a random act of kindness for someone.
72. Jump on a trampoline.
73. Watch an old, happy movie.
75. Talk to someone you feel closest to.
76. Ride a bicycle.
77. Feed the ducks, birds, or squirrels.
78. Color with crayons, markers, or colored pencils.
79. Memorize a poem, play, or song.
80. Do some gentle stretching.
82. Add to online wish lists.
83. Explore Pinterest or DeviantArt.
84. Hunt for your perfect car or home online.
85. Reorganize your wardrobe by color.
86. Watch fish.
87. Make a playlist of your favorite songs.
88. Plan your wedding/prom/other event.
89. Hug a friend or family member or pet.
90. Search online for new songs/artists.
91. Play with face paint or face paint crayons.
92. Plant some seeds. Get your hands dirty and bring forth new life.
93. Try to make as many words out of your full name as possible.
94. Sort through your photographs. This can be healing and cathartic, but it may also be triggering, so proceed with caution.
95. Play with a balloon. Rub it on your hair to make ti stand on in, play catch with it, make it squeal. Do all those annoying things you did when you were a child!
96. Give yourself a scalp massage, or a hand or foot massage.
97. Play with toys or dolls.
98. Message, email, or call an old friend.
99. Look up new words and use them.
100. Write yourself an “I love you because…” letter.
101. Write a letter to someone that you may never send.
102. Make a list of goals for the next week/month/year/5 years.
103. Smile at five people or more. You’ll feel better and you’ll brighten other’s days, too.
104. Visit the mountains or forest. Let nature heal you.
105. Spend time by water in nature (stream, river, lake, ocean).
106. Play with little kids. They are an excellent lesson in mindfulness and staying in the present moment.
107. Go for a walk (with or without a friend/pet).
108. Drive around and find baby cows/horses to watch. There is not much better than watching baby cows run. Silly little rectangles with legs they are.
110. Clean your room, closet, or junk drawer.
111. Try to do handstands, cartwheels, or backbends. (Or touch your toes.)
112. Learn some tai chi.
113. Teach your pet a new trick.
114. Learn words in a new language. Try out Duolingo – it’s free!
115. Write a list of your strengths. You’ve survived this far in life, so you have strengths.
116. Write a list of words you’d like people to use to describe you.
117. Rearrange your room. Give it a fresh feel and yourself a fresh perspective.
118. Get together with friends and play a game.
119. Breathe slowly and deeply for 10 breaths. Practice other breathing exercises, too.
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Which of these coping skills for depression, anxiety, anger, stress, etc have worked for you? Is there anything you’d add to the list? Comment below!