How Do You Build Coping Skills?


Throughout our lives every one of us will experience frustrations, disappointments and setbacks. No one will ever have everything work out perfectly for them exactly when they want to. How we learn to manage these challenges can make a big difference in how we feel and how things work out for us. As you approach the end of high school and the beginning of the next chapter in your life, it is important to pay attention to how you cope with challenges and adversity. Our ability to deal with setbacks and problems that come up is called “coping skills”. Chances are that you probably have a handful of coping skills that you use when things get tough. But knowing what they are, understanding if they work for you and being able to try new ways of coping when the old ones don’t work are the areas to focus on as you get ready to transition out of high school.

So how do you build coping skills? Here are a few ideas:

  • Practice assessing, or thinking about, the challenge or problem
  • Consider whether you already have the tools to solve the problem or have the ability to work around it
  • Think about whether there is a way to get help with the problem, if that is appropriate
  • Take a moment and try to keep it in perspective – is this problem really as big as you think it is?
  • If the problem is manageable, try not to let it impact other areas of your life (e.g., if you do poorly on a test don’t let it spoil your time with friends or ruin your concentration in a sporting event)
  • Paying attention to your emotions can also help you get better at coping – your nervousness, anger or excitement can be a signal to avoid or dive into a particular situation
  • Try to work around emotions that are getting in the way of dealing with the problem
  • Sometimes, with more serious problems you just need to let yourself have your emotions for a bit before you can take action, instead of trying to fight against feeling bad

If you work on these approaches to coping as you grow up, it will get easier for you to call on these techniques when you are faced with a new challenge.

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