Noah is going through a rough break-up after being with his girlfriend for 3 years. He knew they were having some rough days but had thought they could work it out if she would just talk with him. Instead, he found a note in his backpack at the gym from her, saying she didn’t want to date anymore and to please not contact her anymore. They had been together through most of high school and this last summer was going to feel empty without her. Noah threw himself into going to the gym and then going out with his friends at night and partying, drinking and getting high, to try and forget her. What coping skills is Noah using to respond to this break-up? Are they positive or negative coping strategies?

Aki has always been a shy kind of person. They enjoy being out with other people but typically find it difficult to have conversations with others. They have been questioning who they are for a few years but are afraid to talk with anyone about it. Their family has been very vocal about disagreeing with people who say they don’t feel like the gender of the body they were born with. They cannot take the chance of losing their family. So, they go through life “acting” like a person their family would want them to be. Lately, they have found someone who can get them some prescription medicine that helps them forget about everything bothering them and that feels really good! What coping skills is Aki using to respond to their inner struggle? Are they positive or negative coping strategies?

Hayden is a straight A student. Hayden is extremely organized. However, other students do not like working on projects with her because she is either telling them what to do all the time or yelling at them for not doing something the way she thought it should be done. Hayden has every minute of her day scheduled out on paper and typically sticks to that schedule unless something not expected interferes. When that happens, she tends to get very upset and yells at whomever interrupted her schedule. Hayden prefers to be at school or work, rather than home. When she walks into her home, the mess that she finds there drives her crazy. She tries to pick up the living room every morning but within 5 minutes, her younger twin siblings have it destroyed. There are always dishes in the kitchen sink and the bathroom’s a chaotic mess with 6 people living in a three bedroom, 1 bath apartment. Her Mom is working 2 jobs just to keep food in the house and so keeping the place organized is not a priority for her which Hayden understands but still thinks the other kids should do their part. Hayden makes a list of chores for every child to do daily. If they don’t follow through, she gets very angry with them and yells until they go do what they’re assigned to do. What coping skills is Hayden using to respond to the chaos she feels? Are they positive or negative coping strategies?

Each individual above is trying to “cope” or manage all the emotions they are feeling because of something happening in their personal life or environment. How to cope with or manage emotions is not something we are born with but rather skills that we learn. We learn them as we grow up by watching different people model different strategies around us. Some of those coping strategies are positive and others are negative and unhealthy.  For example, Noah uses working out at the gym as a coping strategy. Physical exercise can help relieve tension and stress so that is a positive tactic and can help him be resilient. However, he also goes out partying with his friends to try and forget what is happening. Drinking and getting high are unhealthy coping strategies. Aki is trying to cope with their identity issues by “acting” and taking prescription drugs, both of which are unhealthy ways to address their turmoil. Hayden believes being hyper-organized will help her cope with what she sees as chaos in her life. When that organization doesn’t work, she falls back on being angry and yelling at the people around her. Being organized can help individuals cope with life’s ups and downs but being extreme with any behavior is not healthy. Yelling and being angry are also unhealthy strategies to rely on when trying to cope with day-to-day living. As you navigate through the linked resources, you will find why coping strategies are important and a multitude of strategies to consider trying!