Coping Skills for the Holidays (Part 2)

December 26, 2012

Last time, we discussed External Coping Skills, or coping skills that are active by nature. These skills are active by nature, and are very helpful when you have time and space to go do them. However, sometimes you don’t have the ability to go for a run (imagine everyone sitting down for dinner and one person standing up and saying “Mm, dinner looks great, I’m going to go for a short run right now, don’t mind me!” Probably wouldn’t go over too well!). For times like these, we want coping skills that can be done unobtrusively.

Internal Coping Skills:
These coping skills do not require you to go anywhere or “do” anything (at least that anyone else can see). They are all done in your head, and can be done when you can’t “get away” or don’t have the time to do something else.

  • Count backwards from 100 by 7’s.
    This mental task is just difficult enough to take up your brain’s mental capacity, but not so difficult that you can’t do it. The beauty of it is that when you’re stuck on a thought (like how annoying your family is being, or how much you want a drink), it takes your mind off of that completely and gives you a little space to let that feeling shrink down some. And, no one needs to know you’re doing it. Math whiz? Try figuring out square roots of numbers instead!
  • Think of all of the lyrics to a song.
    Again, this task uses up just enough brain space to help shift your attention from something that is very bothersome to something that is neutral or better. Just like with the music suggestion above, try to pick a song that evokes the feelings you want to feel, not one that exacerbates what you are feeling.
  • Visualization.
    Sometimes, when you’re in a situation that isn’t great, the best thing you can do is imagine a situation that is better! Picture yourself someplace that feels good, or at least feels relatively neutral. Try to really picture yourself being there. Imagine the smells, the sounds, who you’re with, what you’re doing. Sometimes the best escape is one that happens in your mind!
  • Think of all the reasons your closest friends value you and why you value them.
    In particular, think about what qualities they appreciate about you (you are a good listener, funny etc) and about what qualities you appreciate about them. This list should be things you truly believe they value, so that the list will hold up even when you’re feeling down on yourself.


These are just a few coping skills that can be helpful. The best thing to do is to practice these before the big holiday party, when you’re not too stressed out, so that you know what to do and what works best for you when you really need it. If you have other holiday coping skills, put them in the comments below!

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