Coping Skills 101

“Life is not the way it’s supposed to be, it’s the way it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.” — Virginia Satir

What are coping skills? People talk about coping skills as tangible things. In recovery, you might have heard professionals say that you “need better coping skills,” or that you have “poor coping skills.” Okay, but where do you get good ones?!

In the past, you likely used your eating disorder behaviors as coping skills to manage feelings of stress, anxiety, depression, past trauma, or other things you didn’t want to feel. Now that you are in recovery, you need to find alternative, healthy behaviors to deal with these feelings instead.

color paints used in coping skillsCoping skills can range from finding humor in a situation to solitary hobbies to social outings and everything in between. There is no universal coping mechanism that applies to everyone.

Rather, you need to find coping skills that work for you. For example, many people love meditation. If it’s just not your cup of tea, it’s probably not going to be the activity to turn to when you’re having a bad day.

Staff Picks of Coping Skills

These are some of our favorite coping skills here at Eating Disorder Hope…

Bubble baths! The calming and nurturing effect of the warm water is soothing. Adding fragrant bubbles and candles make it a great escape, too!” — Jacquelyn Ekern, M.S., LPC, CEO & Founder of Eating Disorder Hope

Courtney and her coping skills“One of my favorite coping skills is painting my nails. That sounds weird, but it works! Whatever is stressing me out kind of melts away as I focus on this simple act of self-care. I’ve even found that the color I choose usually reflects my mood at the time!” — Courtney Howard, B.A.

Crystal Karges and her coping skills

“Taking time to be outside with my family has always been one of my coping skills in my own recovery.  Whether sharing a stroll on the beach, hiking the trails in the mountains, or simply enjoying a walk in the park, enjoying nature’s beauty has a therapeutic and healing effect on my heart and soul.” — Crystal Karges, M.S., RDN, IBCLC

Those are just our favorites, but there is an infinite amount of coping skills you can try! Find what tools work for you and know that they might change over time. What successfully relieved your anxiety yesterday might not work today, so be patient with yourself and listen to your needs.

If you like nature:

  • Go to the beach
  • Find a nearby park (read or people-watch!)
  • Start a small garden
  • Volunteer for a local beach cleanup
  • Go on a leisurely walk outside

If you like animals:

  • Volunteer at a local animal shelter
  • Feed the ducks at a local pond
  • Offer to dog-sit or cat-sit for your neighbors
  • Watch fish swimming in a tank (relaxing!)


If you like entertainment:

  • Watch an old black-and-white movie
  • Put on your guilty pleasure reality show
  • Go to the movies with a friend
  • Do the People Magazine crossword puzzle
  • Start a blog about your favorite TV show

If you like to create:

  • Write poetry or a song
  • Play an instrument
  • Sew, knit, or embroider
  • Make a mixed tape
  • Bake something
  • Use a coloring book

Though we recommend staying away from exercise as a coping mechanism if you have ever struggled with compulsive exercise, we recognize that practicing intuitive exercise through yoga, hiking, or social sports can be a positive coping skill in your recovery. We just ask that you proceed with caution and be honest with yourself if this is not a healthy choice.
Woman raising her arms at the top of a cliff using her coping skills

**Please note that coping skills are not a substitute for feeling your feelings. Let yourself feel things and process what you are going through.**

Do you have any unique coping skills that have been helpful for your recovery? If so, we want to know about them and add them to this list! Connect with us on Eating Disorder Hope’s online forum today.