71 Coping Skills: A List for Adults to Deal with Anxiety & Stress

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Anxiety is a condition triggered primarily by some form of stress. Almost everyone experiences feelings of anxiety from time to time, but some people experience it on a long-term basis.

Doctors refer to chronic anxiety as anxiety disorder, a common mental disorder that affects over 40 million US adults aged 18 or older each year.

Symptoms include nervousness, a sense that something bad will happen, rapid breathing, pounding heartbeat, trembling, and sweating. In some cases, there’s a feeling of dread or immense fear that is out of proportion to the actual danger. Sometimes, no danger is posed.

Since chronic stress and anxiety have the potential to disrupt everyday routines, it’s useful to have a list of coping skills handy that can make life easier. Keep reading to discover some simple steps/ideas that can leave you feeling better to work, socialize, and enjoy your close relationships.

Table of Contents

What are Coping Skills? 

Coping is the ability to deal with stress and the unwanted challenges life throws at you. The thoughts and behaviors you rely on to manage stressful situations and negative emotions are called coping skills or strategies.

The thoughts and behaviors are conscious and voluntary and are different from reactions or defense mechanisms. Each person has a different coping style in response to stress, whether positive (healthy/adaptive) or negative (unhealthy/maladaptive).

Positive coping behaviors, as explained in the list of coping skills, are intended to help you handle negative feelings without making matters worse. Psychologists also encourage proactive coping as a stress-management strategy to neutralize stress and related anxiety symptoms in the future.

Factors that Influence Adult Coping Styles

Our default method of tackling stress often links back to how our caregivers, teachers, and others in our social environment handled difficulties around us as children. Since we were highly impressionable, we couldn’t help but copy their coping styles, whether positive or negative.

For example, if you saw your parents get aggressive or drink alcohol when they were angry or worried, you might do the same. You learned that that was the proper way to manage negative feelings and situations. Some parents withdraw or neglect themselves or their children.

In adulthood, our personality traits can create a tendency to respond in unhelpful ways. However, we can take the initiative to use positive thoughts and behaviors to change the outcome of how we feel. Factors that influence the change include developing emotional intelligence and a greater sense of self-awareness.

71 Healthy Ways to Deal with Stress and Calm Your Anxious Mind

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), long-term anxiety, or anxiety disorders, can fall into five major categories as follows:

  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)
  • Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) or social phobia
  • Panic Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

GAD is the most common type of anxiety. 6.8 million US adults are affected by GAD. People with GAD worry throughout the day about everyday life, which makes it harder to concentrate at work or finish daily duties.

Whether you’re looking to manage occasional anxiety or chronic symptoms, there’s a chance the list of coping skills will provide relief. The simple methods involve working your body and brain or shifting your thoughts and mindset. Incidentally, they can also work to manage depression symptoms if you’re diagnosed with both anxiety and depression.

1. Question your feelings

Ask yourself “Why do I feel this way?” Bringing awareness to the symptoms or feelings might change your outlook and help improve your mood.

2. Slowly count to ten

Counting from one to 10 or higher takes your mind off your troubles and focuses it on the activity itself. Increase relaxation by counting with your eyes closed.

3. Vent to someone you trust

Offload to someone who won’t judge you but will validate your feelings. You’ll feel “lighter” as the tension and pent-up negative emotions subside.

4. Think happy thoughts

Let your mind drift to happy times or think of positive things that could happen in the future. Reframe the situation to see it in a positive light.

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Write out your thoughts, feelings, and what you think triggers the conditions.

5. Take time out

Stop and rest your body to regain your physical and emotional energy. If you like, just sit in a quiet corner and do nothing.

6. Take a nap

If it’s practical, settle into bed for some shut-eye. It’s my favorite way to de-stress and recharge. You’ll wake up feeling energized, relaxed, and in a better mood.

7. Socialize

Isolating increases frustration and anxiety. Getting out for fun activities with friends can give you a renewed sense of purpose.

8. Know the triggers

Anxiety is triggered by seeing certain people, stress, caffeine, or lack of sleep. Knowledge of what causes an anxiety episode can help you prepare mentally to manage your response.

9. Use breathing techniques

Taking deep breaths is thought to control the body’s fight-or-flight system responsible for making you feel stressed, fearful, or nervous.

10. Get some sunlight

If you have anxiety and depression, morning sunlight can help by increasing a hormone (serotonin) in the brain responsible for regulating mood.

11. Take a walk

Walking is a form of relaxation exercise that helps reduce the level of stress hormones, whether it’s done on a treadmill or outdoors in a scenic environment.

12. Play sports

Activities like golf, tennis, or volleyball require focus that can help take your mind off everyday stressors. Stress hormone levels also go down when you’re active.

13. Dance

Turn on your favorite playlist and get moving. Dancing can be used to let out negative emotions. You’ll sweat, burn calories, and bring stress under control.

14. Read a good book

It’s easy to lose yourself in the intrigue of a fictional story. You’ll be so caught up with what’s going to happen next that you won’t realize how relaxed you are.

15. Color in a book

Coloring helps calm the area of the brain responsible for feelings of fear. It puts you in a meditative state and helps counteract racing thoughts.

16. Keep a journal

Write out your thoughts, feelings, and what you think triggers the conditions. You might discover that negative thinking is a trigger and determine how to manage those thoughts.

17. Write a letter

Writing allows you to express feelings related to an unhappy event or past trauma. Write about something positive, like your best day ever, to combat sadness or low mood.

18. List of your positive qualities

Once you’ve done that, read each item aloud. Hopefully, reminding yourself of how amazing you put a smile on your face.

19. Make a gratitude list

Spelling out the things you’re most grateful for in the midst of adversity serves as a reminder that life isn’t all that bad.

20. Write a blog post

Penning your thoughts can be quite therapeutic, actually. It’s easy to get lost in a topic you’re passionate about, like “How to Manage Anxiety.”

21. Make a greeting card

Cutting and designing paper to make a card is a therapeutic way to quiet racing thoughts and anxiety about the future.

22. Write a poem

How about a poem related to how resilient you are? Including positive attributes about yourself serves as a reminder that you have what it takes to overcome adversity.

23. Rip paper into pieces

You may rather punch a pillow or two to ease the stress from anger and resentment. Take it out on a few sheets of paper instead. Just get to ripping.

24. Use a stress ball

Doctors say the motion of squeezing a stress ball helps relax clenched muscles and allow your body to release tension. The coping tool also releases anxiety and increases concentration.

25. Practice yoga

Yoga calms and clears your mind while relaxing your body. Feel-good hormones produced during this form of exercise also boost mood. Learn how to meditate.

26. Meditate

Use meditation to refocus your attention on something calming or pleasant. You should feel a sense of calm and balance. 

27. Drink herbal tea

Herbal tea drinking for anxiety and stress goes back centuries. Herbs like lavender and chamomile contain natural ingredients that calm the nervous system.

28. Eat a healthy snack

Stress.org recommends stress-relieving snacks such as dark chocolate, edamame, berries, and avocados. These foods contain mood-balancing magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and antioxidants.

29. Challenge negative thoughts

Negative thought patterns can have you stuck in a stress and anxiety loop. Ease your mind by questioning the validity of those thoughts. Reframe them to see the positive side.

30. Resist ruminating

Dwelling on the past prolongs the negative feelings attached to it. Accepting you cannot control what happened helps you let go of unwanted and intrusive thoughts.

31. Stop catastrophizing

Stop yourself from expecting the worst outcome by focusing on ‘what is‘ rather than ‘what if,’ and don’t attach meaning to your thoughts.

32. Use positive self-talk

Tell yourself something positive that will help you get through the setback. “I am safe,” and “I am calm and at ease” are affirmations you can repeat.

33. Don’t sweat the small stuff

Letting minor problems irritate you is a recipe for ongoing stress and anger. Remain calm and balanced and allow some things to work themselves out.

34. Establish firm boundaries

Simply tell people which action of theirs you aren’t comfortable with and won’t tolerate. Boundaries keep you from getting anxious and worked up when they come around.

35. Ditch toxic people

Block, delete, or go no contact with those who won’t respect your boundaries. Seems drastic, but distancing yourself helps protect your mental and physical well-being.

36. Celebrate the small wins

Pat yourself on the back for every accomplishment, no matter how small it seems. Showing self-compassion and self-love in this way ought to make you feel better about yourself.

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Use meditation to refocus your attention on something calming or pleasant.

37. Let go of the need for control

It’s impossible for you to be in control of everything to feel at ease. That need for certainty only creates more anxiety.

38. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of bringing awareness to the present moment. It prevents your thoughts from drifting to unpleasant scenarios.

39. Delegate work

Splitting up household chores so you aren’t taking on the entire workload will prevent you from feeling exhausted and upset.

40. Encourage independence

Teach household members to clean up after themselves around the house. That gives you more time to relax.

41. Know your limits

Going overboard with work increases stress levels and the chance of making mistakes. Stop and pick things back up later.

42. Go for a walk

Walk around your home or at a local park. Focus on nature to keep yourself from drowning in negative thoughts.

43. Jog in place

Use this coping skill as an alternative if it’s not practical to go outdoors. It has the same beneficial effects as running.

44. Sing a song

Singing helps improve breathing and lower cortisol levels, which helps relax your body and mind.

45. Play an instrument

Music from a guitar or piano lowers blood pressure and heart rate and lets you refocus your thoughts.

46. Take a warm shower

Warm water therapy helps relieve tense muscles. Close your eyes and feel the water caress over your skin.

47. Call a friend

Sometimes you gotta ring up a friend to vent or just talk to redirect your thoughts.

48. Hug a loved one

Hugging is an act of affection that’s quite relieving. You’ll feel close, wanted, and loved.

49. Pet your dog or cat

Dogs and cats serve as companions if you’re experiencing loneliness and anxiety. Stroking their fur provides comfort and relief.

50. Help someone in need

Research shows that acts of kindness benefit the giver, too. Benefits include a sense of satisfaction and happiness.

51. Visualize your favorite place

Is it a beach in Hawaii where you watched the sunrise? Forget your worries by reminiscing about the breathtaking scenery.

52. Have set daily routines

Routines give you something to do throughout the day and keep your mind occupied.

53. Play a brain game

Whether crossword or scrabble, brain games distract you from distressing thoughts.

54. Watch your favorite show

I recommend a show that makes you laugh or immerse yourself in something fictional.

55. Read funny memes

There’s no shortage of memes online to crack yourself up. Laughing aids in muscle relaxation and combat anxiety symptoms.

56. Focus on an object

It could be a pen or a teacup. Look at it, touch it, move it. The goal is to shift your focus to something else.

57. Close your eyes and relax

Lay your head back on a chair, close your eyes, and let the heaviness drop from your body. Breathe deeply.

58. Listen for birds chirping

Step outside and hang with the birds in your backyard as I do. The sounds of nature and birds chirping happily have a way of lifting my mood.

59. Organize something

Organize anything, from your desk, room, or closet to your pantry. Organizing requires movement and focus, which helps you to calm down.

60. Wash dishes by hand

Ditch the dishwasher and scrub those dirty dishes individually. Keep your mind centered on the activity at hand.

61. Garden

Caring for plants can provide a sense of purpose. You’ll feel uplifted seeing a new leaf or flower blooming.

62. Cook or bake

Turn your attention to baking or cooking your favorite meal. Close your eyes and enjoy the aroma that fills the air.

63. Compliment yourself

When was the last time you said something pleasing to yourself? Look in the mirror. Remind yourself how beautiful and strong you are.

64. Groom yourself

Put on your favorite outfit, do your makeup, and style your hair. You deserve to look and feel amazing.

65. Reminisce on old photos

It’s time to pull out those old albums or dig into your digital archive. Select pics that remind you of happy moments, like your graduation or the birth of your child.

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Restore the balance and peaceful state of your mind by reading positive quotes for anxiety and stress.

66. Draw funny cartoons

Drawing is a form of creativity and is often recommended by therapists as a stress reliever. Funny cartoons may make you laugh your negative feelings away.

67. Read inspirational quotes

Restoring your balance and peaceful state of mind can be as easy as reading positive quotes for anxiety and stress. Here’s one. “Inner peace begins the moment you choose not to allow another person or event to control your emotions.” – Pema Chodron

68. Write down a new goal

Maybe things aren’t working out right now. Set another goal that can help you achieve the same or even bigger success.

69. Practice gratitude

It’s easy to overlook all the positive things that happened to you. Stop to acknowledge them and how they’ve made your life better. That ought to put a smile on your face.

70. Make peace with the past

Accept the things you cannot change. The past is gone. Let go and find your joy again.

71. Talk to a therapist

Maybe it’s time to talk with a therapist if your list of coping skills isn’t helping. Your therapist can provide other stress-management tools and anxiety medication if necessary.

Final Thoughts on List of Coping Skills for Stress and Anxiety

It’s true that stress and occasional anxiety are a normal part of life. The beautiful part is you have the power to reduce the impact on your daily life and mental health by choosing healthy ways of coping.

Best of all, the activities listed are simple and easy to do. You don’t have to spend money or go out of your way to feel better. Mindfulness is one of my favorites. It lets me live consciously aware of my thoughts, emotions, and environment.

I’m able to let go, worry less, and live more. I hope these 7 5-Minute Mindfulness Activities to Quickly Calm Yourself will help you too.

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