Just like we all have physical health, we all have mental health and it is important to learn how to keep our minds healthy. When you get a cut you put a Band-Aid on it, but what do we do when it comes to taking care of our minds? This is where coping skills come into play, and these can take a lot of courage to learn how to use and utilize, which is why I refer to them as our courage skills. There are six types of courage skills that are important to develop for when our emotions feel too strong and we need to alleviate some of our feelings: self-soothing, distraction, opposite action, emotional awareness, mindfulness, and a crisis plan.
Self-soothing courage skills are used to ground us and helps us become more in touch with our surroundings. These techniques are used during moments of intense, overwhelming emotions that make us feel mentally removed from the present moment. Self-soothing courage skills focus on our senses: touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound. These allow us to focus on our surroundings by paying attention to all of the things that we can be sensing during these moments. Some coping skills include the 5,4,3,2,1 senses (pictured to the right), and using a grounding object, such as a gem or crystal. When using the grounding object, pay attention to the patterns, color variance, where the shadow falls, shapes that form within the object, etc.
The next courage skill is called distraction, which is when you divert your attention temporarily to something else. With this courage skill, it is crucial to remember to come back to your emotions at a time when you are more equipped to feel these emotions. When I utilize this skill I begin by writing down the situation, three things I am feeling, and when I will come back to these emotions. After this, I find a healthy way to distract myself and while there are many ways to distract myself, these are the two I utilize the most: counting backwards from 800 and a weaving eye or god’s eye.
Our emotions can be intense, and they can encourage us to act in a way we might regret later. In these cases using opposite action may be a helpful method. This courage skill encourages us to pay attention to what we are feeling, what we want to do, and how to act in a way that we won’t regret. This is normally brought on when we are feeling fear, anger, sadness, shame, or guilt.
Emotional awareness is examining a situation and recognizing our emotions and the emotions of others. It is important to keep in mind that we may not be able to fully understand the emotions of others in situations and that it is important to ask questions to understand. Before we utilize our coping skills it is important to understand our emotions in the situation. This can be done by describing the situation, saying which emotions you are feeling, rating the strength of the emotion, which courage skill you want to utilize, and the strength of your emotions after using the courage skill. So, what are some good courage skills to use when practicing emotional awareness? Try expressive writing, or talking with other individuals; these help further our awareness of the situation and express our feelings.
Our next courage skill is mindfulness, which often is associated with the same meaning as meditation. However, these are different. Mindfulness is when we are conscious and aware of our surroundings, while meditation practices grounding techniques and helps us become mindful. Meditation is an effective courage skill, but it is not the only way we can practice being mindful. Here are some other ways: Self-Compassion Pause, 3-Step Mindfulness Worksheet, and S.T.O.P – Stop what you are doing, take a breath, observe your thoughts, feelings, and emotions, and proceed with something or someone that will support you.
Finally, a crisis plan is used during the time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger. Crisis plans outline steps to a personal or organizational reaction to the crisis. Crisis plans are good to have in place when it feels as if our courage skills are not enough at that moment. It is important to include some resources that you can immediately utilize. Aside from having a list of resources, here are some things to do before you are in crisis so you can use them if you ever are in crisis: Crisis Safety Plan, and Protective Factors Worksheet
Our mental health is important to take care of, but it takes time and courage to learn effective ways to improve our mental health. These are just a few strategies that I use and they may work for you too. Regardless, find a coping skill for each six of the areas and write them down so when your emotions become too strong you can utilize these skills. If you ever don’t know what courage skill to use when, just look at the image to the right to help find an effective skill.
Allison Kohl joined The Kim Foundation in May 2019. She is currently a student at Nebraska Wesleyan University majoring in Psychology & Communication with a minor in Biology. She has intentions to continue her education in graduate school to earn a PhD in Clinical or Neuropsychology where she hopes to further the current research surrounding mental health and illness. Allie enjoys singing in her university’s women’s choir and spending time with friends.