Coping skills training teaches you to relax during anxious and stressful situations. You will experience increased self control in those situations as a result of using relaxation techniques and letting go of the tension. Sounds great, doesn’t it? “But how do I do it?”, you might ask. Take it one step at a time.
STEP 1 – Make a list of personally stressful situations and write them down, with the least stressful on the top, working your way down the page to the most stressful situations.
STEP 2 – Create your own stress-coping remarks and practice them every chance you get. Some examples might be: There is nothing to worry about. I am going to be alright. I have succeeded with this before. I know I can do each of these tasks. It is always easier once I get started. Take it step by step. I can do this. Any tension I feel is a signal to use my relaxation skills. Relax Now! Just breathe deeply. I’ve survived this and worse before.
STEP 3 – Start with the least stressful item on your list and build a clear picture in your imagination. Notice the beginning of tension in your body and any feelings of anxiety. Use your relaxation skills and stress coping statements during these imaginary scenes. When you have been able to vividly imagine the scene without tension or anxiety, go on the the next higher stress item.
For this to work, the scenes must be real to you. Include in your imagery the sounds, smells, sights, and textures of the situation. Note any physical tension and begin to work the steps above.
STEP 4 – Use your coping skills in real life situations. When you encounter a stressful situation your body tension is your cue to relax. Let your stress coping thoughts come to you in a constant stream. Praise yourself for meeting the challenge.
The first day you begin practicing — GO SLOW. Try only 3-4 scenes. After you have relaxed through your entire list of stressful situations several times, you will be able to confront the same problem situations in real life with greater confidence.
The more you practice, the more natural these coping skills will feel to you. Your goal is to make the relaxation response and coping statements begin automatically. There will be setbacks, times when your stress seems unmanageable and you will have to work really hard to control your anxiety. You can do it. Don’t give up.
Dr. Leanna Manuel is the director and supervising psychologist for CCA Companies, LLC. Dr. Manuel is a graduate of Wright State University School of Professional Psychology and has experience in medical and mental health care settings. She was a featured psychologist on MTV: True Life.