The above video is a few of the coping tools I keep with me and use. As a mental health occupational therapist, I find it important to practice what I preach. I will go into the purpose and types of coping skills further in this blog post. 

The Need for Coping Skills 

There is an ever-greater need for mental health services for college students specifically (Watkins et al., 2012). Nearly 1 in 4 experience mental illness in college today (SAMHSA, 2017). Coping skills are in part, an answer to this situation. I explain in the video above, that coping skills are not simply for “dealing with mental illness”, rather they are what should be present in positive mental health.  

Unfortunately, effective strategies to cope with stress among college students today, may not only be lacking, but many of which may actually further contribute to the poor ability to deal with stress (Bland et al., 2012). 

What Coping Skills Are 

Coping Skills is a familiar term, for some it’s a word that means “run away”, yet others may actually want to learn coping skills. Whether the idea of coping skills needs to be rebranded or just approached differently is debatable. What is not debatable, is that we need to use them.  

There are a variety of ways to define and organize coping skills in medical literature (Carver & Conner-Smith, 2010). I believe coping tools are best described in simple terms as actions you can take to deal with negative situations. These actions could simply be in your head like practicing mindfulness or physical items such as writing in a notebook. 

Should have seen these books
My favorite tools come in the form of books

Types of Coping Skills 

Vivek Murphy, a former US Surgeon General, stated in an interview “The second thing we have to do is cultivate emotional well-being. There are tools, and they’re relatively simple. They include sleep, physical activity, contemplative practices like gratitude and meditation, and social connection as well” (“3 Questions”, 2017). Murphy’s list of tools is a great start. 

  • Sleep 
  • Physical Activity 
  • Gratitude 
  • Meditation 
  • Social Connection 

Feeling supported was the number one most positive factor students who deal well with stress report (Bland et al., 2012). The other factors found to be used by students who handle stress well include: 

  • Relaxed 
  • Extra-Curricular Activity 
  • Extra-Curricular Sport 
  • Exercise 
  • Listened to Music 

As an occupational therapist, I often use the senses (sight, smell, etc.) as an approach to coping tools. Mental illness can negatively impact how adults experience the senses (Bailliar & Whigham, 2017). A variety of tools can be used to use are sense to impact our emotions and experience. Examples include: 

  • Fidgets 
  • Stressballs 
  • Ear plugs 
  • Aromatherapy 
  • Weighted blankets 
  • Holding warm/cold items 


I hope these few lists give a good start to coming up with ideas. Each of these topics could have additional lectures of their own, I’m sure you can easily find more information online. I believe there is great room to go into greater detail on types of coping skills. This article is a first step overview. I would be grateful to learn what coping skills you feel should be addressed, what works for you, and what you would do to make it more appealing? 

 For more information, checkout the article: What I Teach for Mental Health



3 Questions. (2017, September). Official Journal of the National Geographic Society, 232(3).  

Bailliar, A. L., & Whigham, S. C. (2017). Centennial Topics – Linking neuroscience, function, and intervention: A scoping review of sensory processing and mental illness. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 71(5), 7105100040. 

Bland, H. W., Melton, B. F., Welle, P., & Bigham, L. (2012). Stress tolerance: New challenges for millennial college students. College Student Journal, 46(2), 362-376. 

Carver, C. S., Connor-Smith, J. (2010). Personality and coping. Annual Review of Psychology. 61: 679–704. PMID 19572784. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.093008.100352

Farb, N. A., Anderson, A. K., & Segal, Z. V. (2012). The mindful brain and emotion regulation in mood disorders. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 57(2), 70-77. 

SAMHSA (2017, Sept 9). Key substance use and mental health indicators in the united states: Results from the 2016 national survey on drug use and health. Retrieved from 

Watkins, D. C., Hunt, J. B., & Eisenberg, D. (2012). Increased demand for mental health services on college campuses: Perspectives from administrators.  Qualitative Social Work,  11(3), 319-337. 

Join Me

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *