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Coping skills are important tools in the treatment of trauma as well as for the coping with everyday stress and frustration.   You can use them to prepare for difficult conversations or to adjust to life's difficulties and transitions.

How to Use Coping Skills

Its important to have plenty of different tools to emotionally cope with life.  Just like the maintenance of a home, some problems need different tools (hammer vs. screwdriver) than other problems.  Some days the same problem needs a different tool (drill) than the day before (screw driver).  If one tool doesn’t work, try another.

The tool box below includes a list of skills  that you can use, depending on your goal in the moment.

List of Emotional Coping Skills

Counseling Can Help

Counseling can  be used along with the Coping Skills Tool Box to help you cope with the hardships that occur in life and to help you heal.

It's time to heal...

Please contact Suzanne at (720) 443-1480 or email me to schedule an appointment.

Mindfulness and grounding techniques are important tools in the treatment of trauma.   They can also help improve our health and help combat stress.  Many people often confuse the two because they are both helpful in dealing with our natural fight – flight – freeze response; however, in different ways. Read below to understand more.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a performed by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging, accepting, and being with one's feelings, senses, thoughts, and body sensations, without judgment. Mindfulness can often induce relaxation. A regular practice of mindfulness has a whole host of physical and emotional benefits including building distress tolerance (physical and emotional) so that the body does not slip so readily into the fight – flight – freeze response.

Grounding Techniques

Grounding techniques are to be used when triggered. They are used to control symptoms by turning the attention away from emotion, cravings, thoughts, memories, or worries, and refocusing attention on the present moment. Grounding is used when either feeling too much (overwhelming emotions and memories) or too little (numbing and dissociation).  The idea is to manage your thoughts and experience toward safety, which is different than mindfulness.  The aim, in this case, is to diminish the fight – flight – freeze response when activated or triggered.

List of Mindfulness and Grounding Techniques

Many of the mindfulness and grounding techniques are similar but vary by whether the intent is to accept and be with difficult feelings and sensations (mindfulness) or manage them to induce a sense of safety (grounding). The associated figure includes a list of mindfulness and grounding techniques that you can use, depending on your goal in the moment.

Mindfulness and Grounding Techniques

Counseling Can Help

Trauma counseling can also help you with your fight – flight – freeze response and help you heal.

It's time to heal...

Please contact Suzanne at (720) 443-1480 or email me to schedule an appointment.

This article describes how we develop symptoms and suffer from trauma as a result of our adaptive survival response (the Autonomic Ladder).

The Adaptive Survival Response

As humans evolved, we developed an adaptive nervous system to help us survive.  Dana (2018) has conceptualized this adaptive survival response of autonomic nervous system as moving up and down the “autonomic latter".  On any given day, we move up and down on this latter in response to even the slightest perceived threats.  When this system gets stalled, we suffer from trauma.

Suffering from Trauma and Our Adaptive Survival System

Safety and Social Connection

Our nervous system adapted so that humans would naturally be drawn to connect socially with others.  Chances of survival were very low if you were not associated with a group.  As such, humans are wired to feel their best when the ventral vagal nervous system is activated.    In this state, we feel safe, peaceful, and generally desire to be connected to others.  Other traits of having the ventral vagal system active are listed in the graphic above.  Sounds like paradise.

Fight or Flight

As we know trouble is not far from paradise and our nervous system adapted accordingly.  When there is a threat or trigger, the sympathetic nervous system engages and we become ready to fight or flee.  In this state we feel fear or anger and we become ready to take action. Other traits of having the sympathetic nervous system active are listed in the graphic above.

Freeze or Faint

If it appears that we will be unsuccessful in fighting or fleeing, our most primitive response is engaged.  When the dorsal vagal system, is activated we freeze or faint.  In this state, we become immobilized and numb.  This reaction is designed in the hopes that predators will leave a body appearing dead.  At the very least, the freeze and faint response reduces suffering in the face of death or injury. Other traits of having the dorsal vagal system active are listed in the graphic above.

We Get Stuck and Suffer from Trauma

When we experience a traumatic event or repeated traumatic events, the nervous system’s ability to efficiency engage, dis-engage, and then re-engage these survival responses is impaired.  Traumatized people have a reduced ability to inhibit the fight, flight, or freeze response.  As a result, they live in a continual state of having the fight, flight, or freeze responses activated to some degree.  They also suffer the associated symptoms above.

(2018, Dana, D.) The Polyvagal Theory in Therapy: Engaging the Rhythm of Regulation

Counseling Can Help

Trauma counseling can help re-regulate the nervous system and help you heal.

It's time to heal...

Please contact Suzanne at (720) 443-1480 or email me to schedule an appointment.

 

I regularly teach my therapy clients that self-compassion can help them cope with the struggles in their life.  This Forbes' article by Carley Sime summarizes the benefits of using self-compassion as discovered by Kristin Neff:

"They tend to have better psychological health and also greater resilience when compared to those with lower levels of self-compassion. Neff also found that self-compassion is positively associated with life-satisfaction, emotional intelligence and social connectedness. What is it negatively associated with? Depression, anxiety, rumination, thought suppression and perfectionism. This means that individuals who are self-compassionate are less likely to experience these things".

Carley Sime's Forbes' article

Self compassion is a key coping skill in treating trauma and PTSD.

It's time to heal...

Please contact me at (720) 443-1480 or email me to schedule an appointment.

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When a person is traumatized, the traumatic event (or events) activates the limbic system of the body or what is known as the "fight, flight, or freeze" response. Sometimes that fight, flight or freeze response can stay activated or become easily activated again in seemingly similar situations.  That activated energy associated with a traumatic event can become trapped in the body, and as a result, the person can suffer from a variety of associated emotional and physiological symptoms. These symptoms can include agitation, pain, fear, flashbacks, anger, anxiety, insecurity, vigilance, and the list goes on.  Brainspotting trauma therapy helps clients process their trauma and release that physiological stress response from their bodies.  Once released, clients begin to improve. 

Brainspotting was developed by David Grand and he discovered that where a client looks affects how they feel.  The direction of the gaze while becoming attuned to the body when working with a traumatic event helps clients gain access and then release the stored trauma.  Brainspotting can look something like traditional therapy where the client may tell their story while gazing at their brain spot.  However, it can also be a journey where the client remains silent during the process.  It depends on the client, as it is very client driven.  It works so well, a community survey of survivors and community members after the Sandy Hook shooting showed that Brainspotting was one of the top therapeutic techniques used to treat trauma resulting from that event. Brainspotting can also help decrease the symptoms of depression, stress, phobias, anxiety, anger, panic, and other health concerns.

I first heard about Brainspotting from another People House practitioner. The name caught my attention. I immediately thought of the movie "Trainspotting". I thought "I’m going to try that someday". That time came in November of 2016.  At that time, I found myself so discouraged by the state of our political system.  I did not recognize my own country.  There was so much division and hatred, it really unnerved me. Also at that time, my wife was undergoing treatment for breast cancer that had metastasized to her brain, bones, and liver and she was suffering greatly.  She felt so terrible; she told me that she did not want to live anymore.  I was not ready for her to give up; I was not ready to lose her.  I felt so unhinged, like my world had tipped on its axis.  I began seeing a therapist that practices Brainspotting and noticed improvement within a few weeks.  I felt less reactive and better able to cope with these monumental stressors in my life.  The effect was profound enough for me to begin Brainspotting training to become a Brainspotting therapist.  During Brainspotting training, the therapists practice on each other.  After a three-day training weekend, I felt like I had become myself again.  Even my friends and family noticed the difference. 

I still see a Brainspotting therapist and I find that it has changed how I cope with stressful situations.  After stressful situations, which happen on a regular basis with my wife's cancer, I can sometimes feel that fight, flight, or freeze energy dissipate from my body.  The dissipation is an internal shiver of sorts.  Brainspotting has taught my body what to do with that energy.

Suzanne Sellers has a master’s degree in counseling from University of Colorado in Denver, is a registered psychotherapist and the owner of Healing Ground Counseling, LLC. You can reach Suzanne at healinggroundcounseling.com or (720) 443-1480.

 

This was article was first published in the January - April 2019 People House newsletter.

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