Coping Strategies

Suggested strategies to reduce pain and increase coping.

Remember to Breathe!

Slow down and breathe deeply down into your belly; put your hand there and breathe so that your hand gets pushed up and down. Imagine you have a balloon in your tummy, inflating it as you breathe in, and deflating as you breathe out.

When we get scared, we breathe too quickly and shallowly and our body begins to panic because we're not getting enough oxygen. This causes dizziness, shakiness and more panic. Breathing slower and deeper can stop the panic and reduce the physical reaction of emotion/adrenaline. Lengthen the outbreath if possible.



If the distress you experience is extremely intense, temporary grounding and distractions may be necessary to help detach from emotional pain and avoid engaging in unhelpful behaviours.

Do something else, a particular task or activity and mindfully focus your attention fully on what you're doing, Describe (and say out loud if appropriate) what you are doing right now, in great detail.

54321 technique

We can use our senses to calm and ground ourselves, notice:

  • 5 things I can see
  • 4 things I can hear
  • 3 things I can feel or touch
  • 2 things I can smell or like the smell of
  • 1 slow deep breath brings our focus of attention into right now, the present moment

Distress Improvement and Coping

Do the opposite action of your urge and find specific activities that improve your emotional state.

Activate/Soothe - activities to make distress more tolerable. Experiment to find out what works:

  • Create art, write in a journal, listen to music, pamper self, housework, tv/video games, online support group
  • Try to engage in a burst of intensive exercise e.g. running, walking fast. This naturally releases endorphins which helps combat negative emotions like anger, anxiety etc. Collect items into an emergency wellbeing bag or box that you can open up when you need to.

STOPP technique

A helpful skill to take control of your emotions and your life.


Just pause for a moment and take a step back. Don’t act immediately. Wait. Put some space between the trigger and your reaction. This allows us to try to choose our response rather than being fuelled by strong emotions.

Take a Breath

Notice your breathing as you breathe in and out. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Focusing on our breathing means we are not so focused on the thoughts and feelings of the distress, so that our minds can start to clear and we can think more rationally.


Notice what you are thinking and feeling. Where is your focus of attention? What are you reacting to? What do you notice in your body? When you’re in a crisis, it is easy to zoom in and only see a tiny bit of a bigger picture - but then you only have one bit of information.

Pull Back - Put in some perspective

Don't believe everything you think. What's the bigger picture? See the whole picture (zoom out) to figure out the best course of action.

Is this fact or opinion? Is this really true or does it just feel that way?

What is another way of looking at this situation? What is a more reasonable explanation? Even though it feels really bad now, emotions are not permanent. It will pass!

Practise what works - Proceed

Consider the consequences. What is the best thing to do right now?

What is the most helpful thing for me, for others, for the situation?

Where can I focus my attention right now? Distract Yourself.

These skills may not work immediately, but with practice they build up your confidence and help you take control.