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Top 10 Best Coping Mechanisms for Mental Health

by Amber Smith
fact checked by Rachel Jones

Mental health isn’t just a buzzword. It’s a very real part of our overall health. And if you’re struggling in this department, you’re not alone. But several coping mechanisms exist to help you manage stress, anxiety, and other mental health challenges.

Just remember that while coping skills can be a great supplement to therapy or other mental health treatments, they are not a replacement for a trained mental health professional if you need one. Pairing these techniques with professional help ensures you get the support and guidance you need to manage your mental health effectively.

Let’s explore the top ten best coping mechanisms for your mental health.

Related: Top 10 Ways Binge-Watching Is Ruining Your Health

10 Creative Expression

Give yourself permission to be creative | Ethan Hawke | TED

Creative expression allows you to explore and express your emotions in a healthy and constructive way. Whether through painting, drawing, writing, or dancing, creative expression is a powerful tool that can help you process your feelings and reduce stress.

If you’re new to creative expression, starting can be as simple as picking up a pen and paper and writing down your thoughts, drawing a picture, or dancing to your favorite song. You don’t need to be an expert or have formal training; just let your emotions guide you and allow yourself to be fully present in the moment.

Here’s how to get started with creative expression:

  • Choose your medium—from painting and drawing to writing or dancing; pick a form of creative expression that resonates with you.

  • Create a safe space—find a quiet and comfortable place to be alone and focus on your creative expression.

  • Let go of expectations—don’t worry about creating something perfect or meaningful; just let your thoughts and emotions guide you.

  • Be present in the moment—allow yourself to fully immerse in the creative process and let go of any distractions or worries.

9 Exercise

Stretches for Stress Relief

It’s time to dust off that gym membership you haven’t used since New Year’s.

When we engage in physical activity, our bodies release endorphins, natural chemicals that make us feel good. Exercise is not only great for our physical health but also for our mental health. It helps reduce stress, anxiety, and depression and improves mood.

Starting an exercise routine doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as going for a walk, taking a yoga class, or doing a home workout. The key is finding an activity you enjoy and can do consistently. Starting small and gradually increasing the intensity and duration of your exercise can also help you stick to it.

To get the most out of your exercise routine, make it a habit. Scheduling your workout time in your calendar, setting achievable goals, and tracking your progress can keep you motivated. It’s also important to listen to your body and give yourself rest days.

8 Mindfulness Meditation

Daily Calm | 10 Minute Mindfulness Meditation | Be Present

Mindfulness meditation is a powerful technique that helps you become more aware of your thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations in the present moment. By cultivating this awareness, you can gain greater insight into your own patterns of thought and behavior and learn to respond to stress and difficult emotions more skillfully.

To start practicing mindfulness meditation, find a quiet and comfortable place to sit undisturbed for a few minutes. Close your eyes and focus on your breath, noticing the sensation of air moving in and out of your body. If your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath without judging yourself.

As you continue to practice, you can begin to expand your awareness of other physical sensations and thoughts that arise. Remember to approach these experiences with curiosity and openness rather than judgment or resistance.

7 Social Support

Social Support & Wellness | Chandra Story | TEDxOStateU

You don’t have to go through this by yourself—and you shouldn’t. Connect with others and receive emotional, informational, and tangible support. Whether through family, friends, or support groups, social support is a powerful tool that can help you reduce stress, build resilience, and improve your overall mental health.

Social support is an effective coping mechanism because it provides a sense of belonging and connectedness. It’s a chance for you to feel less isolated and alone. Involving other people in your mental health journey can motivate, encourage, and hold you accountable to stay on track with your goals and overcome challenges.

If you’re looking to build your social support, here are some tips to get you started:

  • Identify your support system—consider who you can turn to for emotional support, advice, or practical help.

  • Communicate your needs—be clear about what kind of support you need, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

  • Nurture your relationships—make time to connect with your support system regularly through phone calls, text messages, or in-person meetings.

  • Be a supportive friend—remember that social support is a two-way street. Be there for your friends and loved ones when they need you, and offer your own support and encouragement.

6 Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is one of the best coping mechanisms for mental health because it helps you identify and change negative thought patterns and behaviors contributing to your mental health struggles. CBT is a goal-oriented and structured approach that focuses on the present moment and helps you develop effective coping strategies to manage your symptoms.

If you want to start CBT, find a licensed therapist specializing in this approach. Together, you’ll work to identify your negative thought patterns and behaviors and develop practical skills and strategies to manage your symptoms.

Here’s a short guide to starting CBT:

  • Identify your goals—think about what you’d like to achieve through therapy and share this with your therapist.

  • Develop a plan—work with your therapist to develop a plan of action.

  • Identify negative thought patterns—learn to identify negative thoughts and beliefs contributing to your symptoms.

  • Challenge negative thoughts—practice challenging and reframing negative thoughts to reduce your impact on your mental health.

  • Develop coping strategies—work with your therapist to develop practical coping strategies to manage your symptoms in challenging situations.

5 Sleep Hygiene

Sleep Hygiene: Train Your Brain to Fall Asleep and Sleep Better

This is not the time to skimp on sleep. Sleep hygiene refers to practices and habits that promote restful sleep. Poor sleep quality can seriously impact our mental well-being (hello, increased stress, anxiety, and depression!). But good sleep hygiene can help us get the rest needed to manage our emotions and maintain a positive outlook.

Quality sleep is essential for our bodies and minds to recover from the day’s stresses. When we sleep, our brain consolidates memories, processes emotions, and regulates our mood. Without sufficient sleep, we are more vulnerable to negative thoughts and emotions, making it difficult to cope with daily challenges.

To start improving your sleep hygiene, try implementing some of the following practices:

  • Set a consistent sleep schedule—go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends.

  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine—wind down before bed with relaxing activities such as reading, meditation, or a warm bath.

  • Limit exposure to screens—avoid using electronic devices such as phones, tablets, or computers before bedtime.

  • Create a comfortable sleep environment—keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet.

  • Exercise regularly—physical activity can help promote restful sleep.

4 Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Northwestern Medicine Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Progressive muscle relaxation is a powerful technique to manage stress and anxiety, reducing the muscle tension that comes with them. It works by systematically tensing and relaxing each muscle group in the body, helping to release physical and emotional tension.

When we experience stress or anxiety, our muscles tend to become tense and tight, which can cause physical discomfort and make our mental state worse. By consciously tightening and relaxing each muscle group, we can release this tension and create a sense of physical relaxation.

Here’s a short guide to practicing progressive muscle relaxation:

  1. Find a quiet and comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed.

  2. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths, focusing on your breath as you inhale and exhale.

  3. Start at the top of your head and work your way down your body, tensing and then relaxing each muscle group for a few seconds.

  4. Take a few deep breaths between each muscle group, allowing yourself to fully relax and release any tension.

  5. Once you’ve completed the entire sequence, take a few moments to breathe deeply and reflect on how you feel.

3 Positive Self-Talk

Positive Self-Talk

Be kind to yourself—you’re going through a lot right now.

Positive self-talk involves intentionally replacing self-criticism with positive and encouraging statements, improving self-esteem, boosting confidence, and reducing anxiety and depression. One of the reasons positive self-talk is such an effective coping mechanism is that it can help shift our mindset from self-doubt and negativity to self-love and positivity.

Here’s a short guide to practicing positive self-talk:

  1. Start by becoming aware of your negative self-talk. Notice when you’re being self-critical and pay attention to the words and phrases you use.

  2. Challenge your negative self-talk by asking yourself if it’s true. Often, negative self-talk is based on irrational or unfounded beliefs.

  3. Replace negative self-talk with positive statements. For example, if you think “I’m not good enough,” replace it with “I am capable and deserving of success.”

  4. Practice positive self-talk regularly, especially when you’re feeling down or stressed. Repeat positive affirmations to yourself throughout the day to reinforce positive thinking.

2 Box Breathing

Square Breathing aka Box Breathing : Grounding Exercise for Anxiety #10

Box breathing, also known as square breathing, is a simple breathing technique to improve overall mental health. It involves taking slow and deep breaths, using a specific pattern of inhaling, holding, exhaling, and holding.

Box breathing helps regulate our nervous system, calming our mind and reducing the physiological response to stress. When we experience stress or anxiety, our body’s natural fight-or-flight response is triggered, causing an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and shallow breathing. By consciously slowing down our breathing and taking deeper breaths, we can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes relaxation and a sense of calm.

Here’s a short guide to practicing box breathing:

  1. Find a quiet and comfortable place where you won’t be disturbed.

  2. Sit comfortably and take a few deep breaths, focusing on your breath as you inhale and exhale.

  3. Begin by inhaling slowly and deeply through your nose for a count of four.

  4. Hold your breath for a count of four.

  5. Exhale slowly and completely through your mouth for a count of four.

  6. Hold your breath for a count of four.

  7. Repeat this cycle for several minutes, gradually increasing the duration of each count as you become more comfortable.

1 Gratitude Practices

The Healing Power of Gratitude: Change Your Brain

Gratitude isn’t just for Thanksgiving. It’s an excellent coping mechanism for mental health. Focusing By focusing on gratitude, we can shift our perspective and cultivate a positive mindset. One reason gratitude practices are so effective is that they help us appreciate what we have rather than strive for more.

A way to practice gratitude is to take a few moments each day to reflect on what you are grateful for. This could be anything from a warm cup of tea in the morning to a supportive friend or a beautiful sunset. Another way to practice gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal, where you write down three things you are grateful for each day.

Here’s a guide to practicing gratitude:

  1. Find a quiet and comfortable place to relax and focus on your thoughts.

  2. Take a few deep breaths and reflect on what you are grateful for.

  3. Write down three things you are grateful for, focusing on the feelings of appreciation and positivity that come with each item.

  4. Take a moment to appreciate what you have written down and feel the gratitude and positivity they bring.

fact checked by Rachel Jones