SELF-ENCOURAGING COPING THOUGHTS

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There are many distressing times in life when we all need to hear some encouraging words to keep us motivated or to help us endure the pain that we’re experiencing. But there are many distressing times like these when you are also alone, and you need to encourage yourself to stay strong.

Often, this can be done with self-encouraging coping thoughts. Coping thoughts are reminders of how strong you’ve been in the past when you survived distressing situations, and they’re also reminders of encouraging words that have given you strength. Coping thoughts are especially helpful when you first notice that you’re feeling agitated, nervous, angry, or upset. If you can recognize your distress early on, you’ll have a better chance of using one of these thoughts to help soothe yourself. Maybe there are even situations in your life that occur on a regular basis, when you can predict that one of these coping thoughts might be useful.

List of Coping Thoughts
Here is a list of some coping thoughts that many people have found to be helpful (McKay, Davis, & Fanning, 1997). Check (…) the ones that are helpful to you and create your own.

  • “This situation won’t last forever.”
  • “I’ve already been through many other painful experiences, and I’ve survived.”
  • “This too shall pass.”
  • “My feelings make me uncomfortable right now, but I can accept them.”
  • “I can be anxious and still deal with the situation.”
  • “I’m strong enough to handle what’s happening to me right now.”
  • “This is an opportunity for me to learn how to cope with my fears.”
  • “I can ride this out and not let it get to me.”
  • “I can take all the time I need right now to let go and relax.”
  • “I’ve survived other situations like this before, and I’ll survive this one too.”
  • “My anxiety/fear/sadness won’t kill me; it just doesn’t feel good right now.”
  • “These are just my feelings, and eventually they’ll go away.”
  • “It’s okay to feel sad/anxious/afraid sometimes.”
  • “My thoughts don’t control my life, I do.”
  • “I can think different thoughts if I want to.”
  • “I’m not in danger right now.”
  • “So what?”
  • “This situation sucks, but it’s only temporary.”
  • “I’m strong and I can deal with this.”
  • Other ideas: ________________________________________________

Coping thoughts can help you tolerate distressing situations by giving you strength and motivation to endure those experiences. Now that you know about coping thoughts, you can begin using them immediately. Write your five favorite coping thoughts on an index card or a sticky note and keep it with you in your wallet or purse. Or put your coping thoughts in conspicuous places where you can see them every day, like on your refrigerator or mirror. The more you see your coping thoughts, the more quickly they will become part of your automatic thought process. Use the following worksheet to record stressful situations in which you use your coping thoughts to give you strength. Make copies of the worksheet, and keep one with you so that you can record the experience as soon as it happens. Recording the experience quickly might be awkward or inconvenient for you, but doing it this way will help you remember to use your self-encouraging coping thoughts more often. Read the example worksheet for ideas about when coping thoughts might be helpful to you.

EXAMPLE: USING COPING THOUGHTS

 Distressing Situation                          New Coping Thought……… ….
My boss yelled at me.                             “This job stinks,
but it’s only temporary.”

The weatherperson on television       “I can keep taking deep breaths
said that there is a really bad storm     and remind myself that this
approaching that might cause some    will pass soon. I can cope.”
minor flooding.

I couldn’t get my gardening done       “It’s disappointing, but I can cope.
before my friends came over, and I       I’ll talk about my plans for the
really wanted them to see how               backyard.”
nice my backyard.”

My sister called me “selfish” for       “She lives in a world of pain herself;
not leaving work early to take her       that’s how she copes with disappointment.”
shopping.

I got sad while watching a movie.     “These are just my feelings, and eventually

I heard police sirens coming down   “I’m not in danger right now. I’m safe and
the street, and it made me nervous.   I’m comfortable behind the closed doors.”

The store clerk gave me the wrong   “I can deal with this. I can say what
change, and I have to go back and       I want, and deal with the disappointment
ask for more money.                                if I don’t get it.”

My daughter is leaving for college,  “My sadness won’t kill me;
and I’m really going to miss her.        it just doesn’t feel good right now.”

I get nervous when I don’t have       “I can take all the time I need right
anything to keep me busy.                    now to let go and relax.”

I really hate to fly, but I need to go   “This is an opportunity for me to
visit my grandmother in Tulsa.            learn how to cope with my fears.
I’ll use my breathing and
visualization skills.”

COPING THOUGHTS WORKSHEET

Distressing Situation                                        New Coping Thought………………………
1. -_____________________________-____________________________
2. -_____________________________-____________________________
3. -_____________________________-____________________________
4. -_____________________________-____________________________
5. -_____________________________-____________________________
6. -_____________________________-____________________________
7. -_____________________________-____________________________

Learn more:

Distress Tolerance Skills:

  1. DISTRESS TOLERANCE SKILLS
  2. RADICAL ACCEPTANCE
  3. DISTRACT YOURSELF FROM SELF-DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIORS
  4. DISTRACT YOURSELF WITH PLEASURABLE ACTIVITIES
  5. DISTRACT YOURSELF BY PAYING ATTENTION TO SOMEONE ELSE
  6. DISTRACT YOUR THOUGHTS
  7. DISTRACT YOURSELF BY LEAVING
  8. DISTRACT YOURSELF WITH TASKS AND CHORES
  9. DISTRACT YOURSELF BY COUNTING
  10. CREATE YOUR DISTRACTION PLAN
  11. RELAX AND SOOTHE YOURSELF
  12. Self-Soothing Using Your Sense of Smell
  13. Self-Soothing Using Your Sense of Touch
  14. Self-Soothing Using Your Sense of Taste
  15. Self-Soothing Using Your Sense of Hearing
  16. Self-Soothing Using Your Sense of Vision
  17. Self-Soothing – CREATE A RELAXATION PLAN

Advanced Distress Tolerance Skills:

  1. Advanced Distress Tolerance Skills: Improve the Moment
  2. SAFE-PLACE VISUALIZATION
  3. CUE-CONTROLLED RELAXATION
  4. REDISCOVER YOUR VALUES
  5. SELF-ENCOURAGING COPING THOUGHTS
  6. TAKE A TIME-OUT
  7. LIVE IN THE PRESENT MOMENT
  8. IDENTIFY YOUR HIGHER POWER
  9. ADVANCED RADICAL ACCEPTANCE