Coping Skills

in All Posts

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about coping skills.  Life can be challenging, but the real test is how we choose to react to situations.  It is only in the last five years or so that I really began to understand that I have the ability to actually effectively manage and impact situations by my coping skills.


I’ve been thinking a lot about healthy vs. unhealthy coping skills the other day because Nicole brought it up.  We were chillin’ at my house and she was looking at my e-mail when she noticed a G-Mail folder called “Special Emails.”


“What is this?” she asked curiously.


“Oh, whenever someone sends me a really nice email or says something really nice in the comments section, I save it to my Special Emails folder.  I re-read all the emails whenever I am sad or lonely,” I replied.   (My Special Emails range from “I really liked your Santa Fe Casserole” to “Operation Beautiful saved my life.”)


“Hmmm,” mused Nicole (who is a therapist, by the way).  “That is a really healthy coping mechanism.”


So this discussion really got me thinking about coping skills.  One major aspect of my Healthy Tipping Point story is that I used to have the worst coping skills.  As I’ve written about before, my biggest coping mechanism was alcohol.  I was, to put it mildly, a drunk (a very fun drunk, but still) in college.  I drank way too much – and way past a safe limit.  I guess I can chalk some of it to running with a wilder crowd or just being the “college experience,” but on the other hand, I drank when I was happy… I drank when I felt shy…  I drank when I felt sexy… I drank when I was lonely at parties…  I drank when I fought with my boyfriend…  I drank to have fun.  Basically, I drank because I liked it and it covered up or magnified whatever I was feeling at the time. 


I didn’t really see a problem with this coping mechanism at the time, mostly because it was better than my previous, really crappy attempts at coping.  It was also ‘better’ than my coping mechanism of shopping and spending lots of money I didn’t have (hello, credit card debt).


However, looking back – I wish I hadn’t drank so much or so often in college.  My college friends are true friends, and not drinking as much wouldn’t have impacted our relationship in any way.  I could’ve gotten a lot more out of my educational experience if I had focused more in school, and I worry about the damage I did to my body.


I’m not perfect – and I certainly still engage occasionally in not-so-healthy coping mechanisms when things get really stressful.  But I’ve amassed some much healthier coping skills over the last five years, like:


  • My Special Emails folder
  • A box containing all of the cards friends and families have sent me for holidays
  • Exercise
  • Cooking
  • Reading
  • Owning two pets <—petting a dog is the ultimate de-stresser for me
  • Working at a job that I like
  • Long, hot showers
  • Calling a friend to chat
  • Volunteering at Girls on the Run


I think the key to switching from unhealthy coping skills to healthier ones is to recognize situations that trigger your coping response and take immediate action to get yourself in a different state of mind.  For example, I can tell I’m getting really stressed out because I always get tightness in my chest.  When this happens, I literally ask myself, “What’s the healthiest way to handle these emotions?”  Of course, some negative coping skills really need the help of a professional to understand and rid yourself of. 


All this talk about coping skills is especially important given the New Year.  Part of succeeding in resolutions is figuring out how to set yourself up for success, after all!


What’s your healthiest coping mechanism for stress?  How do you ensure you attack stress with healthy behaviors and not in an unhealthy way?


Slow down and everything you are chasing will come around and catch you.



  • Kara January 6, 2011, 9:33 am

    I really watching funny TV, like Tosh.O, when I’m stressed. Also, a sweaty workout and a good night’s sleep are my favorite coping mechanisms. Nothing too original, but that’s what works for me!

    • Kara January 6, 2011, 9:35 am

      Also, watching shows like 16 and Pregnant because those people make me feel like I really have my life together 😛

      • Caitlin January 6, 2011, 9:36 am

        Hahah yes, same.

      • Errign January 6, 2011, 9:53 am

        YES. this. That has been my #1 coping mechanism through my recent breakup – …alright, my life is NOT as bad as yours… 🙂

        • Katie January 6, 2011, 10:52 am

          I’ve been told that comparison can be a good thing. But everyone’s situation is relevant to THEM. Comparing lives as who’s is worst or who’s is best is only going to make you feel as if you shouldn’t feel bad in your situation. You have the right to feel badly after a breakup. Don’t dwell on it though. Feel the emotion, don’t push it away, and then move past it.

      • Halley (Blunder Construction) January 6, 2011, 1:53 pm

        Oh my goodness, 16 and Pregnant stresses me out so much! While my life is better in comparison, it worries me that there are babies in such messed up families!! Gag gag gag… but I see your point 🙂

        • Michelle @ Living Learning Earning January 6, 2011, 2:07 pm

          I feel the same way! I get so sad for the babies that you can just tell aren’t going to have great home lives. I can’t stop watching though 🙂

    • DadHTP January 6, 2011, 6:46 pm

      Feeling like things can’t be worse?

      “Leaving Las Vegas” with Nick Cage

  • Jackie @ Baking Charms January 6, 2011, 9:34 am

    I love your special folder idea! I save sweet texts 🙂

    My worst coping mechanism was binge eating, but I have slowly been making progress. My puppy, cooking, yoga and even a quick phone call to my mom can put things in perspective.

    • JenATX January 6, 2011, 10:53 am

      Ditto… Idk if it was to the extent of binging but I would definitely eat uan unhealthy amount of food. If I was upset about a fight with my boyfriend or a bad grade, I’d typically rummage through my pantry & eat everything in sight. NOT good 🙁
      I don’t really have good coping nowadays though. Sometimes I workout helps, but sometimes when I’m upset working out is the last thing I want to do. Reading blogs helps sometimes. I would really like to develop better coping skills.

      • Errign January 6, 2011, 11:08 am

        For me, it’s been eating less – it’s truly not intentional, the thought of it just makes me want to vomit. I AM trying though!

    • Diane January 6, 2011, 3:47 pm

      I’m guilty of binging too 🙁
      it’s such a struggle to break this habit!
      but I’m trying

      I find that changing my environment—LEAVING the kitchen area automatically takes my emotional cravings away. Then I’m forced to do something else–like read blogs or a book, write in my journal, sleep! <3

  • Jennifer January 6, 2011, 9:34 am

    I love this post! I had to force myself to stop and take long deep breaths (and I downloaded a relaxation app) this past weekend. I was so anxious about coming back to work after a long holiday break. It did help.

    BTW, I have a folder of nice e-mails too. I need to remember to look at them more often. They really do lift you up. Have a great day, Caitlin!

  • Stacy @ Every Little Thing January 6, 2011, 9:34 am

    I think volunteering is an awesome coping mechanism for stress, but people are afraid to fit it in a busy, stress-filled day, ya know?

    My healthiest coping mechanism is going to concerts. I can literally forget everything going on in the outside world when I’m watching a good band on stage (especially one I follow regularly). Also, I often see old friends at shows and again, it takes away any outside stress I’m feeling at the time. I love music in general but live music? Whole different world 🙂

  • Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday January 6, 2011, 9:34 am

    When it comes to stress I find that my best way of coping is through yoga, a long walk, or baking bread (kneading dough can be a really great way to get out frustration!)

  • lindsay January 6, 2011, 9:34 am

    Really love this post, Caitlin. When I go through tough times or am feeling down, I do a lot of cooking, cleaning, working out and walking my dog. I also have a similar email folder, although I’ve only kept one at work up until now. May need to add one to my gmail for personal notes, as well. Thanks for the idea 🙂

    • Kaitlin January 6, 2011, 4:10 pm

      I love this idea about having the folder at work. I’m going to make one now…so easy to forget compliments when you get them, but this is a way to keep them around. Thanks!

  • Beth @ Beth's Journey to Thin January 6, 2011, 9:34 am

    I love the idea of the “Special Emails” folder in gmail! I have one at work called “Kudos” but that’s mostly to help me professionally rather than personally.

    I am naturally a very anxious person, and I find running to be the best thing when I am angry, sad, or stressed. I always come back feeling so much better and get such a release from the run.

    I still do struggle with reacting in a healthy way to stress. Sometimes I yell or overreact when I’m stressed, but I’m working on it.

  • Gillian Young January 6, 2011, 9:35 am

    I love this Caitlin! I was recently thinking about how when I was a teenager I coped with my depression so badly. I would sink into my depression and make it worse by shutting people out and drinking ect. These days I definitely turn to exercise and nutrition when I’m feeling low, and more importantly, I talk it out with loved ones.

    I love the idea of a special emails folder–it’s amazing how one nice email or comment can make your day!

    Thank you for being your inspiring self! Young women are lucky to have you to look up to!

  • Summer January 6, 2011, 9:36 am

    I drank a lot in college, too…and I still drink a lot now, but it’s not binge drinking. It’s drinking to enjoy. Still, I try not to use that as a coping mechanism. My two favorites: cooking (not necessarily eating) and cleaning. I love to just chop, chop, chop away the stress, and I will clean the whole house when things are out of my control.

  • Carly (Swim, Run, Om) January 6, 2011, 9:36 am

    I have a sort of mantra for 2011: “Replace the fear with calm.” I have a lot going on in my personal life which is stressing me out, but when I repeat that to myself, it helps calm me down and lower the stress level.

  • Tonyne @ Unlikely Success Story January 6, 2011, 9:37 am

    I really needed to read this right now. You have no idea how much. I have been focusing lately on just this thing, doing a lot of private writing about it actually.

    I have a lot of unhealthy mechanisims, but I think my healthy ones are just getting in the kitchen and working up a new recipe with music playing, dancing around the apartment with Chaser the Wonder Schnauzer and long hot baths. Also, a really good workout works 99% of the time too. 🙂

  • Angela January 6, 2011, 9:37 am

    Great topic! Some great ways to cope I may have to add some of these to my tool box. In the past, I’ve also coped via alcohol, shopping and with food. I’m in the process of cleaning up the effects of the latter two. Currently some of my coping tools include

    1) Positive affirmations
    2) herfuture community
    3) Journaling
    4) Calling a friend to chat

    I find that if I change my scenery my mood will definitely change quickly. I working on adding exercise more regularly to my coping mechanism. I know that this is an instant game changer.

  • Sara @ OurDogBuffy January 6, 2011, 9:38 am

    Exercise is a great way to de-stress. Pets are too, I agree!

  • R Chandra January 6, 2011, 9:39 am

    lovely post!

    i’ve definitely learned some new healthy coping mechanisms, and still have a lot to learn. my list includes running, listening to music, taking pictures, hot showers (they rock 😀 ), a cup of tea, making lists, talking something through (sometimes out loud to myself. errr)

  • Sarah @ See Sarah Graduate January 6, 2011, 9:39 am

    The best way I know to cope with stress is to run. That hour that I’m out there pounding the pavement allows me to step back from the situation and really think about what I can do to control it. Running is definitely the best therapy. 🙂

    • Errign January 6, 2011, 9:55 am

      I find running to be helping me right now with cutting down on the anxious feelings I’ve been having due to my current situation. 🙂 It’s actually quite nice, for my heart to be pounding because of something I can control! 🙂

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat January 6, 2011, 9:40 am

    I love this post, and I think the special emails is a great way to cope. I have a little folder (I suppose you could call it my Smile File, just because that rhymes) full of things I’ve received or pictures that make me happy. Other ways I cope with stress/negative emotions are exercise, sleep, talking issues out with friends, chick flicks (sometimes the best healer!) and hot showers.

  • Sara January 6, 2011, 9:41 am

    Alcohol was a great way to cope with everything in college. And after college. Yikes. I still use it to cope in uncomfortable situations (like at a gathering I don’t really want to be at), which isn’t great, but way less than I used to. Now if I feel stressed (or angry), I go for a walk to clear my head, or I listen to music to calm me down. Sometimes I flip on the tv to change my mood. And sometimes I just let the tears flow until I can’t cry anymore; honestly, that really helps sometimes.

  • Chrissy (The New Me) January 6, 2011, 9:43 am

    Running and/or walking my two dogs are the secret to happiness. I’m not kidding! When things get tough, I try to put them in perspective. I think about all the things I have, all the opportunities I’ve been given, and how GOOD my life is, even at it’s most challenging. If I get really down on myself, I make a donation to a charity I love, like Planned Parenthood, the animal shelter, or the local food bank. Helping others is the best way to help myself.

    The occasional glass of wine doesn’t hurt either! 😉

  • chelsey @ clean eating chelsey January 6, 2011, 9:43 am

    I did the same thing in college – a few years were too wild for me. I’ll just leave it at that.

    Owning a dog is honestly the best. It puts you in such a great mood. I’ve been meaning to look up the information on owning a dog and how it’s correlated to happiness!

  • Cyndi @ Weightless Life January 6, 2011, 9:44 am

    My healthiest coping mechanism is talking things over with someone close to me. I find that if I’m stressed out I feel much better if I get it off my chest. Petting the dog, or just cuddling with her in general, is also a favorite of mine.

  • Sarena (The Non Dairy Queen) January 6, 2011, 9:44 am

    I was just blogging about this today! I am really working on coping with things better this year. I have had some pretty hard stuff happen the past 10 years and I think I have finally had enough of the crap. I want to be positive or at the very least see the positive through the negative. I am just trying to recognize the positive things through the negative and realize that we can control how things make us feel. Thank you for sharing this Caitlin! Have a great day!

  • SaraRM January 6, 2011, 9:44 am

    Great post!! It really makes me think about how I deal with problems/stress when it comes up. I know I definitely over react and act too quickly. If I would just slow down and take it slowly the situation wouldnt be half as bad. Luckily I have a wonderful husband who always listens to my every complaint and has a soothing way to calm me down. I think the biggest thing for me is to just talk about it and not keep it in.

  • Kailey @ Caffienated Nut January 6, 2011, 9:45 am

    i have heard that petting dogs is one of the best stress relievers – wish I had a pup 🙁

    i found that listening to music and just praying really helps me cope with whatever I am going through. Oh and talking to loved ones who really know me – they are the best listeners!

  • Michele @ Healthy Cultivations January 6, 2011, 9:45 am

    Deep breathing is my most important coping skill. It is always there for me whenever I need it. I tend toward getting anxious about things, and whenever I feel it coming on (whether it’s performance anxiety, frustration with traffic, or whatever), I intentionally stop, take several deep breaths, and start to feel better immediately. It’s physiologically impossible to remain worked up when breathing deeply.

  • Ali @ Ali on the Run January 6, 2011, 9:45 am

    I use many of the same coping mechanisms you do. My email folder is called “Stuff to Keep.” Lots of gems in there! Is ordering Pinkberry fro-yo delivery a healthy coping mechanism? Hehe. It works for me!

  • Sarah (Sarah Learns) January 6, 2011, 9:46 am

    getting out of my apartment and going for a walk or to the gym is my healthiest coping mechanism. sometimes, though, i do find myself eating, but i’ve been working really hard on getting that under control.

  • Amalfi Girl (EatRunHaveFun.blogspot) January 6, 2011, 9:46 am

    This is such a timely (and wonderful) post. I love the special emails folder idea! For me, getting a rescue dog was huge, and just allowing myself to feel uncomfortable emotions (like exhaustion or anxiety) rather than eating them away (binge eating was my extremely unhealthy coping mechanism before). Thank you for this thoughtful and inspiring post!

  • Gabriela @ Une Vie Saine January 6, 2011, 9:46 am

    I’ve often thought that college kids in general drink WAY too much. It’s socially acceptable because hey, we’re young! We don’t have responsibilities! The time is now! But in reality, I see so many friends say they’re going to get wasted to blow off exam stress, because their boyfriends broke up with them, or because everything else in life seems crappy. WHY is that okay? It’s setting up the worst life habits. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with celebratory drinks or having a glass of wine to take the edge off when you’re sad, but I wish being blacked out wasn’t such a desirable state in general among kids my age…

    I eat a serving of dark chocolate and watch Titanic. This sounds so weird, but that movie comforts me SO MUCH. It’s been my favorite movie since I was seven and something about it is just so familiar…even though it’s a horribly sad movie I always feel more like myself again after watching it 🙂

    Loved this post!

    • Caitlin January 6, 2011, 9:50 am

      Funny/sad story:

      I was in college and I was talking to another college girl at work. I made a joke about how fun college was but I wished I remembered more of it because I was always blacked out. She stared at me and was like “OMG you’ve BLACKED OUT from drinking before? That is insane.” Which made me really uncomfortable because I was blacking out…. like every weekend. That’s when I realize it wasn’t normal or OK.

  • Michelle @ Chasing Ambulances January 6, 2011, 9:47 am

    I often clean when I’m really stressed. When I’m done and I can see that I improved something, it makes me feel great. I also have a tendency to overeat when I’m down or not feeling like myself. I have to remind myself that I will probably feel better if I just talk to someone. I keep things inside a lot, but I always feel better if I open up a little.

  • Katy @ A Healthy Shot January 6, 2011, 9:47 am

    That’s a great idea. I save special notes or cards in an old cigar box next to my bed. I don’t read them that often, but just knowing they’re there makes me feel better sometimes.

    I don’t have the best habits for coping with stress. I tend to freak out and cry, and then try to forget about the problem (which only makes things worse). Just the other day I had a minor breakdown from looking over assignments and syllabi for my classes this semester. I’m trying to learn to take deep breaths and say a prayer- that’s one that ALWAYS works. It’s like turning your problems over to someone else 🙂

  • Kailey (SnackFace) January 6, 2011, 9:48 am

    Caitlin, I so needed this! I don’t really like to share this, but I think it’s the only way I will overcome it. When I get frustrated, I cry. And then I get pissed that I’m crying, so I cry even more. It’s the most ridiculous cycle.

    The thing that’s been upsetting me the most is when I try to contact someone and she/he doesn’t answer or get back to me in a timely manner. It can seriously ruin my mood. And for no reason. I know these people like and love me, so why I get so upset is beyond me. Instead of going to the negative and then crying out of frustration, I really need to change my thinking to the positive. I now recognize that I am the only one who has the power to do this. I am the one who needs to change her actions.

    I’ll be attempting some of your coping mechanisms for sure. Thanks!

    • Caitlin January 6, 2011, 9:50 am

      I cry a lot too – that’s what the bathroom is for 🙂

    • Caitlin January 6, 2011, 11:07 am

      My claim to fame is that I cry at hospital commercials (Caitlin – UPMC) so go, on cry it out! It’s good for the soul!

  • Janene @ One Run at a Time January 6, 2011, 9:49 am

    I surround myself with reminders of people that I love and who support me unconditionally, as well as positive mantras, sayings, or things that just inspire me. When I feel down, I can just glance around my apartment, or maybe even rearrange a few things and it serves as a reminder that I’m not alone, and that I’m wonderful.

    Also, I love arts and crafty kind of things, so I make a lot of collages to inspire and motivate myself. I made one when I started running again, and I’m working on one for post-grad school life and new beginnings. It’s awesomely fun, especially with a cup of tea and a girly movie, and it spruces up your home! I like to think of it as a focused sort of meditation on living intentionally!

  • VeggieGirl January 6, 2011, 9:52 am

    I turn to Mr. Suave and my family in order to make sure I don’t deal with stress in UNhealthy manners – they help me to stay positive and to get through the rough, stressful moments.

    • Errign January 6, 2011, 11:09 am


  • Samantha @ Health, Happiness & Skinny Jeans January 6, 2011, 9:52 am

    Some of my healthier coping mechanisms are: exercise, dancing to a fun upbeat song, playing with my dog or talking with a friend or my mom. And as you mentioned above sometimes a good cry really helps too!

  • Cyclist Kate January 6, 2011, 9:52 am

    The most stressful semester of my life, I’d come home every Thursday (Thursday was my Friday) at 4, and by 4:15 I was sitting in a hot bath with a glass of wine. Ultimate destressor!

    I still use wine sometimes; for me it’s not only about using a little alcohol (I stick with one glass) to unwind, but also having to sip something calms me down quite a bit. A hot bath at the end of the day has the same effect.

    I really work to keep up my exercise schedule all the time–when I’m really busy, exercise can be the only time I have when I’m not telling myself that I should be doing something else. Going to a really hard Pilates class with friends is the best. I totally torch every muscle in my body and get to chat for an hour, too.

    I also journal when stressed. Sometimes I feel that stress kind of carries me away, so I journal to bring myself back down, remind myself of the ways I’ve gotten through stressful situations before, remind myself that stressful situations always end at some point, set in place a plan for how I’m going to deal with stress, and remind myself of who I am–strong, smart, hard working. I usually end with “You can do this!”

    If all of that doesn’t work, I go to my parents’ house to pet their cats and unload on my mom :).

    • Errign January 6, 2011, 11:11 am

      I love these. 🙂 I like that alcohol can be a de-stressor when you are smart about it. 🙂 A glass of wine with my girlfriends is the best medicine sometimes. 🙂

    • Rosi January 6, 2011, 5:15 pm

      The way you are with wine (and destressing), I am with coffee. There’s something about that first sip, everything just unwinds and I just feel like I’m able to deal with everything better.

  • Marissa C January 6, 2011, 9:52 am

    Yoga has been really good…actually, lately I’m finding your blog to hold a lot of inspiration 🙂

    Two other big one:

    –I’ve started to just tell my husband I’m really upset and ask him to hold me. He’s good at that 🙂

    –Southern Living Magazine!

  • Errign January 6, 2011, 9:52 am

    I just sent you an email about this, this post could not have come at a better time for me.

    I try to cope with exercise, distracting activities, spending time with friends, and talking on the phone with family.

  • sarahMTSBB January 6, 2011, 9:56 am

    I’ll share my dorkiest coping mechanisms and don’t even mind if you all laugh at me:

    1. “Be the hot chocolate” is an old one which I repeated to myself and my coworkers when I was working for a crazy stressful trauma center. It meant don’t panick! Being warm and soothing like hot chocolate while dealing with others under stress always helps. Or even take a break to drink a cup of hot chocolate. I even used my favorite hot chocolate lotion (aromatherapy for everyone?!) before I went to work. It made us smile and 4 years later my friends still remember it. 🙂

    2. I have “Calm Sounds” on my IPod and when my chest starts feeling tight, I take a few minutes alone to listen to the waves crash and breathe deeply.

    Walks in the park with my dog, beach vacations, breaking down big tasks into lists of smaller items, taking a nap (exhaustion makes everything seem worse), and hot tea also help!

  • lacey January 6, 2011, 9:58 am

    i also use long hot showers 🙂

    i think for a lot of people who write blogs, the blogs turn into a healthy coping mechanism. a place to reflect and also get feedback, feel connected, make goals, or just think “out loud”- it’s interesting. i know blogs serve different functions for different people but i think they can be very useful for dealing with life circumstances. they make life feel more organized / visual to look at and think about.

  • Paige (Running Around Normal) January 6, 2011, 9:58 am

    I, too, get tightness in my chest when I’m really stressed out. It’s scary, really how much stress can damage us – especially long term stress. Coping with that stress is key. Great post!

  • Amanda (Eating Up) January 6, 2011, 10:00 am

    My healthiest coping strategy is to take a step back and use perspective. Most of the stressors in our life are not life changers, and I remind myself that I won’t even remember how I felt one year, maybe even one month later.

  • Courtney January 6, 2011, 10:00 am

    I struggled with a similar thing in college, but always used running as coping mechanism, also. Now, I love reading blogs (like yours) as a coping mechanism and to relieve stress 🙂 So, thank YOU 🙂

  • Courtney January 6, 2011, 10:00 am

    I struggled with a similar thing in college, but always used running as coping mechanism, also. Now, I love reading blogs (like yours) as a coping mechanism and to relieve stress 🙂 So, thank YOU 🙂

  • Freya January 6, 2011, 10:01 am

    I cry and shout and run and bully myself when I’m stressed. It’s not healthy in the least! When my stress gets really bad, i find myself starting to count calories, or restrict. Luckily, i now recognise this, and I can combat it – a run does help (as long as I keep it in check!) but the biggest help is talking. my mum and I are are super close, and just talking to her about it makes it 10x better, even if nothing has actually changed. it’s a relief!
    A cuddle with my horse helps too :p

  • lauren January 6, 2011, 10:07 am

    Thanks for posting this – it’s very positive. After I graduated from college I taught “good touch, bad touch” lessons to children in Washington, DC. Working at a rape crisis center and talking/thinking about child abuse all day was exhausting and depressing. My coworkers and I talked a lot about “self-care” which is basically the idea that if you are under stress, you should take care of yourself in appropriate and healthy ways. I am the first to admit that I have not always had the healthiest/best relationship with alcohol and while I have turned to that in the past to cope with things, I find that the following are much better ways to deal with stress/trauma:
    -a long hot bath
    -a nap
    -immersing myself in a book
    -a cup of tea
    -a deliciously difficult hot yoga class
    -taking a long walk with my headphones in

    Thanks for the positive messages you spread, Caitlin!

  • Anna @ Newlywed, Newly Veg January 6, 2011, 10:09 am

    I think a LOT of younger people cope with emotions through alcohol– I know I did. It’s just such an easy way to “deal” with your emotions– as opposed to ACTUALLY dealing with them. The older I get, the more I deal with my emotions as they come– the good, the bad, and the ugly. And I think I’m much stronger– and, actually, happier– for it.

  • Amanda January 6, 2011, 10:12 am

    I have a folder at work called “Good Notes”. I save all the nice emails and compliments that I receive at work so that on bad days I can remember that people appreciate the effort that I put in. It really does make a world of difference. I also cope with stress by gardening and organizing. If I can organize some areas of my life, I remember that I can get everything else together as well.

  • Cassie @ Back to Her Roots January 6, 2011, 10:15 am

    I was the exact same in college. And if I’m being 100% honest, I was a bit too promiscuous as well. Sex was one of my coping mechanisms. I went from a high school in a small town where I was considered weird, chubby and a freak to a big college where I was considered mysterious, artsy and womanly. The male attention was intoxicating (well, that and all the tequila).

    Thankfully I moved past that and now have a whole bunch of healthier coping mechanisms. Blogging. Sometimes I’m a little too honest probably (see this comment), but it really helps. And my readers are amazing. And cooking. I love cooking. And list making. I find that if I’m stressing or having a bad day, organizing it makes me feel better. Having a plan of attack really makes problems seem smaller.

  • Rachel January 6, 2011, 10:15 am

    Yoga and my puppy are my favorite coping mechanisms.

  • jenny in new york January 6, 2011, 10:16 am

    mine coping mechanisms is good (BAD) tv, venting to friends, making fun of the situation and as bad as it is…chocolate! lol

  • steph January 6, 2011, 10:17 am

    – I feel like a completely different person after a solid 8 hours of sleep..I know if I’ve been feeling crummy for a few days, a likely reason is sleep deprivation.
    – long hot showers
    – long hard weight sesh/circuits/yoga
    – calling up the moms
    – reading vignettes from

  • Meri @ Meri Goes Round January 6, 2011, 10:18 am

    This is interesting: One of the parts of my job is actually to teach “safe” coping skills to kids. I often have them make a collage or list of things that help them regulate. Another strategy I work with them on is having a “key word” that a parent/ teacher can prompt them with, they can remember themselves, or they can write on a notebook, bracelet, etc.
    In my perfect world, the skills that I get to work on with kids diagnosed with autism/ mental health disorders would get this training as well as ALL kids! How much healthier adults would we have then…

    Anyway, great topic, and very timely.

  • Corie January 6, 2011, 10:18 am

    Great post. I am having a really stressful day at work and this post really made me step back and think about what I have to do to change how I feel.

  • Stephanie January 6, 2011, 10:25 am

    I should start doing that. I feel the same way about coping skills. I truly used to be terrible at coping with the rough times (turned to alcohol quite frequently) and this past two years I’ve noticed that one of the biggest steps I’ve taken towards a healthier life is learning to deal with stress more effectively (like laying off the booze) Running has helped so much too because on long runs you get to think about everything and really prioritize.

  • sarah k. @ the pajama chef January 6, 2011, 10:29 am

    prayer, reading my Bible, running, and cuddling with my kitty or husband are some of my best coping mechanisms for hard times 🙂

  • Emily @ Write Twenty Eleven January 6, 2011, 10:29 am

    Thank you for being so open and honest about this! Sometimes I just have to make myself breath and listen to music or go on a walk or all of those at the same time! Thanks for the ideas

  • Ann @ Day by Day January 6, 2011, 10:30 am

    Great post! I read your coping strategies to my Mom, because she agrees about petting the dog being the ultimate stress relief. My main coping strategies are taking long walks (usually with my roommate). My biggest coping strategy when I’m overwhelmed with schoolwork is a long, hot bath with a good candle burning nearby.

  • Joanna@ Drizzle of Sunshine January 6, 2011, 10:32 am

    This is such an uplifting post! Great way to start my day. I guess in a way, you and other healthy bloggers help me cope with my stress. Right now, it helps me focus on making my body healthier and stonger instead of focusing on a bad hair day or an “I feel ugly” day. When you have those raw posts about your struggles, it helps me to understand that it isn’t just me in a particular situation. Healthy reading I guess is my healthy coping mechanism!

  • Kimberly @ Healthy Strides January 6, 2011, 10:35 am

    Such a great list! Some of my coping mechanisms are the same – exercise, petting my dog and talking to a friend. I also like to take naps. My mom, on the other hand, was a fan of making bread. Something about the kneading helped relieve stress.

  • Allie January 6, 2011, 10:37 am

    GOOD COPING LIST! Thank you for sharing 🙂 It is beneficial to have this list, especially in the cold winter when people feel down more often. I also have a ‘special email folder’ and I like to visit .. makes me feel not so bad hahha

  • Leanne (For Health's Sake) January 6, 2011, 10:38 am

    Thank you for this inspirational post 🙂 This is one of the things most I love about the blog community — I learn so many new things, & new ways of handling situations!

    For me, as strange as it sounds — cleaning my house/doing laundry helps me clear my head and cope with whatever problem/stressful situation I’m dealing with. Depending how I’m feeling (sad or upset) it can be tougher to motivate myself to clean but I truly feel better about myself when my house is neat and tidy. I think when you clean, you kind of get so distracted & focused on the present (example: washing dishes) that by the time you’re done, you have new found clarity… + a clean house (Yipee!).

    I’ve realized throughout the last couple years that when I’m going through a tough time or am stressed, there’s a 100% chance (coincidence) that my house happens to be a mess and by cleaning my house I end up clearing up my thoughts.

    “Messy Bed = Messy Head”

  • Kelly January 6, 2011, 10:39 am

    I love this post. As a college student myself, I sometimes feel like I don’t know how to cope with the stress of school work. Exercise and running used to help me cope with stress, but I feel like it doesn’t help my stress levels in the same way that it used to. I’m not sure how I”m going to deal with my stress at this point, because I also once feel into drinking too much and too often and DO NOT want to go back to that!

  • Sarah January 6, 2011, 10:43 am

    I’m a freshman in college, and this was just what I needed to hear. Although I love to have a good time, I’ve just never been big into drinking or stereotypical partying. Thankfully I’ve found friends with similar feelings, but I still continue to feel guilt and shame, since everyone – well, particularly the media – make it seems like you can’t have “the college experience” without doing that kind of stuff. I really have a passion for healthy living, but I feel so embarrassed sometimes because I know I am so young!
    You are one of the only adults (besides my parents!) who have made me feel that my choices are okay, just by pointing out that alcohol isn’t needed for a good college experience.
    Regardless, though, every moment in your life has had its place, and gotten you to where you are now… your experiences with alcohol have helped you become a wiser person, and helped you become someone who has inspired others, like me.
    Thanks again!

    • Caitlin January 6, 2011, 11:08 am

      As the Jersey Shore kids say, You do you!


    • Lindsey January 6, 2011, 11:59 am

      I feel you! I am a sophomore in college and don’t drink (for TONS of reasons- it is definitely the right choice for me), and people are always so shocked that I still have fun! My friends and I find lots and lots of stuff to do that doesn’t involve alcohol, and I’ve been to many a party, too. I understand those weird looks and also people assuming that you have a “holier than thou” attitude, though I try to make sure people understand that this is MY choice, and that their choice is theirs, and I respect their right to choose!

      Caitlin, I agree- it was really awesome to read that this choice is something I’ll be happy about later!

    • Jen January 6, 2011, 12:20 pm

      I absolutely agree with you! I graduated college in 2009, and I was never a big drinker or partier either. Freshman year, it was rough because so many people went wild, and I spent a lot of time alone because I just didn’t feel comfortable in that atmosphere. That gave me a chance to go to a lot of free lectures, art exhibits, and learn to be comfortable with myself on my own, though, and I’m grateful for that. I found a good group of friends as time went on. I had a great time in college; I think it’s most important to surround yourself with good people, people you can count on, who understand you and accept you the way you are.

  • Kelly January 6, 2011, 10:46 am

    I think a lot of people use alcohol as a coping mechanism in college, I know I did. Running really helps to de-stress me, as does a great girls night with my roommates.

  • Beth @ DiningAndDishing January 6, 2011, 10:49 am

    This is a really great post Caitlin :). I have made a resolution this year to start drinking less so that part of your post really spoke to me. Recently a few things have happened that were caused by others around me drinking too much. While I realize what others do is not my fault, I do think that me participating in the “fun” is fueling a very unnecessary fire. Sick of living life that way!

  • Stacy January 6, 2011, 10:50 am

    This post really hit home for me as this has been on my mind a lot. I find that when I’m really stressed at work, it’s even harder to do the GOOD things that help me cope with stress, oddly enough. It’s such a double-edged sword!

  • Katy (The Singing Runner) January 6, 2011, 10:50 am

    I’m still in college, but during my spring semester last year all the way though September of this past fall I became a HEAVY drinker. I would drink to excess where I would either get sick that night, or blackout completely. At one party in September I drank over 10 shots in an hour. I blacked out and do not remember ANYTHING after a certain point. That really scared me so I stopped drinking for awhile. I ocassionally have a drink now, but I know my limit and I know WHY I drank so much. I wanted to be accepted by my peers and wanted to feel good about myself.

    I now know that I can feel good about myself in other ways. Having a GREAT workout or cooking something new in the kitchen. Or having new people read my blog and leave super nice comments.

    I don’t regret drinking to the point that I did because I finally realized why I did it and how to find healthier ways to make me happy. I cope with stress and wanting to be accepted in different ways.

  • Ella January 6, 2011, 10:52 am

    Ballet is my coping mechanism. Once the shoes are on and the music starts wham I’m taken out of any pain I experienced during the day.

    I’m trying to stop drinking so much. I lead a pretty healthy lifestyle minus the drinking, but I’m a junior in college, getting totally wasted is a part of our every day life. I’ve cut back, freshman and sophomore year I would drink three nights a week and now I usually only drink one. When I’m stressed out I usually crave a drink..or five. I try not to drink when I’m in a bad mood because thats never a good idea.

  • Lauren January 6, 2011, 10:55 am

    I used to drink a LOT when I was a freshman and part of sophomore year, but I always hated the way it made me feel at the end of the night and the entire next day. I’m still in college and drink with my friends but definitely not excessive amounts. I hated how useless it made me the next day – unable to get out of bed, exercise, do fun stuff with friends, volunteer.
    My number one coping method is running & yoga. Both of these clear my mind completely and allow me to think through my thoughts in a thorough, unrushed, healthy way.

  • Emily January 6, 2011, 10:59 am

    I love your blog 🙂

    I’m a teacher and so every once in a while when I get a nice card or email from a student or parent, I save it. I go back and read them when I’m really stressed with situations and remember that I DO do things right sometimes 🙂

    I used to cope with stress with eating…I’d reach for cookies or something delicious because I wanted to enjoy something. I finally got in the habit of exercising…it’s a lot hard to do when you feel down, but I feel better about the situation and about myself.

    • Caitlin January 6, 2011, 11:09 am

      Thanks Emily 😉

  • Caitlin January 6, 2011, 11:04 am

    I think I could write a whole book on how drinking negatively impacted my life for the span of seven years. I used it as a crutch more than anything and while I had some fun times, I had a lot of times that were NOT fun, but rather embarrassing. I’ve been sober almost six months now and life is much better in so, so many ways.

    I have a folder in both of my email accounts like the one you have and I turn to them often. It’s easy to forget what someone said to make you feel so good and re-reading just brings that good feeling right back.

  • Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) January 6, 2011, 11:08 am

    “G-Mail folder called “Special Emails.””–
    Omg I am so doing this! I am going to now start amassing my particularly nice comments so when I get a doosie and wonder wtf?! I can just hit the delete key and retreat off to my special folder..oh thank you for this!

    Thank you for sharing about your drinking in your past…I didnt know that. I think we all (well many of us, including me) do go thru times in our life when we hit the booze a little much. But, you, me, we grow up and discover other things and while it was fun for me at 22 or 26 but the time I became a mother, I just outgrew it.

    How to cope with stuff now? Exercise, a cup of coffee, mindless blog reading, friends, talks w/ hubs!


  • Allison @ Happy Tales January 6, 2011, 11:10 am

    Caitlin, this post is beautiful. I am so glad you wrote this, and I am glad to see that you are so open. I am sure you are helping more people than you can even imagine through this post. Anyway, my coping mechanisms are running, dancing, writing, reading (it can really take your mind to a whole new place if you need to be distracted…) and playing with my puppy. Also, like you, I have kept special notes/emails that people have said about me/to me. It really does help to look back on them!

  • Ashley January 6, 2011, 11:10 am

    I’ve heard of other people who keep this “special email” folder with nice e-mails. I think it’s a great idea!

  • Lisa January 6, 2011, 11:12 am

    What an awesome and inspiring post! Thanks so much for sharing this – I think building healthy coping skills is something we all need to be mindful of. I know that I personally have struggled with negative coping skills, alcohol, retreating socially, etc. and it is such a good idea to sit down and identify what negative coping mechanisms you engage in as well as list the positive ones (and think of more positive skills to replace the negative ones!) I know, like many other commenters, that running and yoga work particularly well for me but I’m looking to add other non-exercise activities to my life that impact me in a positive way. Thanks again for bringing up this topic – so inspiring!

  • E (from One Twenty Five) January 6, 2011, 11:13 am

    Hi Caitlin, I’ve never commented before, but tune into your blog every morning. Thank you so much for this post. Never have I needed to read something like this, at this time in my life. 🙂

    I love your idea of a “special emails” folder, as despite getting hundreds of amazing emails, for some reason I’ve only been reading the crappy emails, and it seems to have taken it’s toll on me. So thank you for this simple reminder. xo E

    Ps. I absolutely agree with petting dogs (and for me, riding horses)

    • Caitlin January 6, 2011, 11:14 am

      I cannot believe you read my blog! I love your blog!

  • Beth @ Will Run for Books January 6, 2011, 11:15 am

    Those are some great ideas. I definitely think my coping skills could use improving. While I have some healthy ones like working out, etc, I have some unhealthy ones, like eating too many cookies!

  • Emmanuelle January 6, 2011, 11:19 am

    Great idea! For me it would be yoga (of course), spending an hour on a mat for what is really moving meditation is the best. Running is great too.
    And sometimes watching mindless entertainment on TV can help too 😀

  • Kelly January 6, 2011, 11:34 am

    This post sort of makes me sad. I don’t have any coping mechanisms that are positive. Is “fake it till you make it” a coping mechanism? I tend to keep whatever is hurting me inside, and I try to pretend it’s all okay. This usually backfires at some point in the future (maybe even months and months) and I end up losing my shit over something really small and unrelated or on someone who has nothing to do with what is causing me sadness, pain, depression, anger, etc. And, then it just all floods forth and I’m a crying, slobbery mess. I have always held so much in. I am not a great communicator, and I have tried in my marriage, but that has only shown me that even when I DO bring things up and talk things over, nothing changes. It’s just a cycle at this stage. So, bury it all away and keep trucking on. I don’t handle stress well, internally, either, so I guess working on some coping skills should be at the top of my “to do” list, eh?! 🙂

    • Caitlin January 6, 2011, 11:35 am

      Aww I wanna give you an e-hug! As you can tell if you read the other comments, many many other people have been in your boat but its totally possible to change your reactions! Have you considered therapy? Having someone else to talk to about stuff is really invaluable.

      • Kelly January 6, 2011, 4:37 pm

        E-hug accepted! Reading blogs like this one may also count as a coping mechanism. Sometimes, you just need to get online and read that other people are the same, and that you’re not alone, no matter what happens. It’s just nice to know there is someone out there that cares.

  • Sara January 6, 2011, 11:42 am

    I can’t have any pets in my apartment, but I engage in what I called “kitty therapy” by going to see the adoptable kitties at PetSmart. The risk of getting evicted prevents me from taking them all home with me (oh, I want to!), but it’s impossible to feel bad when you’re looking at sweet homeless cats. If you’re one of those people who can’t do this without impulsively adopting seven cats, just look at one of the many blogs featuring adorable animals. My favorite is Maru, the cat from Japan who jumps into boxes.

    • Jen January 6, 2011, 4:58 pm

      That is such a good idea! I would probably do puppy therapy, though 🙂

      • Sara January 6, 2011, 5:00 pm

        I’ve done puppy therapy too! Those adoption festivals where they let you hold them? Amazing. One dog wrapped his arms around my arm and wouldn’t let go, and the foster owner said that he “chose me.” It was achingly cute!

  • Tulip January 6, 2011, 11:50 am

    This is a really useful reminder because I often use unhealthy coping strategies without giving a thought to what would be a better strategy. When upset I generally turn to food or shopping; which, as well as putting a significant drain on my body and savings also lead to guilt afterwards. Its definitely worthwhile to recognise what triggers these unhealthy responses in an attempt to change them.

  • Gabby (Quest for Delicious) January 6, 2011, 11:51 am

    For me, definitely writing in a journal. (:

  • Coco January 6, 2011, 11:51 am

    Thank you for this post. I am in recovery for anorexia, and I have a similar folder on my computer labelled “Recovery”. It is filled with anything from articles reminding me of the negative effects of eating disorders, to funny youtube videos of chipmunks. Basically, it’s a folder that I can turn to when I’m having a rough day with my eating disorder recovery and I need a little boost.

    I definitely used alcohol as a way to cope in college. Alcohol, and also unprotected sex. It’s kind of embarrassing to admit, but even this past semester (my last semester), I would willingly have sex with near-strangers–without a condom. And although part of me was scared that I would get pregnant or get an STD, another part of me was like “Oh, f**k it. Who cares?” It makes me sad that I managed to get the eating under control and instead resorted to other destructive behaviors.

    But, I’m happy to say that since graduating college and leaving that environment (I’m living at home now), my habits have gotten MUCH healthier (well, except for New Year’s Eve, but hey, I’m only human).

  • Whitney January 6, 2011, 11:51 am

    I feel as though I could have written this post. My biggest regrets to this day are from college. I was the goody two shoes in high school, straight A’s, played three sports, national honor society…blah blah. I went to a big ten college (MSU) and was thrown into it all at once. Freedom, Food and drinks everywhere, sex, smoking pot. I had free reign and it was scary. I did okay in school, but never really applied myself. I picked a major out of need to pick one, and never really allowed myself to learn fully and be excited about my future.

    Looking back now I can’t believe I wasted so much time, MONEY, and relationships. I just couldn’t see past that weekend, or the next party. The future seemed irrelevant to me.

    Now that it is the future one of my hardest things is coping with it. Not feeling guilty for all the things I “Should’ve” done, or thinking of where I “Could” be right now had I chosen the correct major/path, or let myself be healthy & make healthy lasting relationships.

    I am still working on the coping mechanisms you talk about. For the longest time it was bulimia. For now, I try to see everyday as a new opportunity to make this life what I want it to be.

    Sorry for the rant. I appreciate the space to get my feelings out! Thanks Caitlin!

  • Rae January 6, 2011, 11:53 am

    EXCELLENT post! I think thisis really valuable for women (not to be sexist), because we are usually expected to “have it together” and feel pressure to be perfect in terms of eating, working out, being supportive, etc. and that its MORE than ok to put ourselves first once in awhile!!

    As for coping skills, Im a work in progress, too. I like yoga for relaxation, but I am just as guilty of eating too much chocolate.

  • Alison @ Around the VeggieTable January 6, 2011, 11:53 am

    I have an “Inspiration” folder in my gmail where I keep emails that make me smile. Yoga is a great coping skill for me although I haven’t been doing much of it lately. I read an article that said that when you are stressed the best person to call is your mom because there is some biological reason that her voice is soothing to you (unless of course she is the one stressing you out!) So lots of times when I am freaking out I call my mama. And to be honest, I do enjoy a glass of wine at the end of a really stressful day. I think it’s not the wine that helps, but the act of taking a few moments for quiet introspection that really does the trick!

    • Jaclyn January 6, 2011, 12:00 pm

      Love this!! I call my momma too – and enjoy that glass of wine! Don’t you think maybe sometimes it can just be the act of taking the time and doing something soothing like taking out the glass, picking the bottle and…..knowing you can look forward to that glass of wine at the end of the day?!

  • Jaclyn January 6, 2011, 11:55 am

    Great post, as always, Caitlin! It’s incredible the ability you have to get my brain rolling before 9 am!! 😀

    I too have a “special emails” of sorts – I keep old notes and birthday/holiday cards from family and friends and re-read them from time to time… I LOVE your idea of “special emails,” though. I’m going to start one! Thanks for the idea and bringing the topic up – I am going to follow along the comments today, I’m interested what people have to say about this!

    Oh yeah, I also think Inspiration Boards are great for this! And… art projects in general, getting your mind off stress. Sometimes, even cleaning helps me!

  • Lana January 6, 2011, 11:56 am

    My coping list looks a lot like yours. But, instead of a special email folder, I a box that I keep special cards or notes that my family and friends have written me.

  • MaryBe January 6, 2011, 11:56 am

    I love all the coping mechanisms! I have two – the first is to find something humorous about the situation and laugh about it. There is always something funny, you just have to look for it.
    The second is to sort through my happy memories. I’ve found that I don’t necessarily need something tangible to de-stress, I just need to think of the good times

  • Jen January 6, 2011, 11:58 am

    I run, paint/sketch, or go for a walk and take photos when I’m really stressed. Taking photos, painting, and drawing help me focus on finding something beautiful and wonderful. I’m very prone to “worst case scenario” thinking, which often makes stressful situations even more difficult to confront, but stepping away and doing something artistic reminds me that there is a world outside of my particular situation.

  • Marie-Journey to Body Zen January 6, 2011, 12:07 pm

    It’s great that you have recognized coping skills that work for you! They really are key in maintaining a healthy balance with our emotions.

  • Meredith January 6, 2011, 12:08 pm

    I also keep a folder in my work email called “Nice Comments” filled with emails I’ve received from clients or coworkers complimenting my work. After I deal with a rude client or am feeling down I will read all the emails and they lift my spirits.

    • Meri @ Meri Goes Round January 6, 2011, 1:17 pm

      Do you have a blog? I feel like I wrote this comment! Weird!

      • Meredith January 7, 2011, 9:27 am

        No I don’t have a blog, but that is funny!

  • Madeleine @ Stepping to the Bright Side January 6, 2011, 12:11 pm

    I can tell I’m stressed when my shoulders become practically glued to my ears… ackkk the tension. yoga is a great destressor/coping mechanism for me. now, if only i could get myself to practice more OFTEN 😉

  • Lily's Health Pad January 6, 2011, 12:12 pm

    It’s taken me a long time to realize that I am the person who controls my anxiety and stress level–and I’m a psychologist! Coping skills are definitely soemthing I’ve been working on lately. Mainly, I’ve been employing thought-stopping.

  • Mary Allison January 6, 2011, 12:15 pm

    Development of healthy coping skills is crucial–but I think it is also important to look what triggered the need for a coping skill. As a recovering alcoholic my coping skill was alcohol and other drugs. Today I have had to examine what triggered the need to drink–and for me it usually comes down to fears-the fear of not be loved, of being unlovable, of not fitting in, rejection, of being fat, ugly..etc.

    I have since had to develop postiive coping skills such as meditation, running, prayer–but more importantly I have had to look at those triggers and address the root cause of my problems.

  • Shari January 6, 2011, 12:16 pm

    Mine are simple – and, I’ve found, so helpful. I either take a walk, read a book (nothing like escaping into another world for awhile!), or write. I’m one of those people who writes to think, and I’ve found that it makes a huge difference 🙂

  • Gwen January 6, 2011, 12:24 pm

    This is a really wonderful, helpful post. And I’m not just saying that to gain entry to the special email folder 😉 It’s important to reflect on how we handle situations. What keeps us level, and sane without pushing another part of our life out of balance or causing it to suffer. I think control is a coping method for me. Sounds funny, but control to track what I eat (as an overeatter, this is clutch), control to make decisions based on what my body is telling me and what my mind knows I’m capabale of. Thanks for giving me something valuable to ponder. Happy Thursday!

  • Maddie (Healthy Maddie) January 6, 2011, 12:27 pm

    I’ve found working out, especially yoga and riding my horse, really help me cope and let me remember that whatever is bothering me isn’t that bad and can be fixed or changed.

  • Beth January 6, 2011, 12:28 pm

    Healthy coping skills….It’s sad to think I struggle with that everyday. I’m in currently in my second year at university, but about 9 months ago during my finals I started coping with stress with binging and purging. Unfortunately I still do when my emotions are all over the place 🙁 After 7 months of being so stubborn and pretty much lying to myself, I told my best friend. She helped me big time and I managed to be clean for 2 weeks (which is huge!) But I’ve been having difficulties with my parents as I’ve felt every distant from them (I’m adopted) and one day, all the stress exploded. I ended up overdosing on painkillers (which is something I’ve never done or ever though I would EVER! It’s so scary to think how much an ED can change you) and was hospitalized for a few days. While there, at my weakest moment, I decided to tell my mom. It was awful and I cry thinking about the disappointed look she gave me. I haven’t spoken to them in 2 weeks because I’m so mad that they didn’t offer to help me or ask me if there’s anything they can do. I feel like it’s the big elephant in the room!

    But yes, back before this all happened, I rode horses for 8 years. This was the BEST coping mechanism as I started shortly after I was adopted. I came from an unstable background & was born with an obvious genetic disorder, but horses where always nonjudgmental. When I had no friends and would dry myself to sleep, even the scent of a horse would immediately calm me. It’s amazing to look back on.

    I know I will eventually be back in the saddle again, but now I have to find a way to cope the way horses did & ditch this ED forever. Thank you so much Catlin for posting this! It gives me hope that one day I won’t be living a lie and be content with who I am.

    • Caitlin January 6, 2011, 12:35 pm

      How scary for you. And it’s sad about your parents and I think they are in the wrong, of course, but remember that everyone has their own limitations and shortcoming and perhaps they are just not equipped yet to deal with this. Very sad though because you need the support.

      Because you’re in college, I want you to know that you have access to FREEEEE counseling through Student Services. Reach out and get help!!! You deserve it.

    • Whitney January 6, 2011, 1:54 pm

      Beth feel free to email me. We could be penpals of sorts. I had an ED from when I was 14 until not that long ago (im 25). So basically all through high school and college. I would love to help if I can.

      • Beth January 6, 2011, 6:53 pm

        Thanks Catlin 🙂 Classes start next week and I’ll look into that. It hurts to think it’s come to this point, but I have no other options anymore. I’ll be sure to email you!

        Whitney- I would love to get in touch with you! Could you email me at cosmic_cruiser (at) hotmail. com

  • Michelle January 6, 2011, 12:52 pm

    This is a great post, I’ve noticed that a lot of people have had a rough week this week! I had a couple of bad days that even exercise couldn’t pull me out of! (Running/strength training usually work). What finally worked was making a to-do list of things I needed to do around my house and busting through it. I think the combination of crossing things off of a list and literally getting my house in order worked wonders!

  • Lisa January 6, 2011, 12:59 pm

    I save nice emails too. Especially from readers who say I inspired them to lose weight. That makes me happy!

  • Ashley January 6, 2011, 1:00 pm

    I think that is such a great idea! When I need to cope I usually sleep. I don’t think it helps make the problem go away but when I wake up I’m calmer and I can attack it better. I also LOVE to run.

  • Kristen January 6, 2011, 1:13 pm

    What perfect timing for this post! I am having a lousy day today, worried about things beyond my control about a loved one, and it has just put me in a bad mood. But, one of the things that always makes me feel so much better is getting hugs from my students (I’m a PE teacher)! I’ve graciously excepted every hug offered today, and it has totally made a difference in my day.

  • Amanda January 6, 2011, 1:20 pm

    This post REALLY hit home for me. I, like most people, stress myself out over too many little things that don’t need to be stressed over! Yesterday for example, I spent my entire day off job and apartment searching for my cross Canada move… and was so stressed out at the end of it I decided to NOT go to the gym (as I had previously planned) and not go out after to hang out with my friends (also previously planned!). Instead I sat on the couch and continued to get stressed out! So non-productive! Then, I realized what I was doing to myself and so did my Dad so we talked about it…and then I talked to one my my best friends and I instantly became de-stressed!

    I definitely use exercise and driving alone as my ways to cope with stress – but one for sure method I use for my really stressful moments is talking it out with the people who are closest to me in my life. They always tell me what I already know myself… but sometimes just really need to hear it outloud!

    • Caitlin January 6, 2011, 1:23 pm

      Good luck with your move 🙂 Think of it as an adventure!

  • Jessica M January 6, 2011, 1:24 pm

    Ahh! I love, love, LOVE this post! Thank you so much for being so honest and open.

    I used to have unhealthy coping habits. In college, I dated a guy who was verbally abusive and gradually made me feel more and more worthless. I used alcohol to cope. I also turned to a friend. But she wasn’t very supportive and really just wanted a drinking buddy. I eventually separated myself from these people, but it took time. If I would have stumbled upon healthy living blogs when I was really feeling down about myself, I think it could have made a big difference. I try to be grateful for the experience, as I learned a lot from it.

    Coping mechanisms that I like to use include watching my favorite movies, baking!!!, reading blogs, organizing my closet, curling up with my cat, reading an inspiring book, meditating, and taking a walk outside.

  • Stefanie-Anne January 6, 2011, 1:32 pm

    I like to remember that all emotions are temporary. This helps out more than anything. Because in the moment, a bad feeling can feel invincible, like it’s eating you alive. But I usually snap out of it after something silly happens and my mood can be lifted in seconds 🙂

    Also cleaning, watching reality tv, and reading blogs help too.

  • Jessica @ Jessica Balances January 6, 2011, 1:34 pm

    This is a deep post that I think many of us can relate to – as always, thank you. 🙂 I definitely have used alcohol to cope with my problems, and I honestly regret most of the things I did during those times. I also associate drinking heavily with trying to run away from something, or to escape… so I pretty much only allow myself to have a drink or two when I am feeling pretty neutral — not when I’m overly emotional. Now, I cope with stress or negativity by doing yoga (I’ve cried on my mat a few times) and just try to talk it out with people I love.

  • Stefanie-Anne January 6, 2011, 1:35 pm

    I’d be curious to read a post on self-inflicted stress. I think that’s my biggest problem. Like procrastinating –> making work stressful. Or staying up WAY too late –> being tired & stressed the next day. How do you avoid causing the stress? There must be some reason I do it 😉

    • Caitlin January 6, 2011, 1:36 pm

      I am currently causing self inflicted stress by not being productive. help!

      • M. January 6, 2011, 8:20 pm

        I agree. I would love to see a post/discussion on how to stay productive in terms of long-term goals and just day-to-day life & work. I’m sure you must have tips from your working at home experiences.

        Great topic. I like to use mantras 🙂

  • Clare @ Fitting It All In January 6, 2011, 1:44 pm

    I still battled with coping with stress through eating. I try to take deep breaths and occupy myself in other ways – long walks, reading a book, calling a friend – but it still a struggle! I love your idea of a “special” folder!!

  • Amber K January 6, 2011, 1:51 pm

    This is totally something I need to develop. I don’t have the best coping skills!

  • Halley (Blunder Construction) January 6, 2011, 1:54 pm

    I loooove this post. I need to think more about how I cope with stresses. As of right now, I’d say 80% of my coping mechanisms are negative or detrimental to my health. Must improve!!

  • Kacy January 6, 2011, 1:55 pm

    I really needed this post today Caitlin. I was the same way in college, and having an alcoholic parent I’m very susceptible to using alcohol as a coping mechanism. Over the years I’ve found healthier ways to cope (blogging is a HUGE one for me, as well as exercise and time with friends) but I have to constantly remind myself to stay on that path and not slip into old habits.


  • Jessica January 6, 2011, 2:06 pm

    Great post. I admit my coping mechanisms are still on the negative side of things but this will probably help. Love the blog 😀

  • Michelle @ Living Learning Earning January 6, 2011, 2:10 pm

    This is a great post, thank you Caitlin! I’ve been having a rough time at work (for the past year and a half) and notice myself using eating as a coping mechanism…so much so, in fact, that unhealthy or excessive eating has become more of a habit than anything.
    I’m going to put together my own email folder like this so I can reference it on the days when all I want to do is send in my two weeks’ notice. Again, thanks for all of the inspiring posts!

  • gabriella @ embracement January 6, 2011, 2:18 pm

    I love these posts of yours. That email folder is such a good idea, its cool to think that one of our emails in sitting in there waiting to cheer you up! I usually go through photo albums and old notes from friends, especially the ones I got when I let a few people know of the eating problems I was suffering with. Even though I’m over those issues now for the most part, the support they gave me at the time is still applicable today! A good book, hot shower, and sweaty workout always helps too.

  • Maura January 6, 2011, 2:19 pm

    I too am a big crier. It’s the ultimate release, right above running.

    There’s a book I read years ago called “Smashed: The Story of a Drunken Girlhood” and holy s*!t, it’s like I wrote the damn thing myself – at least the college portion of the memoir. It’s a poignant story of a girl who is able to show how there is a difference between “being an alcoholic” and “abusing alcohol.” Patron has been my therapy in the past, and I still struggle at times. But the important thing is never giving up the fight to recognize flaws like these and change them.

  • Ryan M. January 6, 2011, 2:22 pm

    Mine is exercise. But lately I have felt so down that exercise has taken a back seat and the bottle of Cabernet has taken it’s place. The exciting thing is, I recognize the unhappiness in my life is caused by work and I gave my notice on January 3rd and hope to find the best version of myself!

  • Shannon January 6, 2011, 2:22 pm

    My coping evolves…right now I’d say playing with my daughter or rocking in her rocking chair while she sleeps in her bed and talking to my husband are the big ones, but cooking, knitting, reading and writing all figure in there. A constant for the last 10+ years are my “books.” I spent some time working in London at a facility where there was a staff changeover every month of 1-3 people. It was an international environment and we lived together in another wing of the building. Everyone had a “book” and when someone left everyone else wrote in their book and they had the (sometimes daunting) task of writing in 14-16 other “books.” The things we wrote varied from remember when we did ______ to I love it when you do _________ to I wish you weren’t leaving etc etc. Years later these two books do wonders to help me get out of a funk…and I’m still in touch with many of these ladies and considered them some of my great friends.

  • Carolyn @ one lazy bride January 6, 2011, 3:14 pm

    Usually watching bad television (as long as I don’t end up doing it for hours!) and hugs!! I heard that by putting pressure on your nervous system, hugs literally calm your nerves.

    So mine maybe aren’t as healthy as exercise or as productive as throwing myself into work, but they work and are much better than my past habits.

  • Tricia January 6, 2011, 3:56 pm

    Can I just say that I LOVE LOVE LOVE your blog?!?! I do not post often but I read daily and share thoughts/ideas with the hubs that I heard from “Caitlin @HTP, you know, the Operation Beautiful girl?” What I love most about your blog is that you keep it real… it (like all of us) is full of perfect imperfections, a constantly evolving, learning force that has become a habit for me and also a way to relax and destress from the day.
    Another way I cope when life gets busy is to break out into random song and dance. Seriously. Just ask my kids about some of my ‘performances’. I always say that I wish that life was a musical, there’s no reason it can’t be- right?

    PS:My kids LOVE your lazy cinn roll french toast

    • caitlin January 6, 2011, 4:04 pm

      This comment is going in my special emails folder!

  • Mary @ Bites and Bliss January 6, 2011, 4:49 pm

    That special email list is a really good idea. I’ve done the same before but never thought of putting them into seperate folders. 🙂 Thanks for the idea!

    Also, I was surprised to hear about your previous drinking problem. I honeslty would have never guessed by looking at who you are now. 🙂 When I’m stressed, I go see my horse, play with my cat, or call my boyfriend. I’ve gone to the stables at 1 AM before so stressed out or sad that I was in tears and just sat in the stall with my horse. It’s amazing how much just talking to someone or something can help.

  • maribeth January 6, 2011, 5:02 pm

    thank you for this! i’m trying not to eat sugar this week, and i’m having a rough day. i really, really want to just eat a bar of chocolate (and maybe enjoy a glass of wine tonight), but you and my bf talked me out of it! only a few days to go- i can do it.

    • maribeth January 6, 2011, 5:11 pm

      oh and probably not the best week to give up sugar when you have pms…

  • When Smokers Jog January 6, 2011, 5:35 pm

    I love Zico! When I cooked professionally, one of the restaurants I worked in kept cases of it around in case the cooks got light-headed because of the heat or dehydration. It really is excellent stuff.

  • Kim @ Kim Lives Healthy January 6, 2011, 5:40 pm

    I have an email folder like that too called Kudos for when I get nice cheerful emails from people, I read it all the time! Glad to hear your thoughts on this, I have a friend who still uses alcohol/sex/pills to cope and it’s hard to know when I should keep my distance and respect her privacy, or step in and tell her to clean up her act. I remember you wrote about your friend (I think she’s in Thailand now?) intervening with you a while back – did you get defensive?

    • Caitlin January 6, 2011, 5:41 pm

      I didn’t get defense because 1) I don’t mind being spoken blunty to 2) I already knew what she was saying was true. If the both are same for your friend, go for it!!! You owe it to her as a friend.

  • Rosi January 6, 2011, 5:57 pm

    I am big on music to de-stress. I will turn up the radio and roll down my windows and drive. Probably faster than I should, but I live in the middle of nowhere and the feeling of the wind in my hair and the music makes me feel so much better.
    Or, if I’m at home, I crank the radio and dance.
    I also tend to clean when I’m feeling out of control. My space is the one thing I can control and sometimes I get downright OCD about it.
    Also, as pretty much mentioned, my pups keep me sane. They have a way of making everything feel better when I snuggle them.

  • Erin @ Big Girl Feats January 6, 2011, 7:08 pm

    I just wrote a post on this same-ish topic! I’ve felt like I have amassed a MUCH better set of coping skills since getting out of college 5-6 years ago. My three biggest coping skills are yoga, meditation and writing – plus knowing myself well enough now to know when I really need to put those skills into place. I’ve found that meditation in particular is so helpful because it’s taught me you can be anywhere to do it – you just check in with yourself and see what is going on, which really helped me to get to the root of what’s bothering me. And blogging is SUCH a coping skill for me now. I had to put these things in place with a lot of medical stuff going on lately, and it’s friggin HARD, but I am so proud of myself because I can’t even imagine how I would have dealt with everything 5, 3, or even 1 year ago.

    Even writing this on your comment section is making me happy! Love this post. Taking care of yourself is so important.

    • Lindsay January 7, 2011, 6:39 pm

      You hit upon a key point- knowing when to use the healthy coping skill. Sometimes thats difficult to do.

  • Chelsea @ Strawberry Sweat January 6, 2011, 7:16 pm

    I used to have the same relationship with alcohol in college. It was really my ONLY coping mechanism. Luckily, I never fell deep enough to the “addiction” stage, as I can go months without taking a drink (I stopped drinking entirely during my half-marathon training). Now, I just have a beer or a glass of wine here and there! Instead, working out and talking to friends are my new coping mechanisms.

  • Laura January 6, 2011, 7:28 pm

    LOVE this post…I need to use this with my students!!

  • Jolene ( January 6, 2011, 8:55 pm

    My coping mechanisms include:
    – Going for a massage
    – Deciding not to do any work/ studying etc. and curl up on the couch with the hubby for a movie
    – Host a dinner party
    – Cook

  • Joi January 6, 2011, 9:23 pm

    Hello from a fellow Charlottean. Love what your doing!

  • sarah January 6, 2011, 10:41 pm

    You couldn’t have written list post at a better time. Seriously, I’ve been so incredibly stressed out lately and I havent been dealing with it well AT ALL. I am upset all the time and not coping positively at all!! I need to figure out my best option and reading this made me realize instead if drowning in self pity I need to find a healthy way to deal! Thanks 🙂

  • Sarah January 7, 2011, 9:35 am

    I like to take a nice long, hot shower. It comforts me, gives me time to think, and keeps me from burying my feelings in the kitchen.

  • Lindsay January 7, 2011, 6:33 pm

    I really like this post. Your blog keeps getting better and better!

    My unhealthy coping mechanism is binge eating.

    But my healthy ones are exercise, cooking and sleep!

  • Jane January 7, 2011, 10:01 pm

    Oh, Caitlin, I totally understand what you mean about college. I did the same thing – drinking as a primary coping mechanism, followed closely by shopping for cute clothes with money I didn’t really have! Luckily I’ve basically stopped (though I still struggle occasionally with the shopping, usually when I drink more than I’d like now it’s because I was having fun and stopped paying attention, not because I was coping with something). I sometimes wonder about how much better my grades/learning would have been in college if I hadn’t been partying all the time.

    Now, I try to either take really long hot showers/baths, reread a favorite book (especially Harry Potter!), or drag myself out to exercise. Sometimes that all fails and I eat some candy:)

  • ellie January 8, 2011, 12:29 pm

    I really love this post!

    One of my favorite coping strategies is music- I am a firm believer in the power of songs and think there is music out there to suit every mood. My iPod playlists are named by mood and really nothing makes me feel better than a long walk just zoning out to music. Whether it’s blasting Eminem to burn off frustration/anger, or some chilled out/relaxing stuff, it’s guaranteed to make me feel better.

    Also love curling up in bed and watching sitcoms- “Dharma and Greg” and “Two and a Half Men” are current favourites 😀

    Oh, another one is Craigslist…sounds weird but I LOVE picking a random city and looking at apartments/jobs. Maybe not the healthiest thing to just envision escaping, but somehow dreaming about running away and starting afresh is a fun distraction.

    Twitter, blogs and websites like “Overheard in New York” or “Aaaron Karo’s Ruminations” are fun too 😀

  • halloween party August 12, 2011, 5:15 am

    I have to agree that this blog is value all my time spent in reading it. Folks posting weblog ought to really exert some effort to educating the readers.This could be the superb weblog for anybody who desires to find out about this subject.

  • Gaming For Free August 27, 2011, 12:19 am

    Excellent post. I was checking constantly this blog and I’m impressed! Extremely helpful info specially the last part 🙂 I care for such information much. I was looking for this certain information for a long time. Thank you and good luck.

Previous post:

Next post:

Healthy Tipping Point