Coping Skills and Self-Regulation

People talk a lot about how to cope with things that are challenging, or stressful, or any number of uncomfortable emotions.

But what does “coping” actually mean to you?

To me, it means a combination of two things: 

  1. Being able to tolerate the feelings that arise from a challenge.
  2. Having tools to manage the issue at hand and address it.

You may have heard of regulation and dysregulation. These are a huge part of coping skills. Simply put, this refers to our ability to monitor and manage our energy, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors so that our relationships and experiences contribute to our well-being.

When we are regulated (managing our energy, feeling settled despite discomfort), we can handle stress or overwhelming situations … even as we feel the emotions that come with them. 

But when we are dysregulated, we struggle to manage our emotions and inner experience. This can show up as an explosive temper, racing thoughts, absolute thinking (“My boyfriend canceled plans last minute so he must not love me anymore”), emotional overeating, etc.

It’s worth noting that we learn how to regulate based on what we saw in our growing up – what was modeled for us – as well as what got the response we needed. This cycle created habits, inner dialogues, and behaviors/coping skills that persist within us as adults.

Here’s an example. A child who cries and gets a caring response learns that expressing emotions will generate a positive reaction. A child who cries and is ignored learns that expressing emotions results in nothing.

Remember the House of Self Love? These are the foundational experiences that create the lessons we learn about our worth and our place. They result in how we manage our inner experience and “fit in” to our surroundings to survive.

So the attended child becomes an adult who expresses feelings to cope with discomfort. The unattended child becomes an adult who pushes feelings away when challenged. 

Both approaches can work – or not – based on the setting in which they are deployed, but the point is that when we learn these lessons and skills, we use them!

I believe, both from personal experience and my work with clients, that no matter what, our life and view of our Self can be more positive if our ability to self-regulate is improved.

Think of feeling grounded, settled inside your Self. Like a tree with strong roots that can weather a storm. If you’re that tree, you can handle what comes your way and still stand in place. You are present and capable – even as you feel the wind and rain and how it moves you.

What do you think? Are there experiences in which you feel regulated? Others in which you feel dysregulated? And would you like to know more about how to incorporate some new coping skills into your life so you can be that tree?

Keep following my blog and come visit me at I’ll have loads more to say in the coming days.

Thanks for being here. I’m glad to share this space with you.

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