How Many Coping Skills!?

Raise your hand if you’ve ever had an emotional breakdown!

You know the kind- where you turn into an angry monster, or maybe a puddle of tears on the floor?

You might have even experienced a full on panic attack.

I have SO been there! These are usually the moments when my teens tell me their coping skills don’t work- to which I reply- “Are you using the magic number?”

This video tells you the magic number of coping skills you NEED to be using:

In my experience, the main reason coping skills don’t “work” is because we’re not using enough of them.

Let’s compare it to sleeping.

I’m sure we can all remember a time we had to stay up later than usual to work on a school project you forgot about, and then had to wake up early to make it to school on time. You’ve technically slept, but it’s probably not enough hours to feel well-rested, which is probably going to have an impact on your mood and stress levels.

The same thing happens with coping skills.

If your stress, anxiety, depression, anger, or whatever intense emotion you’re experiencing is a 9 on a 0-10 scale, taking some deep breaths is NOT going to be enough to bring it back down to a manageable level. You’re lucky if it brings it to a 7. And I LOVE deep-breathing! (I even made a video about how to do it here:

So what’s the magic number?

It can take 6-8 healthy coping skills to match the same relief you experience from a problem behavior.

It’s why I include 9 spots on my free Coping Ahead Plan which you can download here:

So if you notice yourself having an intense emotional experience, you might start with deep breathing and check in. Maybe it’s still hanging at a 9, but it hasn’t increased to 10- which I’d still say is pretty successful!-, you might move on to doodling, or coloring, or whatever your next coping skill is until it gets down to a more manageable level.

If you are concerned that you, or someone you know, may be considering killing themselves, please connect them with help.



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Mallory Grimste, LCSW - Teen Therapist

Mental Health Counseling for Anxious Tweens, Teens, and Young Adults | Woodbridge, CT