7 Quick Coping Skills To Improve Your Life Now

I like things to be neat.  My mother kept a very clean, neat house when I was growing up.


But although I like things to be neat and organized, I struggle with keeping my things that way.

A couple of months ago, I decided it was time for a change.  My dresser drawers were full of a mixture of socks, underwear, and T-Shirts, fitness gear, and other articles of clothing.

So I took a bunch of Post-It Notes, set my timer for 25 minutes, a la Pamodoro, and labeled my dresser drawers.  One drawer, Socks, one drawer, White T-shirts, and so on, and so on, and so on.

Now, when it’s time to put my laundry away, I get it done quickly, my drawers are organized, and I am much less stressed when trying to find something to wear!

Life can be like my messed up dresser.

Life is messy and stressful.

But, like the sticky note organization system I made for my dresser, I’m giving you 10 actionable coping skills to help you mobilize yourself against the stresses of life.

7 Quick Coping Skills

Coping Skill Action #1 – Stimming (Time: 15 minutes)

Alex Lowery, in his article, Why Stimming is a Big Part of My Life and Why It Should Never Be Stopped — talks about how stemming helps him.

It helps people with autism have the gifts they do, it helps cope with stress and anxiety for a lot of people on the spectrum and it’s also (speaking for me personally) just a part of my life.

Simple Action:

Go to Cynthia Kim (author of Musings of an Aspie website and founder of Stimtastic)’s site Stimtastic.co, and read the blog for 5 minutes.  Then spend 10 minutes looking at the Stim Jewelry or Stim Toys, and order one or two for yourself.

Happy Stimming!

How This Can Improve Your Life -

As Alex points out (and I agree) stimming can help you cope with stress and anxiety.  The right stim jewelry or toy will help you celebrate stemming as part of your life.

Coping Skill Action #2: Take Care of Your Sensory Needs

When I’m hungry, angry, lonely, or tired (HALT for short), I know I need to pay attention and slow down.

Similarly, if you’re on the autism spectrum, you may deal with sensory overload.  Cynthia Kim explains this beautifully in her series of posts about sensory processing.

Simple Actions:

Brian King shared these simple sensory solutions in this article.  Choose one of these simple sensory solutions and notice which one works best for you.

The Rolling Pin: (Time: Minimum of one minute, or as long as you’d like)

Ask a friend, sibling, or spouse to use a rolling pin to give you a deep tissue massage.  (I personally love this one!)

Pull-up Bar (Time: Less than one minute!)

You can do pull-ups, if you wish, but the main use of the bar in this case will be just to hang from a bar.  Brian King says this has helped him quickly organize his nervous system.

Indoor Trampoline (Time: 3-5 minutes)

For some of you, jumping up and down on a trampoline is a great way to release stress and anxiety.  You can jump before and after a stressful event!

Backpack with Handheld Weights (Time: 5 minutes or More)

This is an inconspicuous way for a spectrumite to get deep pressure on their shoulder muscles to achieve the calm they need. They can take charge of this themselves and vary the amount of weight in the backpack to accommodate their needs at the time. Far more versatile than a weighted vest. –Brian King

The Wall

As per Brian King,

(The wall) is a sturdy, flat surface you can lean against and push with your hands, or lean against it with your back and push with your legs. The intense muscle contraction you use to push can create a good amount of proprioceptive input than can decompress anxiety and be very calming.

How These Simple Steps (Sensory Diet) Improve Your Life:

In Cynthia Kim’s words:

When we think of diet or dieting, we usually think of restricting our intake in some way. But a sensory diet isn’t about restriction, it’s about fulfilling sensory needs and improving self-regulation (italics mine) with a specific selection of sensory activities.

Resource:  Cynthia Kim’s series of articles on sensory processing.

Coping Skill Action #3: Breathing (Time: 8 minutes to learn, 1.5 to 3 minutes per day to practice)

I first learned about this specific breathing technique when I read the eye catching headline, “How I Learned to Fall Asleep in Under One Minute.”

Simple Steps:

Watch this video

Watch this video from Dr. Andrew Weil to learn the rationale and method behind the 4, 7, 8 Breathing Technique:

Practice Daily (Time: 1.5 minutes!)

Once you’ve watched the video, you know how to do the breathing.  Dr. Weil recommends 4 cycles of the 4-7-8 breathing twice a day to build a habit that will reap benefits down the line.

How This Will Improve Your Life?

This form of deep breathing can help you:

  • reduce inner tension
  • help you fall asleep
  • reduce food cravings
  • reduce mild to moderate anxiety

Coping Skill Action #4: Meditation

I’m not talking about religious meditation of any sort.

Rather, I’m talking about the practice of slowing ourselves down.

Simple Action:

On your computer, or on your iPhone, go to Calm.com.  At this site, you are guided through the practical steps of slowing your body down and becoming more mindful and centered.

How This Will Improve Your Life?

According to Emma M. Seppala, Ph.D., in her article, 20 Scientific Reasons to Start Meditating Today, daily meditation increases immune function, decreases pain, decreases inflammation at a cellular level, boosts your happiness, can help you with social functioning, increase your self-control, change your brain for the better, and increase your productivity.

Coping Skill Action #5: Get Into Nature (Time: 2 minutes, to as long as you’d like)

It’s probably “common sense” to you, but how often do you and I take time to go outside?

With out increasingly electronic world, it’s easy to get stuck inside of our homes.

According to Scientific American,

the benefits of seeing and being in nature are so powerful that even pictures of landscapes can soothe. (article: How Hospital Gardens Help Patients Heal)

Simple Actions:

  • Watch nature videos!
  • Instead of a coffee break, take a nature break.  Type in “forest preserve near me” in Google search, and plan a visit to your local forest preserve.
  • During the winter, like it is here in Chicago, plan shorter walks outside.  Even just walking around the block is better than being holed up inside your house all winter!
  • Consider buying a plant or two for your room or home.

How Will This Improve Your Life?

Just  three to five minutes spent looking at views dominated by trees, flowers or water can begin to reduce anger, anxiety and pain and to induce relaxation, according to various studies of healthy people that measured physiological changes in blood pressure, muscle tension, or heart and brain electrical activity.  (article: How Hospital Gardens Help Patients Heal)

Coping Skill Action #6: Spend Time In Your Focused Interests – But Monitor Your Time (Time: You Pick!)

Thanks so much, again, to Cynthia Kim for helping me better understand focused interests, and how they help people with autism/Aspergers deal with stress.

Spending time engaged in a special interest fulfills a specific need for aspies. It’s more than just a pleasant way to pass the time. For me, indulging in a special interest is how I recharge myself. It’s comforting. It allows me to completely immerse myself in something that intensely interests me while tuning out the rest of the world.  Cynthia Kim, What’s So Special About A Special Interest?

Cynthia points out that special interests can go wild.  Too much of a good thing can become a problem.

For example, she shares about how she can spend 8-12 hours writing or researching, only to find out she’s let the whole day go by without attending to daily house chores.

For this reason, I suggest you schedule time for your interests, and limit your time.

I’m open to your input as to how you’ve used and yet monitored your special interests to decompress from the stress of everyday living.

Seek Online Support (Time: 10-15 minutes)

Get to know other autism blogs and bloggers.

Here are a couple of places to find them:

11 Autism/Aspergers Sites That Will Make You Jump For Joy

At Last! 6 Women Aspergers Sites Revealed

  • Once you’ve checked out a couple of favorites, notice whether they have any bloggers that they follow, and check out those blogs.
  • Comment on articles that you appreciate, and you’ll start a relationship with those bloggers.
  • If you want to remain anonymous, create an anonymous profile.
  • Wrong Planet is a great place to connect with others on the autism spectrum.
  • Join the Thrive with Aspergers secret, closed group on Facebook for more support.

How Will This Improve Your Life?

Connecting online will help you connect with others and talk to supportive people who “get” you and your struggles.

Conclusion: We All Cope, The Question is How

We all cope.  The question is how to cope in a way that will protect and empower you.

Stimming, Taking Care of Your Sensory Needs, Breathing, Meditation, Spending Time In Nature, Spending Time with Your Specialized Interest/s, and Seeking Support Online are all coping skills that will improve your life.  And it will take so little time!

Over to you: What coping skills do you plan to use?  Are there other coping skills I left off this list?  Please share them in the comments below!

Photo Copyright: / Ed Sweetman @123RF Stock Photo


  • How to Stim Discreetly
  • Tired? How the 4-7-8 Breathing Technique Can Help You Sleep Better
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 I'm Steve Borgman.  I'm a licensed clinical professional counselor and blogger committed to bringing you hope, understanding, and solutions that you can apply to your life immediately.

Are you tired of feeling alone, like you're the only one in this world? Please join the Thrive with Aspergers Community to connect with others just like you!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • http://diaryofanalien1.blogspot.com Angel The Alien

    These are good tips and I am going to check out all of these sites! I live in Chicago too. I would like to spend more time in nature, but I am afraid to go into the forest preserve alone because there are people smoking crack in there!!!

  • http://www.myaspergers.net/ steveborgman

    It’s a bummer you have to be worried about that, Angel :( Have you ever been able to go to the Morton Arboretum? What other nature places to you feel safe going to?