Coping skills

This page gives resources to practice and learn coping skills. These are a repertoire of skills to draw upon in situations where we feel stressed and emotionally distressed. We need to practise them so they become a “go to” response when we really need them.


The sections below give information about:

1. Coping skills in the context of stress and distress.

2. Using our senses to help “self-soothe” ourselves.

3. Self-soothing activities for us to explore.

1. Coping skills in the context of stress and distress.

umbrella3Coping skills in the context of stress and emotional distress are the ability to accept, in a non-evaluative and non-judgemental fashion, both oneself and the current situation. Although the stance advocated here is a non-judgemental one, this does not mean that it is one of approval: acceptance of reality is not approval of reality. These skills are concerned with tolerating and surviving crises, and with accepting life as it is in the moment so that we can protect and ensure our well-being in these situations.

CRISIS SURVIVAL STRATEGIES: Crisis survival strategies include: self-soothing; distraction; improving the current moment; thinking about the positives and negatives before we take any action.

small bluePLEASE NOTE: If you are experiencing a crisis and need immediate support, please go to the well-being community support resources page, for 24/7 crisis support resources you can access.

2. Using our senses to help “self-soothe” ourselves.

Using our five senses for self-soothing and calming ourselves.

And the “sixth sense” of our breath.

smallcoloursSelf-soothing is achieved by a focus upon all five senses and undertaking activities that use each of them. The five senses are vision, hearing, touch, taste and smell.  A “sixth sense” to be added to our five senses, for the purpose of self-soothing, is that of our breath.

Explore the activities on this page to practise self-soothing.

3. Self-soothing activities for us to explore.

watch11.USE VISION.

USE ARTWORK: Look at a favourite piece of art or picture.

USE A CANDLE: Light a candle and watch the flame.

USE A WRIST ITEM: Wear some form of bracelet or chain or watch and look at these closely, noticing the small details.

USE BODY FOCUS: Raise your hand slightly towards you and look closely at the back of your  hand, tracing the outline of each of your fingers and your thumb with your vision.

USE A PHOTO ALBUM: Create a photo album of favourite images on your mobile phone/laptop and look at each of these in slow detail.

noticethelittlethingsUSE NATURAL OBJECTS: Look closely at natural objects, their colours, shape and textures.

USE THE PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT: Look at the physical environment and architecture around you, and find an item you enjoy looking at.

USE OBJECTS: Find any objects in your vicinity that catch your attention, and begin to look at these more closely.

Every time another thought comes up that does not relate to the immediate vision sensation, gently refocus/redirect your thoughts back to the activity you are doing.


USE SURROUND SOUNDS: Focus and listen carefully to all the sounds that surround you – give your attention to each one of the sounds.

USE A MUSICAL SCALE: Another technique following on from this is to create a musical “scale” of the sounds that you hear (from the lowest to the highest tone you are hearing).

USE DUAL SOUND FOCUS: Also to bring your attention at times to notice single, individual sounds, then to move your attention to a more panoramic focus, to the whole wide range of noises you are listening to, listening to the whole soundscape you are part of.

USE A MUSIC LIBRARY: Have access to a range of your favourite music to listen to music1(on a mobile phone, laptop etc). Create a musical library for you to choose from when you need it.

RECORD STORIES: Read a favourite piece of literature to yourself, and listen to the words you are speaking. Have inspirational “mottos” for you to read aloud to yourself.

USE YOUR OWN VOICE: Use your voice to self-soothe yourself, and listen to its sound and meaning.

Every time another thought comes up that does not relate to the immediate hearing sensation, gently refocus/redirect your thoughts back to the activity you are doing.

cat13. USE TOUCH. Stroke your hair, or brush it. Gently stroke the back of your lower arm to the end of each of your fingers, and back up your arm again.  Pick up or have objects on you that feel nice to you to hold (smooth stones, wooden beads). Make a rubber band ball and roll it in your hands. Feel the sensation of stretching rubber bands. Stroke the petals on a rose. Hold three roundish small colourful polished stones or marbles in the palm of your hand and close your fingers over them whilst you jiggle them around in your hand. Stroke an animal. Massage hand cream into your hands. Have a hot bubble or salt bath. Feel the surfaces of objects around you, and find the nicest one to touch.

Trace patterns in the surfaces around you. Make a mini sand box, and run the sandmakepatterns through your fingers, trace patterns in the sand. Take your shoes and socks off, and walk on a polished wooden floor, or comfortable floor, focusing upon the sensations from your feet. Tear up pieces of colourful tissue paper into strips, and smooth these out with your fingers. Have a range of colourful ribbons and thread each one of them between your fingers and thumbs, then gently pull them through your fingers.

Every time another thought comes up that does not relate to the immediate touch sensation, gently refocus/redirect your thoughts back to your touch sensations.

coffeeiceream4. USE TASTE. Chew chewing gum. Blow bubbles from bubble gum. Focus and experience the taste of the items in your mouth. Create a luxury drink for yourself with all the trimmings (like hot chocolate with cream and sprinkles, brown or green tea in a pot with themed snacks).

Create a comfortable and relaxing space for yourself to enjoy your drink. strawberry1Perhaps hot chocolate by a warm fire, perhaps green tea sitting in a sunny place in your garden. Focus on the taste sensations in your mouth before, during and after each mouthful of tea or hot chocolate. Focus on the difference between the taste sensations of the liquids and the snacks/trimmings.

Every time another thought comes up that does not relate to the immediate taste sensation, gently refocus/redirect your thoughts back on the taste.


USE RECIPES: Choose a favourite recipe (cookies, cake or bread for example), gather the ingredients and take a tour of each one with your nose, thinking of how you would describe the smell or what it reminds you of. Complete the recipe, focusing on the different smells that arise at different stages. When the recipe is cooked, enjoy the smell of the food, from each mouthful you take.

makingoilsflowerherbsCREATE FLOWER OILS: Use edible dried herbs and flowers, or pick (or buy from a store) your own herbs and  flowers, for example chamomile, lavender, basil, sage and thyme, coriander, rose. Dry them and store them in small glass jars with oil (such as sweet almond, jojoba or olive oil). Smell the differences in the herbs and flowers as you are using them. Make “scent notes” for yourself, about the ones you really like. Take drops of the oil from one of the small glass jars you have created, massage it slowly into your hands. Bring your hands up to your face and cup them towards you nose. Inhale deeply. You can also run a hot bath and put a few drops of your oil in your bath. Focus on the scent whilst bathing.

USE NATURAL SCENTS: Go for a walk and smell the different areas you walk through, find your favourite smell in the journey. lavender walkMassage your feet or hands with scented cream or oils, focusing upon the scent. Read a book on essential oils and choose a couple to use, in the way the book suggests. You can also snuggle something that smells nice and reassuring to you, like a blanket or a favourite jumper. If you have access to a garden, create a relaxing space for you to lie comfortably down. As you lie on your comfortable mat or blanket, with a pillow, gently breathe in all the outdoor scents.

Every time another thought comes up that does not relate to the immediate smell sensation, gently refocus/redirect your thoughts back to your smell sensations.




 After you have explored the self-soothing activities and found ones that you like, bring your “sixth sense” in to them, that of your breath.  So whilst you are involved in your activities, at times place your focus on feeling the sense of your breathing. Gently bring this down to a slow, relaxed rhythm, by breathing three or four gentle, slow breaths. Then bring your full focus back to engaging with the activity. Any time you lose your focus on what you are doing, bring your focus back to your breathing, your “sixth sense”.


Reflect on your sensory experiences.

Keep a journal with examples and ideas that you can use, coloursactive1exploring the best ones suit your needs. Write about and draw your experiences in your journal. Use your imagination and creativity to represent your sensory experiences, perhaps through creating a collage activity, or doodling, or making colours and shapes to represent your sensory experiences and feelings during the activities.


There are more activities for you to explore on the well-being activities page. This includes mandala art work to support your well-being in stressful times.

Creating our own “sensory den” space.

bedsmallUse your knowledge that you gain from within the activities on this page to create a “sensory den” for yourself.

You can use a bed sheet to create a “den” space, either inside or outside your home.  Feel the texture of the sheet in your hands, and look at its patterns or colours. Hang up a line, and fold your sheet over it for your den space, weight down the sides with stones or books, so that the sheet is a “tent triangle” shape.

Place a comfy rug or blanket on its floor. Or you can use a tent or denspace1mosquito net for your den. For each of the items that you choose, explore their texture and smell. Make your den comfortable and fill it with sensory items that you like. Spend regular time in your den, taking time to explore the sensory items you have chosen for yourself in this space.

A sensory den is also a way of helping us to feel safe and secure in stressful times. We physically build a “safe place” for us, that we take time in to unwind and relax. It is a designated safe space, that we build with our own hands, using our creativity and playfulness.

Add sensory items to your den that interest you. Add garden or twinkly lights, plastic bead necklaces, garden ornaments, old Christmas decorations, wind chimes, dream catchers, origami paper shapes, paper lanterns, lengths of torn tissue paper, woven knotting, ribbons, bunting flags….. use it as a space for dreams1creativity, thinking about what you can add that is sensory.  If your den is inside, you can go to YouTube or use Spotify or SoundCloud to create a nature playlist and find some outdoor nature sounds of birds, forest and water. Have these sounds playing in the background, if you would like them,  when you are in your indoor den.

TIME FOR TEA: Make teatime an occasion for yourself, or create a picnic for yourself. Choose good things for you to eat and drink, or bake or cook something to add to teatime (cucumber or strawberry sandwiches, small biscuits and cake). You can have your picnic in your den. If your den is outside, you can placeteatime1 a blanket outside your den and use this if it’s a sunny day. Or you can be in your den if the weather is not so good.

Set up your  “teatime space”. Write an invite for yourself, to set up this occasion for yourself. If you have someone close to  you who you are sharing the home confinement situation with, you can share this teatime activity together. Write an invite for them too. Dress up and make an occasion of it. Or you can use social media to set this up, to share this invite “virtually” through video-chatting and live streaming with a friend.

A midnight and early hours sensory den activity

If you can’t sleep, create a midnight (or early hours) feast in your den,midnite picnic1 making yourself a soothing hot drink with a sensory snack, and use your twinkly lights in your den. Have a relaxing playlist on whilst you are enjoying your midnight feast space. Or have the playlist play a soothing story to you. If after your midnight feast you still need more help to relax, get a soft towel and take this into your den space, rest your feet on this, and then massage your feet and hands with soft scented cream or oils (like lavender or chamomile or rose). You can also rub cream or oil into the back of your neck and shoulders. Then take yourself off to bed again to sleep.

Use the sleeping tips page for more ideas and activities to help you sleep.

Sharing our sensory den spaces with others,

for exploring ideas together and support.

Sensory dens come in all shapes and sizes.


We can enjoy using our creativity and playfulness to design our den spaces for ourselves. We can create our spaces both inside and outside of our homes. We can share these with others.

In the current coronavirus situation, through using social media, we can also send pictures (or use live stream or video chat whilst we are in our dens) of the space we create. we can contact our friends virtually for their ideas, support, creativity and shared problem solving to find shared solutions to any issues we are experiencing 🙂

 A leaflet with more sensory self-soothing activities


Here is a document with more activities for you to explore. The leaflet also encourages you to document your favourite ones, or to add your own ideas.

Please click on the following link: Self soothing activities