Coping Methods

Positive Coping Methods

Positive coping methods are those that help to reduce anxiety, lessen other distressing reactions, and improve the situation in a way that does not harm you further and which improves things not only today, but tomorrow and in the future as well. Positive coping methods can include:

  • Muscle relaxing exercises
  • Talking to another person for support
  • Exercise in moderation, including walking, jogging, or swimming
  • Taking a self-defense training or martial arts
  • Hot baths
  • Positive distracting activities, including recreational or work activities such as: cooking, gardening, taking a walk, playing tennis, going to the park, drinking tea, bowling, watching a movie, writing a letter, calling a friend, listening to music, cleaning, or doing arts and crafts.
  • Stretching or yoga
  • Breathing exercises—slow, deep breaths
  • Joining a support group
  • Calling a rape crisis center hotline
  • Meditation
  • Journaling

Negative Coping Methods

Negative coping methods can make problems worse. They may reduce your anxiety immediately, but “short-circuit” more permanent change and cause additional problems. Negative coping methods can include:

  • Continuing to avoid thinking about the assault
  • Social isolation (keeping to yourself)
  • Use of alcohol or drugs
  • Binge eating (overeating)
  • Avoiding counseling
  • Cutting or hurting oneself
  • Aggressive or violent actions
  • Workaholism (working too much)

Ideas for coping with Memories of Sexual Assault

Here are some steps to help you actively stay in the present or “here and now”:

  • Keep your eyes open and actively look around you. Look around the room or area where you are. Turn the light on if it is off.
  • Say a safety statement: “My name is (name). I am safe right now. I am in the present, not the past. I am at (location) and the date is (date).”
  • Touch objects around you (a pen, your purse, a book, your clothing, your chair) and notice how they feel.
  • Carry something in your pocket or purse (ring, a rock, any safe object) that you can touch whenever you have thoughts of the assault.
  • Saying a coping statement: “I can cope right now. This feeling will pass.”
  • Think of people you care about (look at photographs of your best friend).
  • Run cold water over your hands.
  • Jump up and down.
  • Stretch.
  • Eat something and notice how it tastes.