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Coping Skills: Definition, How To List On A Resume & How To Improve

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Do you use coping skills at work?

Many people have jobs in stressful positions and use different techniques to manage stress and remain productive, but it can be difficult if you don’t have those skills.

Fortunately, learning to deal with stress isn’t as challenging as it sounds, and you’ll probably end up happier as well.

Here’s what you should know about coping skills for work.

What Are Coping Skills?

Coping skills are techniques and strategies that you can use in stressful situations to surpass any emotional difficulties and remain productive at work.

Possible skills include things like:

  • Changing expectations
  • Asking for help
  • Implementing problem-solving
  • Distancing yourself from stress
  • Looking at the problem from a different angle

Unlike many other workplace skills, coping skills are primarily internal and something you do to adapt to situations. Some jobs require them far more often than others.

For example, medical personnel often work in literal life-or-death situations on tight time limits, so knowing how to manage stressful situations is a fundamental aspect of the job.

Why Are These Skills Important?

Coping skills are vital because stress has real impacts on your body and performance.

Even without considering potential health issues, which are important enough, coping skills can help you maintain productivity in unpleasant situations.

Without that productivity, you may not be able to keep the job, which only adds to your stress and trouble.

Most jobs have some stressful elements, but not every position requires coping skills to mitigate the issues.

Generally, the more pressure in the job from any source, the more likely you’ll need coping skills.

However, remember that these are just one of the types of skills you need, and a well-rounded job application will highlight other types of skills.

Types of Coping Skills

Here are the primary types of coping skills that most people learn to use.

Anxiety Coping Skills

Anxiety is primarily a sense of dread about uncertainty or negative events in the future.

For example, if your child is missing, you’re probably quite anxious about them, even if you have no proof anything’s gone wrong.

Anxiety coping skills can include strategies like aromatherapy, writing down thoughts, and questioning if your thought patterns make sense for the situation.

In many cases, distractions can get you away from anxiety and into a better mental state.

Depression Coping Skills

Depression is a relatively common issue, with about 8% of adults reporting a significant period of it.

That’s not including less-severe depression, which is even more common.

Depression can be temporary, such as after the loss of a pet or family member, but it can also be a more long-term or even permanent issue.

Depression coping skills can include things like socializing, exercising, or participating in professional development.

It can be hard to eliminate depression, but it is possible to remain productive and stop it from becoming a catastrophic interruption in your life.

Stress Coping Skills

Stress has ties to anxiety, but it tends to be more immediate.

For example, some jobs are physically exhausting and stressful that way, while others are precise and have almost no room for error.

Stress is easier to deal with than some other issues, and many people see benefits from taking breaks or talking to people.

However, alcohol and drugs can worsen stress, so they aren’t good solutions even if they may briefly feel that way.

Mental Health Coping Skills

Mental health issues are a broad category that can include many other issues on this list.

Nationally, about one in five people have mental health concerns, and they’re certainly more common in positions that are consistently stressful or depressing.

Mental health coping skills depend on the condition and may require an individual approach.

However, people often see benefits from establishing healthy boundaries, practicing time-management skills, and actively avoiding stressors.

Positive Coping Skills

Positive coping skills are an umbrella category that includes all actively beneficial skills.

These are distinct from solutions that help remove a problem, but don’t otherwise provide benefits.

For example, avoiding a stressful encounter is not a positive coping skill, but going for a walk is.

The difference is that adequate exercise is healthy for you.

10 Most Common Coping Skills

Here are some of the most common coping skills that people learn.


Aromatherapy is the process of using diffusers or similar technology to fill the air with a particular smell.

Aromatherapy is the same basic concept as using incense, which people have practiced for centuries.

Although not a cure-all, aromatherapy can help reduce stress, encourage relaxation, and help you feel like you’re controlling your environment.

How To Develop Aromatherapy Skills

Aromatherapy is easy to learn. All you need is a high-quality diffuser to spread the oils into the air.

However, make sure you’re buying 100% pure essential oils. Scented oils don’t have the same benefits and usually have much weaker effects than pure oils.

Asking For Help

Sometimes the best strategy for dealing with a problem is to ask someone else for help.

Asking for help can be difficult at first, especially if you don’t want to be seen as unreliable, but admitting your limits can help prevent more problems in the future.

Remember, you’re usually handling issues as a team.

How To Ask For Help

Try to find the best person to get help from, and be clear and specific in your requests.

If it’s something physical, just say that something is heavy or awkward and you need help.

If you’re dealing with a skill-based issue, try to frame it as asking them to teach you so you can do it correctly in the future, or to double-check important work.

It’s okay to admit your flaws when asking for help.

Most people are significantly more sympathetic if they understand why you’re struggling, and they’re far more willing to help.

If possible, try to give them some room to adjust their schedule.

For example, instead of asking for help right away, ask if they can help you by lunch.

Changing Expectations

One way of dealing with stressful situations is changing your expectations.

A lot of stress and anxiety comes from uncertainty, so actively choosing not to care about it can significantly reduce the impact of stress and let you focus on other matters.

Or, in the lyrics of Disney, just Hakuna Matata the situation.

How To Change Your Expectations

Changing expectations is mainly mental, and there are two ways to go about it.

One is to specifically declare what you expect a result to be, and the other is to say that you have no way of knowing what’s going to happen and worrying about it won’t help.

Once you do this, try to change what you’re doing as fast as possible to help with the mental realignment.


Many people find that cleaning things is therapeutic.

Although cleaning is rarely enjoyable by itself, it provides tangible, immediate evidence of change and a sense of taking control over a situation.

The occasional pleasant smell doesn’t hurt, either.

Having a cleaning routine can also introduce stability into an otherwise-chaotic life, providing a welcome mental respite.

Make sure you follow all of the instructions for using cleaning supplies.

Some are dangerous if you mix them, and that defeats the purpose of cleaning as a coping skill.

How To Develop Cleaning Skills

The best way to develop cleaning skills is to practice.

If you don’t know how to clean something, you can read labels or look up instructions online.

Once you do it a few times, you should be able to do it without checking the instructions in the future.

From there, the biggest hurdle is usually starting.

Developing Professional Skills

Developing professional skills in a continuing education center isn’t the most obvious coping skill, but it can be surprisingly effective.

This mainly helps address longer-term concerns like permanent mental health issues, as having a better career and more money can make it easier to deal with hardships.

How To Develop Professional Skills

Figure out which skills and certifications are relevant to your career, then look for classes.

There are extra benefits if you can go to a real classroom because socializing with other students there can help with networking and mental health, but it’s also possible to take many courses from home.

Enjoying a Hobby

Enjoying a hobby is a great way to relax and focus your mind on something else for a while.

Hobbies can range from sitting down and watching movies to creating art or even beautifying a community.

The important things to keep in mind are that hobbies should be distinct from your other activities.

How To Develop Hobbies

The best way to develop a hobby is by picking something you enjoy and trying to integrate it into your life at least once a week.

Something you only do for a few hours once a year isn’t a hobby, it’s just an activity.

If possible, try to attend conventions or similar events.


Movie quotes aside, exercise has a well-documented positive impact on overall mental health, including anxiety, depression, and stress.

Many people consider the fact that exercise works to be the worst part of it, but something as simple as getting up and going for a walk can have an immediate impact on mood.

How To Develop Exercise Skills

Any kind of exercise can serve as a coping skill.

If possible, get up and walk around. If not, something like lifting weights or doing whatever you can to move your body can help you feel like you’re changing situations and lead to much better results.


Spending time talking to other people can be an effective way of coping with different situations.

This can range from sharing complaints at work to hanging out with friends.

The main point is that you’re able to talk with other people and interact with them, which is demonstrably valuable for your mental health.

How To Develop Socializing Skills

Socializing can be difficult, but there are ways to get better at it.

Try to find people who have shared experiences or interests and see if you can strike up friendships.

If possible, try to talk to people regularly and make it part of your schedule.

Some friendships won’t work out, but if you keep trying, chances are you can form some long-term ones.

Time Management

Time management skills can help you cope with a range of challenging situations.

Poor time management can be the cause of stress and anxiety, so if you get better at creating and following a schedule, you can take more control of your life and get things done much more efficiently.

How To Develop Time Management Skills

Try using a digital planner to control your time better.

You can set a specific schedule for things like hobbies or cleaning, making them a regular and predictable aspect of your week.

You can also use time management at work to ensure you complete all of your tasks on time.

Using Problem-solving Skills

Problem-solving skills can be a good way to reorient yourself.

These are most effective when you’re dealing with anxiety or uncertainty.

In short, rather than dwelling on an issue, it’s better to actively look for a solution or a way to change the situation.

Focusing on a goal can significantly reduce the need for other coping skills.

How To Develop Problem-solving Skills

Analyze the situation and start trying to find ways to solve it.

Many people like talking their ideas through or writing down potential solutions.

Famously, programmers are known to use rubber duck debugging as a problem-solving skill when they’re having trouble with their work, and a similar strategy may work for you.

How to List Coping Skills on a Resume and Cover Letter

Here are some things you can do to integrate coping skills when applying for a job.

How to List Coping Skills on a Cover Letter

For cover letters, you can usually avoid mentioning coping skills directly.

Instead, you can talk about things like exceeding expectations in a fast-paced or challenging environment.

Recruiters want to know that you can handle stress, and few things demonstrate that better than a history of success.

How to List Coping Skills on a Resume

You can add coping skills to the skills section of a resume by focusing on elements that are relevant to employers.

Time management skills are particularly effective to mention, but you can also work on cleaning your work environment or applying problem-solving skills if they’re relevant.

Coping skills aren’t as important for some jobs, so when deciding how many skills to list on your resume, leave these out if you don’t have enough space.

Tips for Highlighting Coping Skills in Writing

  • Try to avoid sounding like you’re constantly stressed out. Instead, focus on the positive aspects of coping skills and how they can benefit the company.
  • Don’t over-emphasize this. It’s not relevant for most jobs, and you may not need to mention coping skills at all.
  • Consider talking about coping skills more if the job is famously stressful. If stress is the big issue and skill doesn’t matter as much, employers will care far more about your coping skills.

How To Demonstrate Coping Skills in an Interview

Here are some ways to present coping skills in an interview.

Remember, interview skills are more about how you present things instead of what you’re saying.

How Do I Say I Have Good Coping Skills?

One of the most effective ways of explaining things in an interview is telling a story about a time you applied them.

For example, you can discuss a time when you realized you needed help and how you got it.

A basic problem-resolution structure is much better than talking about being stressed.

Tips for Highlighting Coping Skills

  • Always frame your use of coping skills as something to benefit your employer.
  • Try to match the company’s overall managing style. Some places prefer independence, while others like seeing employees cooperate.
  • Consider framing the introduction of stress-reduction techniques as a bonus for the employer. For example, you can ask about hosting walking meetings.

Interview Questions Related To Coping Skills That You Might See

Here are some common questions about coping skills that interviewers may ask you.

“How Do You Handle Stress?”

This is especially common in inherently-stressful positions, including those where companies know things are more stressful than they should be.

Companies prefer applicants who have specific and actionable plans for dealing with that kind of stress.

Why Coping Skills Are Relevant to This Question

Coping skills are the primary answer to this question.

A good solution includes one answer you can do in the workday to maintain productivity and another thing you do outside of work.

If the company has social goals, like community benefits, you can spin any hobbies relating to that into the conversation.

“What Areas Need Improvement?”

Companies like confidence and competence, but it’s important to know when to admit your flaws.

Be honest here and talk about a time when you struggle, but try to highlight a specific thing you’re doing to acquire that improvement.

Companies like employees who know how to take initiative.

Why Coping Skills Are Relevant to This Question

As before, coping skills are directly relevant to the answer here.

However, try to make sure that you focus your answer on things that don’t hurt the company.

If you say your cleaning skills need work, they may worry that you’re going to make your workstation a mess.

If you say you’re experimenting with aromatherapy at home, they’re probably not going to worry.

“What is Your Work Style?”

This is a broad question and you can answer it in many ways.

A good answer here starts with how you do things on normal days.

Once you establish that, transition into how you apply problem-solving skills when there are issues or unusual circumstances.

As always, frame this as a benefit for the company.

Why Coping Skills Are Relevant to This Question

Coping skills aren’t as directly relevant when answering this question.

However, employers do like hearing that you understand how and when to apply problem-solving skills or other strategies.

Tips for Improving Coping Skills

Here are some things you can do to improve your coping skills.

1. Start Coping Early

Coping skills are most effective when you can use them as an early intervention for problems.

If you implement them before you go crazy with stress, you can often avoid the worst outcomes.

Remember that coping skills are active mitigation and a good part of your daily routine, not an emergency measure for when things get particularly bad.

2. Practice Coping Skills

You can practice many coping skills without deliberately increasing your stress or triggering a depressive episode.

For example, you can play problem-solving games or puzzles to get in the mindset of creatively resolving issues.

The more you practice these skills, the easier they become.

Tricks like hobbies and aromatherapy have the most benefit if you do them regularly, as routines are often stabilizing when you’re stressed.

3. Learn New Skills

It’s usually better to study a range of coping skills instead of relying on one or two. Consider talking to people in your social circles, including at work, and ask what they do when things are piling up.

If you collect different ideas, you’ll be in a much better spot to start implementing their strategies when you get stressed.

4. Stress is Common

Finally, remember that many people experience stress in their jobs. It’s not something rare or unique to your position, especially because many people are good at hiding it.

Once you understand that coping is normal, you can erase any stigma and focus on finding solutions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions that people have about coping skills.

What is the importance of coping?

Coping is one of the most effective ways of dealing with stress in daily life.

Finding healthy and productive ways to cope can help you ensure you establish beneficial habits instead of hurting yourself.

What factors improve coping?

Factors that improve coping include things like accessibility, ease of access, and effectiveness.

Remember that people respond to coping strategies in different ways, so what works for someone else may not work as well for you.

Additional Skills To Be Aware Of

Here are some related skills to think about.

  • Adaptability Skills: Adaptability covers your ability to address unexpected situations, including stressful ones.
  • Analytical Skills: Analytical skills can help you with coping by providing a framework to analyze problems, find solutions, and change your mindset about specific issues.
  • People Skills: People skills can help you cope by making it easier to find friends, reducing the stress you get from interacting with others, and otherwise making it easier to socialize.
  • Distress Tolerance Skills: Distress tolerance skills can help you reorient yourself during particularly turbulent times when coping is at its most important.
  • Emotional Regulation Skills: Emotional regulation skills can help you manage subconscious emotions and ensure they don’t control your life or behaviors.

Wrapping Up

Coping skills cover a range of strategies and techniques you can use to manage problems like stress and anxiety.

While not all of these are suitable for resumes and cover letters, the right spin can make coping skills a good part of your application.

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