Indigenous woman standing in the foreground with a tree in the background

Skills for Coping & Healing

Daily Self-Care

Dark image of hands holding twinkle lightsCreate a Coping Plan

Young woman with long hair smiling, sitting crossed legged in forest, and holding hands together with cat beside herPractice Mindful Awareness

Woman sleeping on pillowPrioritize the Basics

Young woman holding a heart made of twinkle lightsPractice Self-Compassion

Hand holding pen and writing a check listPrioritize Time Management

Photo of man meditatingSoothe Your Nervous System

For more information about coping and well-being strategies, please visit the Good2Talk website.

Skills for Navigating Heightened Distress

Sometimes emotions, sensations, and experiences can become overwhelming. When this happens, it's important to get purposeful about using coping strategies that can help you find a way through the distress. Grounding and resourcing practices are powerful ways for helping to regulate strong emotions.


"Grounding" refers to finding an anchor in the present moment that can help you feel more balanced in the face of heightened emotion, panic, trauma triggers, and other types of distress. There are many different ways to practice grounding, and it’s important to find the ones that work for you. You might notice that different strategies help for different situations, and that some strategies aren’t what you need in the moment. Here are some examples that you can try:

When we’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, our breathing can become quick and shallow which can actually increase stress. Coming back to your breath is a simple but powerful way to soothe your nervous system and ground yourself when experiencing painful emotions.

1. Deep Breathing

  • Inhale through your nose slowly filling up your lungs and diaphragm, counting to four.
  • Hold your breath as you count to seven.
  • Exhale completely though your mouth with a gentle sigh, counting to eight.
  • Repeat as many times as you need.

By purposefully slowing your breath and making your exhales longer than your inhales, you are focusing your attention on something that is within your control and that can directly impact the state of your nervous system. To learn more about soothing your nervous system, click here.

2. Square Breathing

  • Inhale through your nose slowly filling up your lungs and diaphragm, counting to four.
  • Hold your breath as you count to four again.
  • Exhale completely though your mouth with a gentle sigh, counting to four.
  • Inhale through your nose slowly filling up your lungs and diaphragm again, counting to four.
  • As you breathe, imagine that you are tracing the lines of a square with each inhale and exhale. If you find it helpful, you can even trace the square on the palm of your hand with your finger while you breathe.

3. Breathing Balloon Exercise from Kids Help Phone


Name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, 1 thing you can taste

Temperatures ​​​​​​

  • Drink a cold glass of water
  • Splash cold water on your face
  • Hold a cold can of pop
  • Wet a washcloth with cold water and place it on your forehead
  • Take a warm bath
  • Curl up with a warm blanket or a warm water bottle


Use essential oils that feel soothing, like lavender or mint

Bake your favourite cookies

Spend time in a safe location that has a familiar and comforting scent


Eat something sour

Eat something spicy if you like spice

Drink your favourite tea

Treat yourself to a favourite meal


Find an object with a texture that feels comforting, like a smooth stone Explore textures of the safe objects around you Mindfully feel the textures of your clothing Colours Name all of the colours that you see around you Go for a walk and look for a specific seasonal colour (e.g., look for red in the fall, green in the spring, etc.)

Safety Statements

  • Remind yourself that you are safe in the present moment. This might sound like: "The date is _______, I am ______ years old and right now in this moment I am safe."
  • Offer yourself a moment of kindness. You might say: "These emotions are overwhelming right now. It makes sense that this is so hard. It's okay to have difficult moments. May I be safe, may I be peaceful, may I be kind to myself in this moment."
  • Practice coping statements. For example: "I've gotten through this feeling before." "I have overcome so much already, I can get through this difficult experience too." "I can allow this emotion or this thought to come and go, like clouds in the sky"

Cognitive Exercises

  • Think about a person or a pet that you care about and who feels safe. Hold an image of them in your mind and spend time thinking about them.
  • Visualize a place where you feel safe. It can be somewhere that you have been before or an ideal space that you imagine.
  • Name all of the objects you can see around you that are a specific colour or texture.
  • Count backwards from 100. If you want more of a challenge, try counting backwards from 100 by increments of three (100, 97, 94, etc.) or another interval you prefer.
  • Describe the space around you in detail either by speaking or in writing.


"Resourcing" means purposefully bringing in strategies and activities that help you feel more supported, more present, and more balanced. Anything you enjoy doing can be a resource that helps you find a way through heightened distress. Here are some examples that you can try:

  • Reach out to a friend
  • Spend time with family or chosen family
  • Spend time with a pet
  • Call a helpline 
  • Get out of the house and into a public space with other people around 
  • Go for a walk 
  • Sit outside 
  • Go to a beach 
  • Go for a picnic
  • Look for constellations of stars in the night sky
  • Listen to music that helps you feel soothed or uplifted
  • Sing
  • Practice or start to learn an instrument
  • Write a song that expresses how you’re feeling
  • Go for a run
  • Practice yoga 
  • Go to the gym
  • Play a sport
  • Attend a fitness class
  • Planting a garden or caring for houseplants
  • Read a book
  • Learn a new skill

Safety Planning

Thoughts of suicide can feel distressing and exhausting. Developing a plan for keeping yourself safe can help you identify your coping skills and supports before you need them in a crisis. A safety plan is something that you can develop on your own, with a counsellor, or with a 24/7 helpline. Safety plans include:

  • ​A list stressors and experiences that may trigger strong emotions
  • Signs that you are heading into a crisis (e.g., thoughts, emotions, sensations, behaviours)
  • A list of ways that others can help you manage feelings of overwhelm
  • Coping and distraction techniques
  • Your reasons for living
  • Supports you can turn to for help

To download a safety plan template that provides space for you to explore the planning items above, please visit this safety planning webpage at



Remember that healing is non-linear. This means that there will likely be times where you feel like you are seeing improvements and times when you feel stuck or like you've taken a step backwards. This is all a part of the road to recovery and you may find that you feel different each day. Everyone experiences ups and downs throughout their journey, and it is important to be kind to yourself when things get tough. It is the process of continuing to find a way forward that allows you to experience healing.