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99 Coping Skills (That Don’t Involve Eating to Numb Your Feelings)

Mental Health Awareness Month

Did you know that May is Mental Health Awareness Month? I realize that I’ve posted this at the END of the month, but hey, better late than never right? That being said, I’m coming at ya with 99 coping skills you can use anytime you want to optimize your mental health!

But first, let’s talk a little about some mental health statistics that you might find sobering.

In order to raise awareness and provide evidence-based information and resources to help those suffering from mental health conditions, Mental Health Awareness Month was started by Mental Health America (MHA), previously known as National Association for Mental Health, in 1949 (1). 

According to research data from MHA, approximately 50 million adults in the United States are experiencing some form of mental illness in 2022 (2). That’s about 1 in 5 people. Wow.

Needless to say, these last 2+ years of the COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest, and economic crises have taken a toll on many of us. Clearly, these events have put a spotlight on addressing mental health issues.

One of the main terms used in mental health research for alleviation of its impact on individuals includes “coping.”

Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness: A Principle of IE

According to the MHA, the definition of a coping skill is “a strategy to help you deal with difficult situations and reduce unpleasant emotions, thoughts, or behaviors (1).”

Whether or not you are diagnosed with a mental health condition, you have likely used some form of coping to deal with life’s many challenges.

Another one of the principles of Intuitive Eating (IE) is to Cope with Your Emotions with Kindness (3). As there are many different issues you may need to cope with in life, there are also many different ways to cope with these issues. 

For many of us, “eating our feelings” has become one of those ways.

Emotional eating is very coming and tends to make many of us feel guilty. Authors Tribole and Resch emphasize that the experience of eating should not be guilt-ridden; therefore it is important to recognize why emotional eating can cause these feelings.

Let’s be clear. Emotional eating is not a crime! We all do it.

Sometimes we eat to celebrate, commemorate, and connect.

Or we may eat outside of physiological hunger when we want a taste of something, just because it feels good.

It is a normal, healthy part of life. 

So why does it feel like a crime when it happens?

instagram post; emotional eating is not a crime, but why does it feel like one when it happens?

99 Coping Skills (That Don’t Involve Eating to Numb Your Feelings)

If using food to cope with your emotions has been a struggle, it’s likely because of one of these 3 reasons:

  • You’re using food to “numb” unwanted feelings/emotions that really need to be resolved in a different way.
  • It happens when you are alone, and therefore you feel like the behavior and/or what you are eating would not be acceptable in community with others.
  • You are binge-eating, which means that you are eating very large amounts of food in a short period of time, likely causing you to feel very overstuffed afterward.

If one of these scenarios describes you, I want you to know that you are not alone. It is estimated that 27% of adults in the U.S. have experienced emotional eating, with 34% of them saying that it is a habitual response to stress (4).

There is hope to break free from the “prison” that unhealthy emotional eating has caused you to live in. In Intuitive Eating, the authors share several helpful ways to consider coping with your emotions WITHOUT using food.

*If you want an actionable plan and accountability from me, I recommend getting The Joyfully Nourished Life 10-Week Program Guide here! Use my promo code “JNL2022” at checkout for 50% off until May 31st, 2022 at 11:59 p.m. CST! See more details at the bottom of this post.*

I have compiled a list of 99 coping skills, organized into 8 categories. Feel free to print, screenshot or bookmark this list and use the table of contents to find specific ones later.

Acts of Service

  1. Volunteer for a local event.
  2. Donate money to a charity or non-profit.
  3. Babysit for a family member or friend.
  4. Donate clothes or other personal items to a charity, non-profit, or friend.
  5. Deliver a meal to a family or person in need.
  6. Host/entertain guests for an event at your home.

Anger Management

  1. Scream into a pillow.
  2. Punch a pillow or punching bag.
  3. Write a letter, then throw it away.
  4. Resolve the conflict.
  5. Write in a journal.
  6. Cry it out.
  7. Take a few deep breaths.
  8. Squeeze a stress ball.
  9. Call a trusted friend or family member.

Creative Hobbies

  1. Practice a favorite hobby.
  2. Dance to a favorite song.
  3. Sing a song.
  4. Listen to music.
  5. Learn a new skill.
  6. Start a blog.
  7. Make a vlog of your day (save it for later or post on YouTube).
  8. Play an instrument.
  9. Go to a local painting class.
  10. Make your own t-shirt.
  11. Make your own candle.
  12. Learn dance choreography.
  13. Start a DIY home project.
  14. Write a poem.
  15. Do sidewalk chalk art.
  16. Visit a museum.
  17. Go to a local pottery class.

Depression and Anxiety

  1. Read your bible.
  2. Pray.
  3. Draw or color in a coloring book.
  4. Take a relaxing bath/shower.
  5. Light a scented candle.
  6. Take a break from social media.
  7. Listen to an inspirational speech or audiobook.
  8. Download a mental health app.
  9. Schedule a therapy session.
  10. Play with a fidget toy.
  11. Blow bubbles.
  12. Take a self-defense class.

Just for Fun

  1. Read a fiction book.
  2. Watch a movie.
  3. Watch a TV series on your favorite streaming service.
  4. Play a game (board game, video game, gaming app, etc).
  5. Create a vision board (using Pinterest or cut-out pictures).
  6. Do a jigsaw puzzle.
  7. Take a (solo) weekend trip.
  8. Do some online shopping or window shopping.
  9. Take an online course.
  10. Watch your favorite YouTube Channel.
  11. Plan a vacation/stay-cation agenda.
  12. Flip through old photo albums or yearbooks.
  13. Make silly faces in the mirror until you make yourself laugh.
  14. Do a fun (but safe) science experiment.
  15. Snuggle with your pet(s).
  16. Hold a baby.
  17. Listen to a podcast.
  18. Make a workout playlist.
  19. Make a road-trip/travel playlist.
  20. Hug a significant other or friend.
  1. Get a new haircut/hairstyle.
  2. Update your makeup routine/get your makeup done.

Organizational Skills

  1. Develop a cleaning schedule for your home.
  2. Organize your desk space, closet, etc.
  3. Get a planner and use it to manage your weekly schedule.
  4. Rearrange or redecorate a space in your home.
  5. Create a prayer room or space in your home.
  6. Switch to a new task to limit burnout.
  7. Only check email once per day (or less).

Outdoor Activities

  1. Go for a nature walk/hike.
  2. Visit a local park.
  3. Go for a drive around town.
  4. Go for a bike ride.
  5. Step outside for some fresh air.
  6. Go swimming.
  7. Do some gardening.
  8. Go to the beach.
  9. Go to the mountains.
  10. Play in the rain.
  11. Fly a kite.
  12. Jump on a trampoline.
  13. Visit a local zoo.
  14. Go fishing/hunting.

Self-care Activities

  1. Do a light workout.
  2. Write down or recite positive affirmations.
  3. Take a nap.
  4. Write a gratitude list.
  5. Buy fresh flowers or plants for your home.
  6. Do light stretches.
  7. Get a massage.
  8. Get a manicure, pedicure, facial, or other beauty treatment.
  9. Give yourself an at-home manicure, pedicure, or facial.
  10. Develop a night-time self-care routine.
  11. Plan your meals and snacks for the week.
  12. Drink at least 8 cups of water every day.

Main Takeaways: 99 Coping Skills

Which of these coping mechanisms sounds most appealing to you? Are there any others you would add to this list? Share in the comments below!

And while there is no guarantee that you won’t still use food to cope with your emotions at any given moment, I pray that this inspires you to seek other means of coping that truly help you to live out your version of The Joyfully Nourished Life!

Hey there!

If you enjoyed this blog post and want to learn more about my anti-dieting approach to living your best life, sign up to join my email list (and get a FREE 9-step guide) here!

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Much love, friends! 


Julia Noel, founder of the joyfully nourished life, in red dress in a white kitchen

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