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Building a Coping Skills Toolbox

Use a Coping Skills Toolbox When Times Get Tough


Updated June 30, 2014

If you are struggling with symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD), one of the best things you can do for yourself is to build a coping skills toolbox. What exactly is a coping skills toolbox? It’s a collection of various healthy coping skills that you can draw from when you are really distressed.

The Goals of the Coping Skills Toolbox

The goal of having a coping skills toolbox is to have a list of many different kinds of coping skills so that when you are in intense distress you have lots of options. Too often, when we are in distress, we run out of ideas and resort to unhealthy habits (e.g., impulsive behavior or self-harm).

If you have a list of many coping skills, most of which you have actually practiced, you can keep the list accessible. In times of grave distress, when you feel you have nowhere else to turn, take out your coping skills toolbox list. Try one skill from the list. That didn’t work? Try the next one. Keep going until you have exhausted the list or your urges to do something destructive have passed.

Building Your Coping Skills Toolbox

To build a coping skills toolbox, you first need to make a list of healthy coping skills. This is easier said than done— maybe you can only think of one healthy coping skill that you’ve practiced in the past.

No problem- check out the articles below to help you make your list. Ideally, you will start with a list of at least five coping skills, and you will expand the list over time.

Now Practice, Practice, Practice!

Now that you’ve made a list of coping skills from lots of different coping domains, the key is to practice. If a skill is completely unfamiliar to you, you are unlikely to be able to pick it up and use it successfully if you are in a really touch emotional place. But, if you practice each skill when you are only mildly or moderately distressed, it will become a familiar source of comfort.


Linehan, MM. "Skills Training Manual for Treating Borderline Personality Disorder." New York: Guilford Press, 1993.

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