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WHAT ARE COPING CARDS & HOW DO I USE THEM?
There is often a lot of emphasis on the fact that the way we think impacts the way we feel. While this is true and significant, it is also important to note that the relationship between thoughts and emotions is a two-way street. In other words, how we feel impacts how we think. It is for this reason that it is often difficult to access helpful, more rational thoughts when we are feeling upset.
Coping cards allow us to prepare for this by writing down helpful coping statements ahead of time, so that we can read through these statements when we feel upset and would otherwise find it difficult to access helpful thoughts and ways of viewing situations. By including reminders about other helpful coping strategies on some of your cards, coping cards can also be used as prompts for engaging in additional coping strategies to further manage distress.
By personally developing or selecting our own cards, we are choosing to convey these messages to ourselves, which can often be more effective than hearing them from others.
I have included 30 coping card examples in this post (keep scrolling!) to help you start the process of developing your own collection of coping cards. You can download them to view for inspiration or to print out, but make sure to adjust them as needed to feel relevant for you. In other words, you may want to tweak the wording and make your own cards or you may choose not to use some of the example cards altogether.
You may also want to consider making your own handwritten cards (in addition to or in place of printing out the examples I have provided) because seeing the words written in your own handwriting may be more impactful for you when reading your cards.
There are no “rights” or “wrongs” when it comes to making coping cards. Just focus on what you think will be most helpful to you and know that you can always make changes (by adding new cards, getting rid of others, etc.) to try to enhance the effectiveness of using your coping cards.
You may start out with just a few coping cards, but remember that you can always add new cards to your collection. If a friend or family member says something that you find helpful or comforting, consider writing it on a new coping card. Instagram, pinterest, and self-help books can also be good sources of inspiration for coping cards. If you are in therapy, consider bringing a few blank cards with you to each session to write down any especially helpful messages from the session.
MAKING YOUR OWN COPING CARDS
I recommend using index cards and writing out one coping statement onto each card. If you don't have index cards handy, you can always use whatever paper you have available and cut it into smaller pieces if needed. You may opt to use all white cards or decide to use different card colors to represent different themes/topics; for example, you may have: yellow cards for motivational messages, blue cards for relaxation techniques and other strategies for managing anxiety, green cards for listing enjoyable activities and coping strategies for low or depressed mood, or purple cards for self affirmations.
To keep your cards all together and easy to look through, I recommend punching a hole in a corner of your cards and placing them onto a metal binder ring, or an extra key ring. This makes it easy to flip through your cards and read the coping statement on each one. Again, if you don’t have a binder ring or an extra key ring around your house, you can choose to purchase one or to use an alternative method, such as tying string through the holes or simply placing a rubber band around your cards.
The goal here is to keep your cards together and make it easy to flip through them. However you achieve that is up to you! Once you’ve made your coping cards, store them someplace that is easily accessible and that will support you in remembering to use them to cope when distressing emotions arise. Consider placing them in a coping box with other coping tools and ideas.
TO MAKE YOUR OWN COPING CARDS, YOU MAY FIND SOME OF THE FOLLOWING MATERIALS HELPFUL:
FREE PRINTABLE: 30 COPING CARDS
Printing Instructions: Each card is formatted to fit a 3"x5" area, but can be printed onto larger pages by selecting the appropriate paper size in printer settings. You also have the option to copy and paste the card images into another document to accommodate different page sizes and format multiple cards on a single page. Depending on your printer, you may also want to resize the images to avoid the border being cut off when printed.
*You are free to use these for your personal use and please share them with anyone you think may find them helpful. If you are a mental health professional, feel free to use this as a resource for clients. Any commercial use, however, is strictly prohibited. Please provide proper attribution if you share via social media or reference on another blog.