A Toolbox of Creative Coping Skills to Combat Mental Illness

April 25, 2013 Natalie Jeanne Champagne

A toolbox of creative coping skills can make mental illness recovery easier. It used to be that when I pictured a toolbox, two images come to mind: My toolbox full of art supplies which is used often and the toolbox sitting in storage. It contains hammers and nails and other strange things. But now I think of a toolbox in a new way. A toolbox of creative coping skills is a collection of ideas that we can use to combat, and learn to live with, mental illness.

Why is it Important to Have Creative Coping Skills?

We each have different needs and our recovery is unique to us, but we share the same goal: to recover from mental illness and maintain stability.

Let's explore why creative coping skills are so important. . .

  • Mental Illness will always be part of our lives. Even when it is in remission we need to take care of ourselves and work to maintain remission. Having creative coping skills and using self-care, can make this possible.
  • Having creative coping tools makes us feel more secure. If we start to falter, if our mood changes, being able to recognize this and having things we can do to help ourselves allows us to feel more in control. Living with a mental illness often makes us feel as if we have little or no control. That's a scary feeling.
  • Relapse is often connected to life changes. Having tools to help us when life throws us curve-balls is important.
  • It keeps us accountable. What do I mean by this? If we have a mental illness and do not have tools, self-care practices, it's easy to forget that we need to take care of ourselves.
  • Once we figure out what works best for us, we can share this information--this "toolbox"--with our mental health team and those most important in our life.

Now, let's talk about some creative coping skills and tools we can use to maintain or find mental health stability. Keep an open mind and feel free to laugh if you find an idea or two--or all--a little ridiculous. But give them a shot--you have nothing to lose.

Creative Approaches to Stay Sane

I want to stick to the metaphor here: Picture a toolbox and think about what you would put in it. What would work to ensure you stay well? More specifically, think outside of the box! PS sorry for the bad pun.

A few creative ideas to throw in the box:

Pick up a pen, a pencil, even crayons if you want, and draw! Yes, as if you were a child. Or a high paid artist if that helps. Picture what your mental illness looks like and then, starting on a new piece of paper, draw what you believe recovery looks like.

This may seem silly, but the approach is often used in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and can be successful. It allows us to visualize what we cannot see. Mental illness is invisible but viewing it, making it real, can help us understand how we feel about it--we can learn to accept it.

Scour your CD collection. Go through all of the music you um "pirated", or the vinyl you keep in storage, and piece together songs that define recovery for you. Songs that make you smile. Listen to this when life gets rocky.

Make a list of things you like about yourself. These can be physical attributes but should, primarily, be based on your personality and intellect! Mental Illness can make us feel worthless and undeserving. Taking some time to remember why we are special, deserving of love, puts things in perspective.

Watch some silly movies! I used to cringe when told that watching a funny movie would lift my mood but sometimes it does, and "sometimes" is better than not at all. I would give you some movie recommendations, but I'm not sure many people would find the appeal in movies like "Superbad" and "The Hangover."

I would be remiss if I did not mention traditional self-care practices: eating well, sleeping well, exercising, sticking to a schedule, seeing your doctor and not isolating yourself. And on and on. And, well, on.

These things are important and we need to practice them but it becomes boring, tedious, and having some creative and sort of fun approaches to recovery is, well, sort of fun.

What creative approaches do you take to recover from mental illness?

APA Reference
Jeanne, N. (2013, April 25). A Toolbox of Creative Coping Skills to Combat Mental Illness, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 23 from

Author: Natalie Jeanne Champagne

April, 29 2013 at 3:15 pm

As someone dealing with mental health issues, I started a blog called the Smile Project. It's a tool that originally was for depression but anyone can do it. Find the things that make you smile and then post them. Then when you have a bad day you can look back on your smiles. It helps to get you to focus and something to look forward to.

Isaac Sarayiah
April, 29 2013 at 3:29 am

I believe in solving problems at the root cause because then they can never come back and haunt you. If you are feeling low then that is how you are feeling and you shouldn't mask that, as that only causes much deeper problems further down the line. Of course it is important to deal with the problems that are making you feel like that if possible and to tell others how you are feeling.
I went through a very difficult time where I was highly suicidal. . . I never took medication and they tried to section me, but I was resolute in that medication would not solve the problem and only mask my feelings.
My article on what happened to me is called, "Suicide Blonde, " and the link is:

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

Natalie Jeanne Champagne
April, 29 2013 at 6:30 am

Major depression is more than just feeling low or sad.…
It is a serious mental illness that can lead to suicide. And just because you were fortunate enough to survive, it doesn’t mean others will have the same experience. There is no shame in taking medication and it does help many people.
Interestingly, people have no problem taking medication for physical medical issues. However, when it comes to mental illness, there are people who advocate that we should suffer through it; sometimes, with deadly consequences.
Thanks for the insightful comment Isaac,

April, 25 2013 at 9:02 am

Hi Natalie :) I created a CD with songs dealing with insanity. For example, I've got " Stoned Cold Crazy" and "I'm Going Slightly Mad"by Queen; "Entangled" and "Dance on a Volcano" by Genesis, among many others. I like to listen to the CD when I'm driving,or when I'm stressed or feeling a bit manic. It's a great way to have a little fun.

Leave a reply