build life skills

Several life skills important to maintaining mental wellness include communication, coping skills, and conflict resolution. Building and improving upon these skills help us navigate every-day social situations and handle difficult life circumstances.

Effective Communication

Communicating effectively with others deepens our social connections, which are are vital to our mental health and wellness.

  • Improve Conflict Management 

Misunderstanding and confusion as a result of poor communication skills can lead to conflict. Effective communication skills can help mitigate conflict.

  • Communication Skills Can Be Learned COMM. 

Communicating effectively with others takes effort and practice. Over time, your ability to interact and understand the intentions of others will lead to improved personal and professional relationships.

  • Engaged Listening 
    • Listen to understand not just to hear- this can build deeper connections with others.
    • Avoid interrupting and turning the focus on your concerns.
    • Focus on the speaker, avoid your phone.
    • Set aside judgement.
    • Express interest in what they are saying.
  • Managing Stress In The Moment 
    • Stay in control of your emotions when communicating with others.
    • If you recognize stress, pause to collect your thoughts and avoid saying something you’ll regret later. Postpone a conversation if needed.
    • Look for humor in the situation when appropriate to lighten the mood or release the tension.
  • Nonverbal Communication
    • Facial expressions, body movement, gestures, eye contact, posture, tone of voice, muscle tension and breathing all play a role in communication.
    • Pay attention to how you deliver and read other’s body language.
    • Be aware of differences (culture, gender, emotional states).
    • Use body language that gives off a positivity.
  • Asserting Yourself In a Respectful Way 
    • Assertive communication, not to be confused with aggressive communication, can improve decision-making and self-esteem.
    • Express your values, but avoid infringing on others’.
    • Express negative thoughts, but be respectful.
    • Be able to receive good and bad feedback.
    • Recognize the other side of an argument then make your point.
    • Assertiveness takes practice. Start in low risk situations.

Conflict Resolution

What do we know about conflict?

  • Conflict is normal and can be an opportunity for growth.
  • Conflict arises from people’s differing needs, perceptions, values. and  beliefs.
  • Avoiding conflict can threaten our mental health and well-being.
  • There are both healthy and unhealthy responses to conflict.
  • Your ability to manage stress and emotions  affects your ability to manage conflict.
  • Strong emotional awareness is key to building effective conflict resolution skills.

6 tips to conflict resolution

1. Listen for what is felt as well as said.

  • Listen with the intent of hearing everything the other person has to say.
  • Give the other person your undivided attention.
  • Make eye contact.
  • Do not interrupt.
  • Pay attention to THEIR needs, concerns, hopes, fears.

2. Make conflict resolution the priority rather than winning or being right.

  • Be respectful of the other person.
  • Remember the end goal is to find a solution that is best for both parties.
  • Brainstorm and list possible solutions to a problem before taking concrete action.

3. Focus on the present.

  • When possible, avoid dredging up past problems. Doing so may cloud your ability to grasp the reality of the current situation.
  • Take a “here and now” approach to the problem.

4. Pick your battles.

  • Resolving conflicts can be draining.
  • You may need to decide which issues you really care about and focus on your energy on those.

5. Be willing to forgive.

  • The ability to forgive makes conflict resolution possible.
  • You must be able to release the urge to punish or seek revenge.

6. Know when to let something go.

  • If a disagreement cannot be reached, it’s ok to let go, disengage, and move on.

Why We Need Coping Skills 

Life is full of hardships and problems, both large and small, serious and not so serious. Positive coping skills allow us to navigate our way through tough personal and interpersonal  challenges. The better we are at coping (or the more resilient we are), the better chance we have of minimizing emotional distress which can negatively affect our long-term health and quality of life.

People cope differently and different situations require different coping techniques.​ The more coping techniques you have available, the better able you are to handle a variety of stressors.​ Ineffective coping can lead to depression, substance abuse, burnout, etc.

Active Coping: Eliminate or deal with problem to reduce distress example: stressed about a test…so you study for the test or call a friend to vent.

Avoidant Coping: ​Avoid dealing with a stressor and ignore emotions example: stressed about a test…so you get drunk or withdraw from friends.

Coping Skills

Negative Coping Behaviors (Avoid these)

  • Isolating yourself from friends/family
  • Using drugs or excessive amounts of alcohol
  • Ignoring or suppressing your feelings and emotions
  • Aggressive, violent, or reckless behavior
  • Being too hard on yourself
  • Eating too much or too little
  • Avoiding the problem

Positive Coping Skills (Practice these)

  • Taking care of yourself; eat well, exercise, sleep
  • Talking with your friends, family, a counselor- talk to a real person
  • Taking a break from stress by doing something relaxing
  • Recognizing when more help is needed/accepting help
  • Volunteering or supporting someone else in need
  • Keeping a normal routine- continue to work or go to school