Coping Skills Through the Senses

We seek to feel happy all the time, but in life we have to cope with other emotions sometimes - emotions that make us uncomfortable. We can’t always control our emotions, but there are things we can do to make ourselves feel better. These actions are called “coping.”

Some coping strategies have healthy outcomes and some are more unhealthy. For example, if you listen to music to feel better in a sad situation, it has positive effects in your brain, which leads to healthy results. If you eat too much pizza however, you might feel better at first, but then end up with a stomach ache later - that’s when it becomes unhealthy. Use the activities below with students to brainstorm using their senses all the healthy things that can be done to cope with uncomfortable feelings and situations.

Elementary & Secondary

Instructions: This activity can be completed individually, in small groups or as a whole class discussion. 

  1. Using this worksheet, have students think of all the ways they can use their 5 senses to cope with difficult emotions. 
  2. Start with one of the senses. For example, reference the ears and have them think of all the things they can listen to that might make them feel better… maybe music, the sound of the birds, the sound of their dog coming to them, etc. 
  3. Do the same with all of the senses. 
  4. Have students share with friends and add to their list, if they like their friends’ ideas.
  5. The next time they're feeling upset, have them use this to find ways to make them feel better!

SEL Lesson - Responsible Decision-Making - Coping Through the Senses

Bonus Lesson for Secondary

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Coping

Instructions: This activity can be completed individually, and discussed in small groups or as a whole class discussion. 

  1. Have each student read and complete this worksheet provided by 
  2. Ask them the following questions:
    • What did you notice about your current coping skills?
    • What are the ‘healthy’ ways you’re coping? 
    • What are the barriers, or things getting in the way of using healthier coping skills? 
    • Who can you go to when you’re struggling to use healthy coping skills? 

Follow-Up Activity

Oftentimes, kids feel helpless in their situations and struggle to find alternative ways of coping. Leaning on their school community is a great way to brainstorm other ways of coping and strengthen their ties to their communities of support. Have students brainstorm a list of how the school community can help them.

Teacher Tips

We live in uncertain times and have been forced to remain flexible and attempt to adapt as best we can, again and again. How we cope and manage our own feelings of stress and frustration will drive the impact we have on students, academically, mentally, and emotionally. As we adapt to our changing society, it’s also crucial to consider and adapt the ways that we are coping. Join in on the coping activities with your students! There is also an additional resource here to further support your coping in uncertain times.