My mental health coping skills (and a story!)


I read a post that James, the creator of this blog, wrote a few days ago. He listed out his top coping skills and how they’ve helped him navigate through various challenges. Today, I will be listing my top coping skills; but first, a background story.


Two weeks ago, I was excited for the upcoming Memorial Day holiday. I was only supposed to work a half day that Friday before leaving for the three day weekend. Fifteen minutes before I was supposed to leave, the HR person called me into her office. She began by explaining that the agency was continuing to experience some financial issues and that a decision was made to eliminate my position as a result. I was laid off with two weeks severance pay.

My top coping skills

  1. Giving myself time to process before reacting: As I listened to the HR person explain the lay off, I’m pretty sure my brain went into auto pilot. I was somehow able to communicate as if the sudden loss of income wasn’t an issue. I packed up my office and texted my wife the simple message, “I just got laid off.” I knew right away that I needed to allow myself to enjoy the long weekend as planned before beginning the job search. Living with an anxiety disorder, my tendency is to react rather than respond; however, this usually leads to me making impulsive decisions, becoming very anxious, and/or experiencing increased panic attacks. Allowing time for it to sink in was best.
  2. Positive self-talk/ reframing: I also sent an email to my licensure supervisor (a person who oversees my clinical work until I get my full counseling license) notifying her of the lay off. When she asked, “what happened?” I was able to state the facts while also becoming aware of the positives of the situation. First, I hated my job and dreaded going to work every day. Recently, I’ve been having more panic attacks than usual and there is no doubt that my job was a primary trigger. I reframed this lay off as an opportunity to find something better. I reminded myself of my strengths and talents. This gave me the confidence that I would need to go out and find a better job. Also, two weeks of severance pay? What I heard was, “two weeks paid vacation!”
  3. Music: Music has always been a coping skill for me even before I knew what a coping skill was. It’s a chance to listen to someone else’s story, to relate, and to turn your mind off for a while. My go-to album as I drove home from the office that day was The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.
  4. Binge watching TV: Being that I was temporarily unemployed, I had a lot more time at my disposal. While I don’t recommend making binge watching a lifestyle, there are times when it’s therapeutic. Like music, diving into someone else’s story is a way to take your mind off of your situation, to laugh, and to pass some time. Ugly Betty is my go-to TV show for any occasion.
  5. Exercise: I’ve written in the past about how exercise is a great mental health coping skill. In fact, as I write this, I’m on a stationary bike at the gym. Exercise makes me feel energized and confident.
  6. Sleep: Sleep is something I have been trying to make a priority in recent months. I’ve noticed that my anxiety and mood are best managed when I’m operating on at least 8 hours of sleep.
  7. Blogging: One of the things that I disliked about my job is that I was underutilized. I’m trained in mental health but would often be left with a lot of idle time. That is actually why I started my blog, Perfectly Imperfect. It was a way for me to interact with the mental health community. In the idle time at work, I was able to write several posts that not only gave me something to do, they made my idle time more meaningful. Being able to talk about things that I’m passionate about has been very therapeutic for me. In the past two weeks, I’ve used some time to interact with the WordPress community, to share ideas, and to get new ideas. It’s been great.


Obviously coping skills alone didn’t make my problem of new-found unemployment go away. After allowing myself the three day weekend to chill and to process the situation, I hit the ground running on Tuesday. I applied to a ton of mental health positions on Indeed. Fortunately for me, being a black male in the mental health profession is helpful trait in securing employment (There are very few mail POC clinicians and therapists where I live). Within 24 hours of starting my job search, I was on my way to an interview. I got several interviews last week and this week. When it was all said and done, I accepted a clinical director position that conveniently starts right as my two weeks of severance pay runs out. Oh yeah, and the job pays $10k more annually than my last job! I knew from the beginning that the lay off was an opportunity for me to find something better. I am grateful that I was able to find a job so quickly without any financial disruption, as I know this isn’t the norm.


As always, thanks for reading! This is the first time that I’ve shared about the lay off situation in writing and it was helpful to both process the past two weeks while sharing the coping skills that have been most helpful to me. Feel free to comment below.

Photo credit: Zyon, my dog. He’s enjoyed having me home during the day, as he’s usually alone while my wife and I are at work.

18 thoughts on “My mental health coping skills (and a story!)

  1. Pingback: A guest blog I wrote: My mental health coping skills (and a story!) – Perfectly Imperfect

  2. Johnzelle, what a great post. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. It’s so great to hear about others overcoming challenges just like you shared. So glad you got a new, better position!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Loved the way you bounced back. 🙂 After readig your post my first reaction was- “In India there is a severe shortage of traied metal health professionals (the competent ones are high in demand), and there they were beig laid off?”. Congrats on your new journey. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: I quit my job and I’ll tell you why – Perfectly Imperfect

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