Coping Skills for Difficult Times

coping skills

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Bad things happen all the time and to everybody around us. More often than not we deal with these situations and carry on with our lives, allowing the power of time and our arsenal of coping skills to do its job. But every now and again the situations in which we find ourselves become overwhelming. The intensity is unbearable and coping with these difficult times feels impossible.

The Worst thing has Happened

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OK! So the worse thing has happened. No matter how much you begged, prayed, bargained… still happened.

  • Heartbreak – partner has left you after 20 years
  • Death – husband has died from a stroke
  • Illness – the dreaded diagnosis Of the “Big C”
  • Crime – a family member has just been arrested and charged with attempted murder
  • Debt – your gambling has spiraled and you owe £10,000
  • Failure – a business decision has gone horribly wrong

How can this be your life now? It’s unrecognisable and so difficult to process. Your coping skills feel utterly useless. You no longer know who you are, how you fit, how to move forward. Everything has changed, this wasn’t the plan you had for yourself or your loved ones. From your bubble of despair, you look around at other people feeling isolated and alone – grief-stricken.

A New Reality

Losing something or someone emotes a myriad of symptoms:

  • Shock
  • Overwhelming sadness
  • Exhaustion
  • Anger
  • Guilt

Advice is out there for you when you finally manage to drag yourself back into some semblance of this new reality – weapons to add to your arsenal of coping skills for difficult times:

  • Talking – to friends, family, health professionals, support organisations
  • Mindfulness/Relaxation/NLP/Meditation
  • Community apps
  • Healthy eating plans
  • Moderate exercise routines, yoga
  • Limiting alcohol
  • Getting enough sleep/How to improve your sleep
  • Treating yourself in a positive way

There will come a point when you realise that acceptance is your only way forward. It’s time to adjust to this new life with its unexpected circumstances. Making something worthwhile out of your painful experience will help to build you back up stronger and wiser and better equipped to cope with life’s ups and downs. With this new set of life coping skills developed during your own time of trauma, you will no doubt become the ‘port in a storm’ for friends and family who will inevitably turn to you when their own pain becomes unbearable and they need to connect with others, who like you, have learned to build resilience in troubled times. You now have so much of value to offer to those in need and will no doubt be in much demand as a valued confidant and trusted friend.


Any life crisis within a family can impact so differently on individuals depending on who has the problem, what the situation is and how the dynamics of your unique family situation manifest. Our family has been through a variety of difficult times as I’m sure many others have as well. My son was recently diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, a manageable situation – but initially very scary when he was in a state of ketoacidosis.

As differently as we each react to a problem we each have our own tried and tested ways of getting ourselves and each other through. Yes, we have our times of completely rubbing each other up the wrong way, promising to change or be more considerate of each other’s needs but generally, the family unit can be a great comfort. However, when the current crisis is fresh and raw, pounding in your head, refusing to give you a break – time out following your own prescriptive strategies can be a comforting distraction as you try to come to terms with what is.

What Coping Skills Work for You

Dad hates to talk about it until he is ready. Will do if pressed but ends up angry and exhausted. He needs distracting from his thoughts, television, radio, football, anything that will block the impact of the problem until bit by bit he is ready to deal with things in his own sweet time – Needs space to process.

Mum completely unable to switch off the incessant stream of thoughts. Constantly reflecting on the past and projecting into an imagined future breading dread and fear. Has a need to talk things over and over. Needs to find the right person to listen or spread the burden over a select few. Finds comfort in self-help books/apps, meditation, exercise. Often walks for miles with podcasts playing either as a help or distraction.


Try to focus on the present moment and find reasons to be grateful. We all find ourselves in situations where our coping skills will be tested to their limits. As we continue to grow and develop we learn new skills and different ways of coping.

Final Thought – The University of Surrey has found that birdsong is a natural antidote to stressful times. It is a brilliant way to pull you back into the present moment. Whilst out in nature suddenly to be aware of the natural sounds around you helps you to realise you’ve been lost somewhere in your head again – stay focused and present as they sing their songs to you. You’ll feel soothed and comforted.

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coping skills

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