How to cope

Posted on Jan 3, 2013 in Self Help |

How to cope

Sometimes it’s hard to cope.  Life can be tough and it helps if you have some strategies you can use in difficult times.

It’s important to remember that everyone faces challenges at some time during their life.  Some people have times when they have to overcome several challenges at a time when their resources are low.  It is important to recognise that it’s tough, and to be kind and comfort yourself when things go wrong or you’re feeling emotional.

There are three primary strategies for coping in difficult times: you can distract yourself; you can relax; and you can talk.


When you start to feel upset you can distract yourself.  Some things that people might do is clean the house, go for a walk, watch a favourite TV programme (especially a comedy), call a friend, play with an animal, sort out a cupboard, make a hot drink, go to the gym.  Distraction involves taking some action, rather than sitting still.  If you sit still it is easy to dwell on what is happening, but making your body move helps to reduce the thinking and feelings. It’s important to take some action even if you don’t feel like it at the time.

What do you already do, or what could you do to distract yourself?


It is important to be able to relax.  If you are feeling emotional you can get tense and exhausted.  Some ways that people relax are: taking a warm bubble bath, reading a book, going outside, walking a dog, having a massage, learning mediation or any of your favourite things that make you feel a little better.  Some people find colouring relaxing or maybe you have a hobby or pastime you enjoy.

Another way to relax is to sit or lie quietly and remember a favourite place or a happy memory.  Let the picture come into your mind and let yourself be taken back to that time.  It is helpful if you not only remember the pictures but also remember any sounds, and what you could feel/touch and smell.  This is called visualisation and if you practice you will find that the images and the relaxing sensations come to you more quickly.

Some people like to wrap themselves in a warm blanket and some like to go into a quiet place.  You need to find what works for you.

What do you already do, or what could you do to feel relaxed and comfortable?


We often talk to ourselves, or have thoughts about what is happening and the way we are feeling.  When you are feeling upset or low it is easy to get into a particular way of thinking that sometimes isn’t very encouraging or helpful.  Sometimes when you are feeling better you can see that what you were telling yourself made you feel worse.  It is helpful to put together some sentences of things you can tell yourself to help you to feel better.  Some people use the following:

It will pass.

Everyone has bad days.

I have people who care about me.

Today will be a good day.

I am a nice person

I have survived

I am strong enough to get over this

I can do it

It’s OK

What words can you tell yourself to feel better?

When you are feeling upset or down it can be especially hard to remember these.  You might want to write them on a card and keep it with you as a reminder.  Say them out loud to yourself (even if you find it difficult to believe them at the time).  Some people like to keep a diary or journal of how they feel.  The book can become their best friend to tell their troubles and secrets to.

Find someone that you can talk to.  They could be your partner, friend or a family member or your GP.  Some people prefer to talk to someone independent, and using the resources of a counsellor can be helpful.

It is helpful to start using the strategies as soon as you notice that you are starting to feel bad.  For example it might be helpful to use a number help you notice the times when you feel a little better.  You might feel a zero when you are completely relaxed and not at all troubled and 10 when you are overwhelmed with the feelings.  Ask yourself ‘what number do I feel now?’ and if you start to notice the numbers going up start using your coping strategies to bring the numbers down again.  Don’t wait until you are feeling an 8 or 9 to start to do things to make yourself feel better.  Over time you will get better at noticing when you are starting to feel bad, and you might notice what starts or triggers it.  You will also be able to notice how you can help the numbers to come down by using some of the strategies.  This gives you the chance to take control.

Remember that when you are feeling overwhelmed it is difficult to remember what you can do to feel better.  Make a list so that you have lots of choices and keep it somewhere you can easily find it.  Some people use their phone, or stick to the back of a door.

Having a plan of things you can do to help you cope in difficult times, can get you through.