How to Cope With Anything

Two Parts:Preparing AheadCoping with an Existing Bad Situation

In your darkest hours, you can learn the greatest lessons. There is a ray of hope that a bad situation can get better, and if you realize this, then you are way ahead of the game. As long as there is hope of something better to come, you can cope with whatever comes your way. Remember––no matter how hard, this too shall pass.

Part 1
Preparing Ahead

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    Prepare yourself ahead of time. You don't know what bad things might befall you in the future, there is no crystal ball or certainty. However, you can plan and prepare yourself for the possibilities that happen in life, in a way that is sensible, measured and careful. There is no need to stock an entire garage with food supplies for the apocalypse but a decent shelf's worth of canned food for the next possible flood or earthquake displays common sense in knowing the lay of the land where you live, the potential problems that might arise, and so on.
    • Other things you could do is to pack a bag of supplies if you know you might be whisked off to hospital for a medical condition, put in smoke alarms to guard against a fire, write a will so that your family doesn't end up squabbling in the event of your death, block entry to rats so they don't end up chewing your cables, teach your kids street sense so they don't get run over, have a budget to prevent overspending, and so on.
    These are sensible precautions, a form of readiness that you do have control over, so that when a difficult situation arises, you are at least somewhat prepared and have thought about what needs to be done next. If you are more interested in partying away and thinking someone else will mop up after the problem hits, then you are more likely to be unprepared and unable to cope. Everyone has a duty to think responsibly about the future.
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    Accept that things change quickly. That is part of what it means to be alive. One week you're employed, cuddling a spouse and chilling out on your porch; the next week you're unemployed, visiting your spouse in hospital and ringing repair workers for fixing the collapsed porch. You could excuse it by saying that "things happen for a reason" but really, things just happen and they need dealing with as best you can rather than bemoaning the fates of the world. Accepting that bad things will happen along with the benign and the good will give you a sense of proportion and readiness for what may come. Acceptance can also help to give you the strength to know that you can cope, do your best to pull through and recreate a new normal.
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    Think through how you deal with challenges. Life can turn around suddenly and create major changes, so take some time to think about how you would work through a sudden change in events, emotionally and mentally, financially and physically. Think about past events you found challenging, difficult and terrible. What happened to you then? How did you respond or react to it? Did you fix things or did you wait for someone else to do that? This may depend on your age. If something bad happened in childhood, your parents probably fixed it, but you may have learned by observing what they did, as to what is worth repeating or not should it happen to you as an adult. Or, maybe you leaned too heavily on a spouse, a co-worker, a boss or someone else last time––what would you differently next time, if you had the opportunity to take the lead and fix things? Thinking through these scenarios and how you would respond next time helps you to build an internal memory base for better coping mechanisms next time, even if it's just a resolution to stay calmer.
    • Realize that drama changes nothing and heightens the fear. Running about screaming, wailing and crying about things going wrong may feel cathartic but when it is all that happens, it changes nothing. Being dramatic may attract attention initially but it quickly irritates the very people who could be of help to you, so it's not an answer to dealing with anything.
    • Look for patterns in bad situations. You may encounter something completely new that is bad and unfortunate but there are likely to be some familiar things that can help you to deal with any situation, drawing on how you dealt with a similar bad situation in the past.
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    Work on your flexibility. If you are someone who is wed to routine, accumulation and everything always staying the same, it is probable that a change in events will be much harder for you to cope with than a person who is far more flexible about routine and is less fussed about change. This doesn't mean that you have to change your whole personality; it simply means that learning to bend a little when there is change can serve you well, and can remove some of the fear associated with loss and change. Perhaps read books about change management and coping with change, to help you work on any issues related to change.
    • An inflexible person will often find difficult situations cause them to snap and break, because things aren't as they "should be". The world is indifferent to how you'd prefer life to be and while you can make the world suit you when the times are good, this attitude won't apply when things aren't going your way. It's at this point that embracing the change and being flexible about the possibilities can prevent such snapping and breaking. As the saying says, "go with the flow" and you might find things easier.

Part 2
Coping with an Existing Bad Situation

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    Trust yourself. First and foremost, trust that you will find a way to figure out any given situation, no matter how challenging it is already or will become. No matter how difficult that it may get, no matter how many things may go wrong, no matter who might leave you, no matter who turns on you and says that you are no good or whatever, know that you have the ability to turn it all around and survive. You will get through this, things will change but a renewed life is ahead of this hard time.
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    Get plenty of sleep. This may sound laughable if you're tossing and turning every night with worry but it is important because the human mind doesn't think clearly when tired. Snatch naps here and there if a solid night's rest is eluding you; don't be ashamed to nap, as it's a safety valve, especially in times of deep stress.
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    Keep clear in your mind that you are responsible for your own life. No matter how hard the situation is and how much others are pulling the strings, cutting off the finances, pushing you around, and so forth, you have the freedom within to protect yourself and to keep looking for the good in people who can help and who will not make things worse for you. Alice Hertz-Sommer, who was a survivor of a concentration camp during World War Two, said that: "I look at the good. When you are relaxed, your body is always relaxed. When you are pessimistic, your body behaves in an unnatural way. It is up to us whether we look at the good or the bad. When you are nice to others, they are nice to you. When you give, you receive."[1] Find ways in which can you look for the good.
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    Look for a silver lining. It may be covered by the cloud but there is usually something for you to cling to, to learn from, to let go of. In time you will see something useful in the way of learning come out of this. It may not necessarily be good (although it could be) but it will inform you and give you the experience to know how to move forward and how to cope in the future. In some cases, it may instill you to make the most of life, in ways you'd never even considered before.
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    Adjust your attitude to cope with what life has brought you. Right now it may seem your life is the worst thing in the world but later down the road you may see the wisdom in what happened. Remind yourself that ranting, screaming and raging about it won't change anything but will upset you constantly, along with those around you. Take that anger, frustration and fear and try to do something positive about your situation instead.
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    Believe and expect something better will come to you and have confidence in a future event. Then do something active to make it so, don't just sit there and hope affirmations will solve the matter. Fill out forms, call politicians, talk to the bank manager, sell your car and catch the bus, confer with the doctor, research possible cures, connect with neighbors, downsize, etc.––do whatever it takes to turn this bad situation into something tolerable, to take it toward an outcome over which you have at least some control because you made an effort, tried to do something positive. Realize that regaining control is a combination of faith, action and realism, and that each of these has a role to play together.
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    Trust that those you love will help you to get there. They may well be experiencing the bad situation along with you, and each person will be coping in their own way, be it helpful or not. Recognize the pain and difficulties of others and support them; often this helps to put your own situation into perspective and will remind you that perhaps you're not the worst off after all. Moreover, helping others is a way of distancing yourself from the center of the action and is an ideal way of coping or at least giving yourself a break from constant self reflection as to what might happen to you or how this will impact your future. Reaching out to others can help to remind you that human beings are meant to connect together and support one another and that there are other people out there who care.
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    Hang in there. Don't expect this to go on forever. Hard times come and go, just as the good times do. It feels terrible, deeply depressing and like wading through mud as it unfolds but if you can keep your head above that mud and your eye on the light in the distant tunnel, it will help you to keep moving toward the end point of this hard time, helping you to grow stronger with each passing moment.
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    Change the future. Take the actions necessary to make a promising future. Some ideas were discussed above, in relation to shoring up your hope with action. Other things you can do now include seeing a budget adviser, getting your own health seen to or the health of a loved one, searching for a job, investing in something for the future, preparing a will, stockpiling emergency gear, paying off a mortgage, changing jobs, and so on. Look at it from the point of view of what is not working right now, what brought you to this brick wall and tossed you over the boat, then work from those reasons to set in place approaches that will avoid the same circumstances from arising again in future. Lesson learned, now act on it.
    • If it concerns loss of a loved one, the lessons are likely to do with health and safety. Ensure that you and your family take good care of their health, notice early warning signs, drive more carefully, and so forth. If the loss has a genetic factor, you can get good gene testing to know what might be an issue and learn how to manage it within your family. It may also help to talk to a counselor to deal with the aftermath of the loss.
    • If it concerns loss of property, what can you do to better protect your home, shed, goods, etc. next time? Perhaps rebuild a fire-resistant house, lock your jewels in the bank or use this as an opportunity to own less things that drag you down.
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    Think of how you want things to be and make an effort to make the changes for the better happen. Maybe you wanted a successful marriage and your husband left you for another. This time decide that you will have a successful marriage with the right person. Mr. Wrong had to leave so Mr. Right could come in. Or, maybe you need to address unrealistic expectations of what marriage is before you feel ready to spend time with someone in such close proximity again. Don't rush ahead until you have worked out what didn't work out the first time.
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    Hold on to your dreams. If you are the sort of person to have a big dream, don't let go of it. Instead, use the bad experience to inform you about what not to do and steer clear of the pitfalls. You might need to make adjustments to the extent of your dream, especially if it turned out to be unrealistic or unobtainable. Then, keep working on it until your dream arrives.
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    Keep trying until you break through the bad situations in life. In the end what truly will matter is the love you shared, the people you stayed connected with and the good you tried to inject into the world, even in times of difficulties and even if it was for a short period of time. You will make a better life, just look hard for that glimmer of light and hope. Even though it may be dull, it is there, awaiting your ignition.


  • Read stories about people who have survived adversity and who have had survival experiences against all the odds. How did these people cope and what were their thinking processes? You can adapt the thinking processes they have explained to suit your own personality, to allow you to cope better when the chips are down.

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Categories: Stress Anxiety and Crisis Management