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Published on August 14, 2018

20 Coping Skills That Will Help You During Times of Stress

20 Coping Skills That Will Help You During Times of Stress

Few things in life are guaranteed, although I can be quite certain when I say:

  • Someone is going to really annoy you.
  • Someone is going to die and leave you feeling empty and unable to go on.
  • Something out of the blue is going to challenge you to the core of your humanity.
  • Something is going to breakdown and stop working at the most inopportune moment you could imagine.
  • You are going to spend money on something you really don’t want to.
  • You are going to be forced to do something you never thought you’d do.
  • You are going to face a challenge that feels completely soul destroying.

How can you know these things Mandie?

I hear you ask.

Well because as my dear Nan used to say “In every life a little rain must fall.” Looking back as I watched Nan cook a meal worthy of gods or any childhood dream sequence I know I used to struggle with what that saying meant.

Of course some rain must fall, we would die without water, I used to think.

However on the other side of childhood where bills, maintenance, insurance and other boring things exist, I’m pretty sure I get the true meaning of that saying.

The intriguing thing is that I’m a keen reader and find that so much in personal and professional development and in the pursuit of happiness is aimed at ensuring we don’t just have wellies, brollies and waterproofs, to protect us from the rain in life, but that we are so far removed from any wet stuff we can’t appreciate the damage that this polar opposite can also have on our positive existence.

I want to share with you some of the top coping skills for life that aren’t just good for the rainy days, they can have a serious impact on your life.

Into every life, some tough times appear, it is not the tough times that define us, it’s how we deal with them that does.

All very well having great sentiments like that; however when your car has broken down, you feel ill and can’t stop because deadlines are looming, your cat’s puked in your shoes, your phone won’t hold a charge, and they are making people redundant at work it can be hard to have the a positive “Can do” attitude.

Let’s look at what to do (And I promise to make these ideas easy to action, life changing if applied, fast and reliable. Promise):

1. Find it

    I’m a keen believer that if you can’t see what’s going on, I mean really see, then you can’t fix it. I’m often coaching a client who will walk in telling me that X is the issue when 20 minutes later we’ve delved into their minds and discovered that X was just a symptom of the problem.

    And as you probably know treating symptoms and not the actual problem rarely works. The real issue is left to carry on wrecking your health, happiness and mental well being.

    How does this apply in stressful situations? Have you ever had a friend that was pregnant, or you lost or gained weight, or realized that you were “suddenly” in this really bad habit of walking in the door at night and instantly grabbing a cold beverage?

    That didn’t just start, over time that gradually became more prominent. And when things sneak into our lives, be a beautiful baby bump or an unwanted 10lb, it didn’t just land on you overnight.

    2. Ask it

      So to find how you are coping with stressful situations, ask yourself some questions:

      • How do I feel right now on a scale of 1 to 10? (10 being awesome and 1 being awful)
      • Is there a pattern to the way I feel caused by my environment?
      • Is there a pattern to the way I feel caused by my beliefs?
      • Is there a pattern to the way I feel caused by my work?

      Take the time to process your response to these 4 questions. They could become powerful in every aspect of your life.

      3. Notice it

        When we become aware of our surroundings, our situation and the way they make us feel we need to learn to notice the impact of these things.

        Not to start moaning at ourselves and berating us for being lazy, thick, stupid, sloppy, etc, just to notice. Above is about noticing the patterns we create, and this skill is about noticing how it impacts on you.

        • How does it make you feel?
        • How does it make you act?
        • How does it make you behave?
        • How does it make you think?

        At this stage you don’t have to think, do, say or act any differently just notice what happens in stressful situations.

        4. Measure it

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          Peter Drucker famously says,[1]

          “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”

          Therefore when you start to notice how you feel, act and behave in stressful times and have understood more about the way it impacts on you, you are then in a position to create a benchmark graph[2].

          5. Be honest about it

            In stressful situations, we can find ourselves with our heads down in the proverbial sand, with our hands over our ears yelling “la, la, la, la, la”.

            While as kids that’s hilarious to watch kids do that, as we grow up it’s a bit of an ice cold slap in the face that not being honest doesn’t fix anything and stops us from changing things. Be honest as you create the above bench mark graph.

            Being honest is a powerful thing. When you’re honest with yourself, you raise self awareness and anyone looking to achieve anything in the 21st century is going to be determined to improve their own self awareness as we are starting to appreciate the power this can have.

            Although Tasha Eurich[3] shares some scary research on this. Tasha Eurich, author of Insight; Why we’ve not as self aware as we think and how seeing ourselves clearly helps us succeed at work and in life says in an interview for Harvard Business Review that “95% of people believe they’re self-aware, however only about 10-15% actually are.” Adding “The joke I always make is that on a good day, 80% of us are lying to ourselves about whether we’re lying to ourselves.”[4]

            6. Be honest to your world

              In stressful times, it is not just important to be honest to ourselves, it’s important that you’re honest to those that are in your world. Some find that they can do this in their personal life but wouldn’t dream of saying anything at work; whereas others bottle it all up, with a smile and a lie that says “I’m fine.”

              7. If you aren’t fine, say it.

                You don’t have to turn into a moaning black cloud of doom, but being honest helps you and other people.

                Showcasing your own limitations and stress can help other people to see the human that you are. We feel more connected to those that share honestly and are more likely to want to help them and at the very least probably less likely to add more to your work load.

                I worked with someone that was petrified that work would find out how much they were struggling with the work load. This is what the conversation went like (and I’m sharing it so you can ask yourself similar questions):

                Client: “I’m really struggling to hold it together.”

                Me: “Have you told anyone?”

                Client: “I can’t do that, it would be professional suicide. They’d be circling around me ready to pick the bones of my career in seconds.”

                Me: “Do you know that to be true?”

                Client: “It’s not worth the risk to find out.”

                Me: “So if you don’t say something, what are you agreeing to?”

                Client: “Feeling overwhelmed, stressed and about ready to quit.”

                Me: “And are you happy to stay there or would you like to be somewhere else?”

                Client: “Obviously somewhere else, but I can’t see how that’s possible.

                Me: “Are you prepared to explore where you would like to be and how to get there?”

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                You can guess the answer! And using the tools below, guess what they discovered?

                They weren’t alone! It was an issue throughout the department and changes were made for everyone. A bit of honesty can go along way!

                8. Change it

                  In stressful situations, the human being is pre-programmed to do everything in its power to escape the situation it finds itself in.

                  Fight or flight doesn’t really do this pre-programming justice. We are still alive because since the dawn of our time we’ve been able to adapt, change and escape situations that other species succumb to.

                  The issue is that we also fear change. I get more speaking engagements and corporate coaching gigs because people are struggling with change than possibly any other subject. The fact is while we can appreciate change can help in stressful situations, knowing and doing is not the same thing.

                  Ask yourself what could I change about this situation? (This is not what am I going to do, this is about making suggestions about what you could do.) And if they are the suggestions that have been rattling around in your head for the last few weeks, or keep you awake at night, they are less likely to be useful.

                  Really get in touch with your subconscious (and the good ideas) by asking:

                  “If money, time, skill, health, magic, beliefs or values weren’t factors in this situation what could I do?”

                  This enables your mind to explore some whacky ideas, however as Einstein (may have said) Creativity is intelligence having fun. And this exercise enables your mind to have some fun.

                  9. Can’t change it? Don’t.

                    I worked with a large organization that had been through massive change. Everyone had stepped up to the challenge, but everyone was really stressed. Those that were struggling the most kept reminding me that “it hadn’t always been like this”, and “the old way was a lot easier”.

                    Not all change can be controlled. And when we fight it, we can find ourselves escalating stress. Sometimes the most powerful thing you can do is learn to go with the flow.

                    If you don’t “choose” to go with the flow, ask yourself:

                    What are you agreeing to?

                    This questions enables you to see that you are going to get negative emotions, actions, conversations, damaged relationships and even health issues.

                    Change is sometimes dumped on us like a storm clouds contents, you could stand and moan at the storm cloud but it won’t stop you from getting wet.

                    10. Ask yourself: Are you creating it?

                      Some of life’s stresses are man made. And I’m not talking about someone else, I’m talking about you.

                      It is an ugly fact that none of us want to look at (so be brave) however have the strength to ask “Am I creating this stress?”

                      Remember to be honest. And let the answers come to you.

                      11. Know that sh*t happens

                        First spotted in the 60’s, this has been a famous saying since at least the 80’s, why? Because stuff does just happen.

                        As humans we are always looking for reason and understanding. “Why did this happen to me?” and we can often find ourselves down a rabbit run looking for ghosts of answers that just don’t exist.

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                        Sometimes bad stuff happens. This does not define you. This is not a personal vendetta from a god or unseen deity, seriously sometimes all you can do is accept those 2 words – sh*t happens.

                        12. Control it

                          A quick way to find yourself suffering an intenser version of stress is when you try to control it.

                          As a coach, I believe we can get out of situations and move forward, however I also know from the coping skill above that when we try to force the universe to bend in a new way, it can use up a lot of energy concentrating on the wrong things.

                          You can control what you think, you can change your actions, and sometimes the most powerful skill is to accept that this is out of your hands. Self awareness will help you understand the differences and what to do and when.

                          13. Say no

                            We talked about the need to be honest and if you explore this coping mechanism further, you will see that as humans we really want to be liked. We want to get on with our neighbours, or colleagues our friend’s friends. The issue with this in stressful times we really do need to turn around and say things like:

                            • No sorry I can’t help you.
                            • No, now is not a good time.
                            • No, I’m not finding this easy.
                            • No, I can’t do it.

                            The reason we don’t say things like this is because we fear what people think of us. We want to be liked. We don’t want people think we don’t care, which leads me onto the next point.

                            14. Embrace weakness

                              The above statements are often held in our heads unsaid because we don’t want to appear weak, awkward, incapable and a ton of other negatives. The interesting thing is that what we think people are thinking about us is so often untrue.

                              Take the client above that feared telling their boss they were struggling with their work load. On the contrary to looking weak and incapable, the whole department got a makeover. That’s not weak, that’s powerful.

                              Watch out for the incorrect falsehoods that you let hang out in your head. They are making stressful situations a lot harder!

                              The next time it feels weak to be honest or to say no, ask yourself “Does the way I currently think serve me well?”

                              15. Set boundaries

                                Boundaries are important to us all. It feels great when we get on holiday and we can do what we like when we like, however left like that for more than a few weeks and things can disintegrate and fall apart.

                                We need boundaries. And at stressful times, boundaries can really help. They enable you to feel safe to be honest and work and think in a way that helps you and they set out what you will tolerate and deal with and what you wont.

                                Remember creating boundaries is a lot like saying no and most of the negative thoughts you are having around boundaries are imaginary too. If you aren’t going to answer work email at 10pm on a Saturday night, don’t.

                                Establish your boundaries, communicate them and stick by them.

                                16. Get passionate

                                  In stressful times, we can find ourselves living in negative, soul destroying emotions and moods. To the point that we can attempt to numb ourselves from them.

                                  The next time the emotions start to impact on you, think about all of the things that you are passionate about.

                                  No one need know what you are thinking about, so if you find yourself thinking about your dog before your partner, that’s fine.

                                  Get yourself a big old list that makes you smile. Even if the smile doesn’t feel real, your brain is still benefiting. When we get really bogged down in stressful times, it can be hard to believe that we will ever feel good again.

                                  We can’t change everything instantly but interestingly (and I find miraculously), we can change our mindset in the click of a finger. Getting passionate could help you do that.

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                                  17. Ask for it

                                    If you need time, a hug, a conversation, a massage, a run, a nap, a walk, a helping hand, ask for it.

                                    Of all the fears in my book Fight the Fear, so many come back to the fear of what other people will think of us and I’ve heard so many people tell me that they’ve learnt to ask for what they want.

                                    Stop fearing asking for what you need. Learn to accept that asking for what you want not only helps you navigate through stressful times, it also helps you to achieve more in life too.

                                    18. Ditch the guilt

                                      Guilt just loves tough times. It will be able to give you a voice in your head that tells you:

                                      • This is all your fault.
                                      • You never get it right.
                                      • You’ve always failed at this.
                                      • You should have taken better care of that.
                                      • You weren’t good enough to get that job.
                                      • If someone had to go, it had to be you.
                                      • No one sticks around you for long.
                                      • This is you, what were you expecting?

                                      That voice is worse than Cruella Deville, Voldemort and Hannibel Lector combined. It’s intent on destroying your determination and happiness.

                                      Have you noticed how some people go through hell and keep going and others suffer far less and give up? The reason they keep going is not some shot of good fortune, it comes down to the what they let happen in their head. So chuck the guilt.

                                      19. Never hate stress

                                        It’s no good hating stressful times, it won’t make them magically disappear.

                                        Stress is an essential component to your body. Without some stress between bones, muscles, skin, etc you would be a floppy mess on the floor.

                                        Stress can help us grow and learn so much about ourselves. What could you discover about you from the stress you face right now?

                                        20. Start moving

                                          When life feels too tough, we can be tempted to hide our heads under the duvet and say “give me a call in 2050, I will come out when its all over”

                                          Trust me, I include myself in that one.

                                          In my personal life, I’ve seen a lot of awful things this year. Don’t try and be super human, as I read in The Last Highlander, when you face the most horrific of times, just concentrate on getting one foot in front of the other.

                                          Go the extra mile

                                          In stressful times we need people around us that will go the extra mile, and I’m one of those.

                                          Watch out for the sappers of positivity and remember the basics – sleep, eat, breathe – get those in the right measures especially when you are struggling, you see as Nan so wisely knew we can’t hide from tough times, we can’t make them magically disappear, however like a storm cloud it will eventually go away.

                                          And behind it is left that fresh new smell that says, “Mmm anything is possible”

                                          And do you know what?

                                          It is…

                                          Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

                                          Reference

                                          [1]Drucker Institute: About Peter Drucker
                                          [2]Mandie Holgate: Bench Mark Graph
                                          [3]Tasha Eurich: Insight
                                          [4]Harvard Business Review: What Self-Awareness Really Is (and How to Cultivate It)

                                          More by this author

                                          Mandie Holgate

                                          Internationally endorsed, Fight the fear book in 5 languages helping thousands around the world.

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                                          Last Updated on September 17, 2018

                                          What Is Your Destiny in Life? How to Mindfully Achieve Your Purpose

                                          What Is Your Destiny in Life? How to Mindfully Achieve Your Purpose

                                          At several points in our lives, we tend to ask– if not question, what is our destiny in life and the truth about why we’re living.

                                          On days of frustration, it’s more of questioning why we haven’t figured it all out. On days of reflection, it’s more of what serves us. On the good days, you feel that purpose in your bones. And on the bad days, you might feel no purpose at all.

                                          Here’s the deal:

                                          How do you define purpose?

                                          Webster’s dictionary defines it as “something set up as an object or end to be.”

                                          “End to be” almost sounds too predestined – that our “purpose” is out of our control because at the end of the day we’ll truly end up at our truest destination, and life is just trying to figure out what that is along the way.

                                          What if our life’s purpose is to be present here on earth because your life’s mission is determining what serves us and what we’re willing to contribute?

                                          What is your destiny in life?

                                          I once asked a friend what his fear in life was. He feared hurting people, and he also fears never amounting to be of significance to anyone in his relationships – friendships, romantically, and as a colleague. It got to the point where he stayed in unfulfilled romantic relationships because breaking up would mean it would make him the antagonist in her story.

                                          They say we meet 80,000 people in our lifetime and that is if we live to be 78-years-old.[1] From the moment you were born to this very exact moment you are now reading this article, we are an accumulation of upbringings, experiences, moments, tragedies, and the influences of the people we have met.

                                          The death of someone impacts us deeply because of the connection we had shared with that person. We cheer for our home team during the World Cup because of the pride we have for our country. We attend weddings and anniversaries to celebrate love and it is the the love we have for our friends and the love for our partner.

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                                          Life’s purpose is more about the connection we make with others and having that chance to live 80,000 different lives. It’s a chance to deepen our self-awareness, and truly understand what resonates with our inner self.

                                          I then looked at my friend and asked him this:

                                          “Out of the 80,000 people you have met and will continue to meet, do you truly believe you won’t inspire anyone at all? Out of the 80,000 that will come in and out of your life, could you say you won’t hurt any of them or be hurt by any of them?”

                                          It’s literally impossible.

                                          Sometimes we meet people who inspire us greatly, who shift our lives and in return, we shift theirs; they are a makeup of their own 80,000 people. While other times, we meet people who have impacted us negatively; they too are a makeup of their own 80,000 people.

                                          The bottom line is:

                                          Our life’s purpose is to connect with others and by doing so, our life’s mission becomes clearer.

                                          The truth about our mission

                                          Is our mission always clear? Probably not.

                                          Your life’s mission is probably not the same as it was when you were 20, or even the same as it was a year ago. It could have changed from “wanting to become a nurse so I can help the elderly” to “wanting to open a 24-hour daycare center to help parents who work graveyard shifts.”

                                          The commonality here is the want to help people. The how and what may change, but the why is what remains.

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                                          As our lives continue to go through waves, it’s only natural for our values to change along with those waves.

                                          The question to ask here is:

                                          In midst of the chaos and whirlwind of events  we call life, what continues to stand still after all these years?

                                          Our life’s mission comes down to that constant voice that repeatedly sends signals and stirs that pot of emotions, excitement, and ambition within us. Although it may seem unclear, it’s the one thing that never changes:

                                          • Have you always loved the art of storytelling because it connects strangers?
                                          • Have you always loved making handcrafted jewelry because it drives your creativity?
                                          • Have you always been drawn to cooking because it keeps you in control of what you are putting in your body?

                                          How to achieve your destiny

                                          Think of your life mission as an anchor. Now it’s time to look into how to harness that anchor and conquer your destiny.

                                          1. Decide – Your mind is the captain

                                          Imagine your mind as the captain of the ship and the anchor is your life’s mission. Your ship is currently sitting at a standstill point in life with four possible directions: north, east, west, and south. As easy as it is to set sail, it’s harder when the destination may seem unclear.

                                          The first step is always deciding.

                                          Sometimes we stay at this standstill moment because we’re afraid of sailing towards the wrong direction.

                                          Maybe we’ve done it one too many times in the past, and that the fear has since stayed. So, we end up being content with sitting comfortably in our ship because there are no waves, no currents, just calmness that surrounds us. But there is no adventure, and after a while the calm waves seem almost lonesome.

                                          You will never fail because look at your ship at this exact moment — It’s out on the waters, it’s the result of all the small and large decisions you’ve been making throughout life. You have sailed your ship out to sea before, and you can do it again. Don’t over think it and be accountable for youself to decide.

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                                          Regardless of the direction you do decide to take, you will still continue to meet a handful of people to add into your 80,000; with that, a chance to gain additional experiences, knowledge, inspirations, and lessons to redefine our life’s mission. The thing is, you have to sail somewhere.

                                          The moment you sail and live your life’s purpose by meeting people on this journey, you will meet people who will challenge your life’s mission. Regardless of whatever tangible action you decide to take, you must learn to trust our anchor.

                                          As long as you have your anchor, it will hold you and remind you of what truly moves you. It’s that one constant thing to guide you when you are at your next standstill.

                                          2. Do – Your body is the ship

                                          As your mind continues to steer, your body is the ship that sails; it gets you to the destination your mind is trying to go. To actively achieve your life’s mission, you must do the following step.

                                          The second step is to do and keep doing.

                                          Whatever it may be, just do. If it’s a book you’ve been wanting to write for years, it’s time to write. If it’s a 5k run you’ve been putting aside because work is too hectic, it’s time to train. If it’s to finally start that business, but finances are always tight, it’s time to try.

                                          Complacency isn’t a fun place – neither is an uncrossed list of things you’ve been wanting to do that probably all ties in with your mission.

                                          Once you start, everything will fall into place. Trust the anchor to guide you and give you that nudge when something isn’t working anymore. As we continue to interact with others and grow physically and mindfully, our ideas and projects – sometimes careers and ideal relationships can change with them.

                                          Listen to that anchor, because that anchor is always connected to your life’s mission.

                                          3. Reflect – Looking beyond the horizon

                                          Now it’s time to take charge of your destiny. There’s power to making a decision but there’s greater power in putting those decisions into action. Afterwards, it’s time to reflect.

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                                          Your mind is the captain – calling all the shots, making the choices and deciding which waves to ride over and which waves to steer clear from. It’s also the one thing that propels you forward, and on some days, it can be your best companion, while on other days, your worst enemy.

                                          Your body is the ship – it puts all those decisions into action. It takes you to those job interviews, it types out the words onto a keyboard and into a working manuscript, it also gets your heart pumping during workouts. Your body is the action taker.

                                          Your anchor is your spirit – your anchor is your current reminder. It will often ask you if things continue to resonate with you. It’s your gut, it’s your instinct, and it’s the one thing that stays true to you. Listening to it will give you a clearer understanding of your mission, but only if you live your life’s purpose.

                                          Meet people, ask them questions, and see what stirs the anchor within you. The answer will always lie there, and the anchor is what leads you to your destiny.

                                          Final thoughts

                                          As humans, our one life has been a string of moments created, enjoyed, and experienced with others and that alone makes the world turn.

                                          Our purpose is to be present on this earth, but our mission is to tap into our calling and learn how to give back. It’s listening to that anchor that has stayed with us our whole lives.

                                          By mindfully becoming aware and actively doing the things that call to us, we begin to steer our ship towards passionate projects, people, and places that stay true to our inner compass.

                                          Featured photo credit: S A R A H ✗ S H A R P via unsplash.com

                                          Reference

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