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Last Updated on May 2, 2019

20 Coping Skills for Stress That Will Help You Stay Strong

20 Coping Skills for Stress That Will Help You Stay Strong

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 out the Real Cause of the Problem

    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 Yourself the Difficult Questions

      So to find out 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 Your Reactions

        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.

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        4. Measure and Locate Where You Are Now

          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 Your Progress

            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.

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

                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. Take Actions to Change

                  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. Don’t Change What You Can’t Change

                    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.

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                        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.

                        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 Your Mindset

                          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 More Often

                            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 Clear 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 About Something

                                  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.

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                                  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.

                                  17. Ask for What You Truly Want

                                    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…

                                          More Coping Skills to Learn

                                          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

                                          Coach, International BEST Selling Author, Speaker & Blogger helping thousands around the world.

                                          How to Make Positive Changes Now (And Start Living a Fulfilling Life) What Is Self Efficacy and How to Improve Yours 6 Types of Fear of Success and How to Overcome Them 20 Coping Skills for Stress That Will Help You Stay Strong How to Stop Living in Fear and Start Stepping out of Your Comfort Zone

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                                          Last Updated on July 22, 2019

                                          7 Things To Remember When You Feel Broken Inside

                                          7 Things To Remember When You Feel Broken Inside

                                          I have been broken many times in my life. I have had life deliver blows that have knocked me to the ground. The pain and the feelings of hopelessness and despair have consumed my life for many months. I wondered if I would ever survive this, or if I would live a life where I felt happy and safe. Slowly, over time, my life got better and I got stronger.

                                          Now when I look back, I realize that these events, though they were painful at the time, were the catalysts for me to change my life. Now I am living my life doing what I love – writing, speaking and coaching.

                                          For us to live our lives to the fullest, the only way we can achieve this is by overcoming the challenges that life throws at us. We have to experience the pain, the betrayal, the adversity, the feelings of hopelessness and the despair in life, because how else do we learn about who we are?

                                          There is no other way for us to learn how to be resilient, courageous, hopeful and optimistic about life and our future.

                                          Though we do not like it, everyone feels broken at some point in their life journey. Often when we find ourselves at this place of despair, we do not know what to do and so we can end up living our life through our fear, regret, pain, disillusionment and sadness. This is not the way our lives are meant to be lived.

                                          When you are feeling broken inside, remember these 7 things as they will help you discover your courage and build your resilience so that you can step out and embrace the joy of living a life you love.

                                          1. Remember to Accept and Anticipate Change

                                          “It is not the most intellectual of the species that survives; it is not the strongest that survives; but the species that survives is the one that is able best to adapt and adjust to the changing environment in which it finds itself.”  — Dr Leon C. Megginson

                                          In today’s world of constant change, it is hard to hold on to who you are and manage the complexity and unpredictability of life. The one constant thing in our lives today is change.

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                                          Instead of fighting the inevitability of change, learn how to accept it. Embrace change and know that by doing this your life can only get better.

                                          Resisting change will fuel the negative energy that keeps you feeling broken and discouraged about life.

                                          2. Remember to Embrace Your Power Of Choice

                                          “Today I choose life. Every morning when I wake up I can choose joy, happiness, negativity, pain… To feel the freedom that comes from being able to continue to make mistakes and choices – today I choose to feel life, not to deny my humanity but embrace it.” — Kevyn Aucion

                                          Using your power of choice will enable you to change your approach to life from one where you languish in pain to one where you flourish with joy and hope.

                                          Using your power of choice empowers and strengthens your ability to take action and to make decisions.

                                          Your power of choice is a gift that you have within you that if you choose to use, will transform your life.

                                          3. Remember to Ask For Help

                                          “Asking for help does not mean that we are weak or incompetent. It usually indicates an advanced level of honesty and intelligence.”  Anne Wilson Schaef

                                          Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. When we are feeling so broken inside, we want to hide away from the world. Sometimes, it is because we feel embarrassed, or we believe that people won’t understand what we are going through.

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                                          The support, advice and encouragement from others helps us to overcome adversity and solve problems in our life.

                                          It is the energy and wisdom from friends, family and supporters that fuels our courage and our desire to take action to change our lives for the better.

                                          4. Remember to Be Present

                                          “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” — Mother Teresa

                                          Your thoughts fuel how you feel about your life. When you feel broken in your life, it will be your negative thoughts that dictate your feelings of sadness, disillusionment and unhappiness. When you feel joy and happiness, your positive thoughts of hope and self belief will support more of these feelings.

                                          The key to managing your negative thoughts is to practice trying to distance yourself from these thoughts and observe them rather than react automatically to them.

                                          Identify those thoughts that will draw you in and create confusion and inertia within you. Accept that these thoughts do not serve you well and work towards having more control over them.

                                          Label the type of thought you are having rather than paying attention to its content. Observe your thoughts and if you notice a thought that is judging (how good or bad the situation is), label it “judging”.

                                          If you are criticizing yourself for doing something wrong, then label that thought “criticizing”. Then, ask yourself how long you want to spend criticizing and blaming yourself. My suggestion is that you spend zero time doing this activity.

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                                          5. Remember to Focus on What Brings You Joy

                                          “Find a place inside where there’s joy, and the joy will burn out the pain” — Joseph Campbell

                                          When you are feeling despair, frustration and hopelessness, it is easy to forget the good things that are happening in your life. In fact, if you are consumed by negativity, you will start to believe that there is nothing good in your life.

                                          Focusing on what in your life is good and what brings you joy is an important step to you changing your life. The more you focus on the good in your life, the more hopeful you become.

                                          Positivity and hope are contagious and the more you celebrate this, the better you will feel about your life.

                                          6. Remember to Be Hopeful about Your Future

                                          “The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time” — Abraham Lincoln

                                          It is understandable that when you feel broken in life, you can become consumed by the concern that this is what your life will be like forever. It is very hard to be hopeful about the future when you feel so much pain and heartache. However, your pain and heartache will not heal you and deep down inside, you want to be healed – you just don’t know how.

                                          For me, when I felt  broken in my life, the one thing that helped me on my journey of healing was to try and keep hopeful about my future. It was important for me to keep perspective on the fact that what was happening in my life at the time was not a part of my future life. That tiny bit of hope I had about my future was enough for me to slowly start to heal — step by step.

                                          7. Remember to Accept That Life Is a Mystery

                                          “The mystery of life is not a problem to be solved; it is a reality to be experienced” — Jacobus Johannes Leeuw

                                          Life is a funny thing and the more we fight and resist it, the harder it is to live our life. Accepting and embracing the mystery of life allows us to heal and look at our pain as only one chapter of many chapters in our life.

                                          Life throws us curve balls. It tests us and challenges us. We survive and thrive in life by embracing these challenges so that we can grow and live courageous and resilient lives.

                                          When we feel broken inside, we need to remember that this is part of our journey and that there is no escaping the pain. We just have to work our way through the pain and despair.

                                          Instead of fighting and questioning life and blaming yourself for how you feel, take a deep breath and remember that life is a mystery. Do not make the moments of despair and unhappiness in your life as foundations for how you will live your life forever.

                                          Your role in life is to embrace it – the good the bad and the ugly and to live your life to its fullest – so go live it!

                                          “Ester asked why people are sad. “That’s simple,” says the old man. “They are the prisoners of their personal history. Everyone believes that the main aim in life is to follow a plan. They never ask if that plan is theirs or if it was created by another person. They accumulate experiences, memories, things, other people’s ideas, and it is more than they can possibly cope with. And that is why they forget their dreams.”  – Paul Coelho, The Zahir.

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                                          Featured photo credit: J’Waye Covington via unsplash.com

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