Developing new coping strategies
In some situations, despite our best efforts, we still can’t fix the problems we find ourselves in. For example, if you didn’t get into your dream college it’s natural to feel upset and disappointed. You may say to yourself, “Maybe I wasn’t good enough,” or ask yourself, “Why didn’t I get accepted?” If your dream college rejects you, don’t feel discouraged. You’re able to talk to your friends about what they’ve done when a college rejected them or you can talk to a school counselor to see what your other options are. If you spend all your time thinking about why you didn’t get in then you lose time looking at other colleges that you may like just as much as your dream college. When things don’t go as planned, there are other alternative routes to take. These routes becomes easier to identify once you find the right coping strategy. If you’ve tried a number of problem-solving strategies and none of them have worked, it might be time to focus on developing skills to help you cope with your problem.
Coping strategies can help you learn to accept situations that are beyond your control and find ways to help you feel better even if the problem still exists. When you develop coping strategies, you’re able to build resilience. You’re able to see things in a better perspective and you’ll feel much better about how you handled a certain situation. Being able to cope with things makes you a stronger person.
To develop coping strategies, try taking the following actions.
- Challenge negative self-talk Try and focus more on positives about yourself rather than the negatives. The less you bring yourself down, the better you feel about yourself. See Challenging negative self-talk fact sheet.
- Talk to people who can support you. Opening up, whether it’s to a best friend, a close family memeber or a counselor, can be helpful. They may offer a new perspective or just a comforting response to help you through. If you feel uncomfortable talking to someone in person, you can also call a help line anonymously. There is always someone there to listen to you. (For more information, check out the Get Help section).
- Relax. Breath. A little relief can go a long way towards helping you reflect on your situation and what can you do for yourself. You may want to try deep breaths, a long walk or other tips on the Relaxation fact sheet.
- Distract yourself Try not to spend all your time and energy thinking about your problem. Keep yourself occupied. Keeping busy can help lift your mood and may even offer opportunities to channel your emotions into positive outlets.
- Get involved in other enjoyable activities so that you don’t focus exclusively on your problem.
When you’re faced with a difficult situation, an important question to ask is:
What’s the best thing I can do to resolve this problem?
If there’s anything you can do, it’s important to work through the options one step at a time. But sometimes you might find yourself in a situation that you can’t change, no matter how much you would like things to be different.
For example, you can’t do much about your height, your age, most of your physical features or the family you were born into. There are also things that have happened in the past that you can’t change. What has happened has happened, and we can’t change the past, but you can still change the way you deal with a situation in the future.
The best way to deal with situations you can’t change is to practice acceptance. This means accepting the way things are without insisting that they should be different, and deciding to get on with life in spite of the situation.
Coping Strategies and Resolutions
Is there a situation that you don’t like? If you can change it, try working through the eight steps in the Problem solving fact sheet to find a solution to your problem. If not, see how you feel after trying to accept the situation. What can you say to yourself to accept the situation? What sorts of things can you do to get on with your life in a positive way, in spite of the problem?
Remember that problems are a normal part of life, and that we usually feel better when we do something to resolving them rather than just dwell on them. But, if you can’t solve the problem, it’s helpful to change the way you think about it. Practice acceptance and move on with life in a positive way.
Taking Charge! A Guide for Teenagers: Practical Ways to Overcome Stress, Hassles and Upsetting Emotions by Dr. Sarah Edelman and Louise Rémond (2005)