How To Cope When Life Throws You a Curveball

Whether it’s a breakup or divorce, the death of a loved one, or a frightening medical diagnosis, no-one is exempt from suffering traumas and tragedies in their journey through life. Sometimes, finding the strength to keep going when it feels like your whole world has been turned upside down seems impossible, but go on we must. Here we’ve gathered some advice from counselors, therapists and mental health experts which may help you and your loved ones cope in dark times.

Acknowledge your feelings, and admit that they may be causing you to act irrationally

Everyone deals with grief in different ways – some people may become withdrawn and depressed, others may become angry and resentful, while others simply feel numb. See your feelings and acknowledge them but realize that they are also likely affecting your judgment – you are only human after all. Once you have even a little distance and perspective on your emotions, it becomes easier to cope with them.  

Focus on what you can control, forgive yourself for the things you can’t

When disaster strikes, we tend to search for a place to lay blame – and often it’s with ourselves. “If I had only done X differently, maybe this wouldn’t have happened.” The reality is, there are always going to be factors in or lives that we simply can’t predict, plan for, or control. Reliving the past over and over is not helpful in the present and won’t change what happened. What you can control is what you do in the here and now.

Find the support and help that’s right for you

Asking for help doesn’t come naturally to many people, so it can be helpful to explore a few different options and find what resonates with you. Cognitive-behavioral therapy, face to face counseling with a therapist, psychologist or in a support group or anonymously online, religious and spiritual groups are just a few of the options out there.  

In the case of medical diagnoses, many health facilities will offer specialized support. Many clinics which offer fertility services, for example, will also have counselors on hand to advise couples who have found their hopes of having a child of their own dashed. While a diagnosis like this can feel like the end of the world, there are alternatives you can explore – and counseling along with appropriate medical advice can help you realize this.

Treat yourself the way you would care for a loved one going through your pain

You’ve likely heard of the ‘Oxygen Mask Rule’ – the concept that you can’t help those around you effectively until you’ve helped yourself. In the case of a tragedy that affects the family, there are always those who run around taking care of everyone else at their own expense. If this sounds like you, then it can be helpful to try to see (and treat) yourself like one of those loved ones. What would you do for a coworker, family member or close friend who was going through a difficult period? Do that for yourself.    

Rationalize your thoughts

How could this happen to me? Why is life so unfair? What have I done to deserve this? This kind of thinking – while completely natural in the face of one of life’s curveballs – sadly doesn’t do anything to change the situation or the way you feel about it. Demanding that the universe treat you differently is as futile as demanding the weather to be bright and sunny when it’s pouring down with rain. Bad things happen to good people – and that’s not your fault, nor your responsibility to change.

For each negative thought that comes up, ask yourself if it’s helping or hindering you. If a thought is negative and self-defeating, try to replace it with one that is more rational without sugarcoating it or trying to sweep your suffering under the rug. ‘This terrible thing has happened, but I still have so many good things in my life. I’m in a huge amount of pain now, but I also know that it will get better over time. I acknowledge that it won’t be easy, but I know I have the strength to get through it and that I don’t have to face it alone.’    

Make time for activities you enjoy

Lastly, find things that bring you joy – even if that joy feels a little hollow or muted at first. It could be as simple as reading a favorite book or watching a TV show that makes you laugh or going out to the park with the dog or meeting up with friends for lunch. Even if these kind of activities have lost a little of their shine for now, they act as reminders that life does indeed go on – and that you’re stronger than you know.  

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