Six coping strategies for when the going gets tough

Recently, I spied something unusual about the shampoo in my hotel room.

If you ever stay in hotels, you need to know… I think they may be on to us, see the photo above :O

As you may know, I spend most of my time speaking at events. Whether I’m speaking to sales people, organisations going through change or leaders they all have one thing in common and it’s the one thing we all have in common… we all experience tough times.

Most of us know humour can help build morale and cope with tough times but when the going gets really tough it’s useful to have developed a range of approaches we can adopt and adapt to different circumstances.

The trick is to turn these coping strategies into habits by doing them ALL the time, even when we’re experiencing good times. They then become automatic when we really need to use them.

Let me ask you, when does an athlete train for a race? Before the race or during the race? Before the race because, obviously. They know when they’re under pressure and the time comes when they need to perform, they’re ready, they know what to do. So why learn strategies to build resilience, manage change and achieve goals only when we’re going through a tough time? These strategies should be practiced at ALL times.

A small point I shouldn’t need to mention but I will. With regards to coping strategies it’s important we develop healthy ones as opposed to unhealthy ones. Unhealthy coping strategies would include binge eating, eating unhealthily, smoking, taking drugs, drinking alcohol and isolating ourselves. These behaviours don’t help our bodies and minds, certainly not in the long term.

So here are six coping strategies, if you can do all six, great! If not just pick one or two to work on.

1) DROP THE UNCONTROLLABLES

Some things we just can’t control, a colleagues’ personality or a pre-determined procedure we have to follow in our work for instance. If you know it’s outside of your control don’t obsess over it, drop it, let it go. If you have to work on a contingency plan, fine but otherwise forget it.

2) ONLY COMPARE YOURSELF TO… YOURSELF

Stay focussed on what you want to achieve and how you’re going to do it. Often our biggest distraction is when we compare ourselves to others. We see somebody who’s famous being celebrated as a success, or we someone on social media living a phenomenal life. We don’t see the issues and challenges they’re having, probably even worst than ours. So focus more on what you need to learn and do to achieve your objective. Learn from others, even be inspired by others but don’t compare yourself to them, focus on you.

3) GET SUPPORT

We all know getting support from friends and loved ones is so important when dealing with a tough situation. At work the best thing to do is to identify allies. These are people we can turn to for advice or just to use as a sounding board. The secret to forging great support is not to turn to them only when help is needed instead nurture intimate conversations and mutual support when all is going well too.

4) ENJOY ‘HELPFUL DISTRACTIONS’

Sometimes you just might need to back off for a while and find a diversion of some sort. This is not about running away from the challenge or putting it off but just giving yourself some breathing space to allow your brain to process the situation and find a solution.

Typical diversions could be gardening, going for a walk, watching a movie, being of service to someone in need, yelling in the bathroom, meditation, watching videos of kittens on YouTube, maybe even knitting. Find something that works for you.

By the way, I’m not joking about knitting. It’s a repetitive task, it doesn’t consume your full attention and can help new ideas surface. A little like taking a shower, when we relax and let go, ideas can surface.

5) THINK LIKE A PYTHON

Monty Python that is and the Python I’m thinking of specifically is Eric Idle and his song, ‘Always Look on The Bright Side of Life’.

Focus on what you’re doing well, focus on your colleague’s good attributes, focus on the brighter side of every situation. I’m not saying ignore the problems, issues and challenges, there’s always something that’s good about every situation.

6) TICKLE YOUR COLLECTIVE FUNNY BONE

And I’m back where I started, as I said humour helps raise our spirits. The shampoo I mentioned earlier was a deliberate attempt at humour from my hotel and… it worked. Recently a friend of mine said she’d just finished reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to which I responded, ‘I understand it’s book about body building’. She chuckled.

In 2000, American neuroscientist Robert Provine found that when people laugh in groups only 10 to 20% of the laughs were in response to the actual jokes being told. Being in the presence of other people enjoying something funny made people find it funnier. Provine said ‘The critical stimulus for laughter is another person, not a joke.’ Laughter bonds us, makes us feel socially bonded, feeling we belong helps us through tough times.

Involve appropriate humour in your social and work communities as much as possible. It might be sharing a joke, watching a funny film or YouTube video or a funny story about what happened to you.

Don’t share it with just one person, share it with everyone in your family, social or work community.

So there’s your starter for six. Pick a couple of them and start now.

By the way I didn’t steal the shampoo after all. What kind of person do you take me for?

I have to say I really enjoyed my stay at the hotel and particularly loved the fluffy pillows. They were so fluffy, when leaving, it was very difficult for me to close my suitcase ;)