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10 Ways to Cope When Bad Things Happen

ways to cope when bad things happen

It doesn’t really matter who we are or what we do, from time to time, things go wrong. We can do our best to cover our bases, but sometimes it’s just outside our control. What’s important in these situations is not so much why bad things happen, but how we cope with them when they do happen.

We’ve all been there!

Have you ever had one of those stretches when it’s just one thing after another? Sure you have because it happens to everyone. Well, that’s why I am writing about this because I just went through it. I want to share some attitude tweaks that can help you cope next time the stuff hits the fan in your life.

Most of us don’t go around inviting unwanted trials into our lives. Still, from time to time we do need to cope with them. When we find ourselves in that kind of situation, our attitude will definitely influence how we view the experience.  Having the right attitude increases our ability to cope and our emotional resourcefulness.

Nobody is immune

Fact of life: There are potential pitfalls in every area of life and business. There are those that are man made including everything from credit card fraud to identity theft, and from deception in advertising to poor customer service. Then there are those that we refer to as natural disasters like flooding, earthquakes, and hurricanes. Let’s face it, sometimes bad things just happen.

When they do, it can easily turn your world upside down. But by if we have the skills to cope with unexpected challenges, we can get through them without going bonkers.

I have learned some helpful little attitude adjustments that help me cope with challenging situations and I think you may find them useful. Of course, not every point can be applied in every situation, but the more points you can use at once, the better you will be able to cope with any given challenge.

10 Ways to cope when bad things happen

1. Detach yourself emotionally. Most of the emotions that grow out of negative situations are negative. When you refuse to be engaged emotionally, the situation becomes emotionally neutral. That means that you can cope with it rationally instead of reacting to it emotionally. This also changes how the experience is recorded in your memory and nervous system.

2. Forget about asking why. You can ask why later, for now focus on asking, “What’s the best way to cope with this challenge?” Your mind loves to solve problems. By asking “what’s the best way to cope” you are telling your mind that there is a workable solution to be found. It will immediately go to work looking for the very best solution. This keeps your focus on creating a positive outcome.

3. Look for the value. There is almost always some value in challenging situations. The more we train ourselves to see the value in every experience, the more resourceful we will be when those experiences are challenging and unexpected. The truth is that we grow from facing challenges more than we would without them. I know, sometimes there are growing pains involved, but that’s just tuition in the school of life.

4. Ask for help. We can’t always get ourselves out of a mess. Don’t be afraid to ask those who are more knowledgeable for help or direction. Most of the time they are glad to help or at least point you in the right direction. For example. with regard to running this website, I am not the most tech savvy guy around, so when I need help, I ask. The willingness of others to lend assistance is heartwarming.

5. Remember, it’s temporary. One way or another, you will get through it. Every situation has a conclusion. Even if it’s not the conclusion you wanted, at least it will be over and you can start from there. If you have to rebuild some aspect of your life, you will probably do it better and faster than you did the last time.

6. As long as you’re at it, upgrade. If something in your life falls apart, turn it to your advantage. One way to do this is by using your energy to upgrade rather than repair. Granted, this isn’t always feasible, but when it is, it provides you with the opportunity to turn a setback into progress.  So, the end result will put you ahead of where you were and that will mean that you actually benefited from the experience.

7. Role play. This is an effective tactic for removing yourself emotionally from a frustrating challenge. Pretend that you have been called in to handle the situation because of your calm and logical demeanor. The person facing the challenge needs someone who is cool and capable to cope with it, and that’s why you are there.

8. Take rescue remedy. Maybe you’ve never heard of Rescue Remedy, let me tell you this is some good stuff. It’s a flower remedy developed by Dr. Edward Bach. Flower remedies work on a very subtle level to help with a wide array of emotional issues. As you can tell from the name, Rescue Remedy is there to rescue you during periods of emotional stress.

9. Laugh your way through it. Sometimes things get so ridiculous that it’s almost laughable. When that happens, go ahead and laugh. When you laugh at a stressful situation it provides a healthy outlet for your emotions. Laughter is a much better way to release that emotional stress and cope with a challenge than anger is.

10. Don’t take it personal. At times it can feel like you have been singled out to receive more than your share of hardships. Everybody faces more than enough challenges. The universe has not conspired against you. Sometimes bad stuff just happens. Taking things personally just leads to excuses and blame and a whole host of other worthless thoughts and emotions. Don’t even go there, just learn to cope with it and move on.

Learning to roll with the punches

I wish I could say that at some point in your personal development bad things will never happen again. That would be nice, but I prefer to keep it real. How you cope with the challenges you face says a lot about your emotional maturity and true nature. Learning a few simple skills to help you cope resourcefully will help you turn challenges into opportunities. Having a positive perspective in this area will go a long way toward improving the quality of this journey we call life.

How do you cope with your challenges?
Do you have a favorite skill that help you cope?
The lines are open!

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36 Comments

  1. Mark Lewis April 30, 2009 Reply

    I’m very good at dealing with challenges like you described.

    Years ago, my parents and I were flying to Seattle. The plane actually left earlier than scheduled (who would’ve ever thought!) and we missed our flight. My father was so ticked off and focused on why and how this could have happened. I rescued the day by getting the airline people to focus on a solution for us. 10 minutes later, they found three empty seats on a plane scheduled to leave 30 minutes later.

    So the moral of the story is to focus on the solution, not the problem.

    • Jonathan January 11, 2011 Reply

      Thanks Mark for sharing your experience. Taking your thoughts to the next level, we can always try to focus on being part of the solution rather than part of the problem.

  2. Rocket Bunny April 30, 2009 Reply

    Great article. You have to stay within your self and social atmosphere.

    • Jonathan January 11, 2011 Reply

      Hi Bunny, thanks so much for your continued support.

  3. Lea April 30, 2009 Reply

    It always disturbs me to hear how some people can be so malicious to another fellow being. I guess it’s something I gladly can not identify with.

    • Jonathan January 11, 2011 Reply

      Hi Lea, I totally agree that it is really hard to accept that some people get their kicks causing problems for others. But since they do, we need to have strategies in place to deal with the situation without letting it get to us.

  4. Jeff April 30, 2009 Reply

    For me, always remembering that it is temporary is the key. It falls in place with the old saying, “this too shall pass”. Whatever has you down is only a season in your life. Better days are ahead. I visualize them. It helps pull me through to better and brighter days! Nice post!

    • Jonathan January 11, 2011 Reply

      Hi Jeff, great to see you here Jeff. The temporary thing is important, it’s amazing what we can put up with when we know it is only temporary.

  5. Always easier said than done… but this is great advice. ;-)

    • Jonathan January 11, 2011 Reply

      Hey Marc, so true. With practice and copious amounts of Rescue Remedy it gets easier and easier (that’s the goal anyway).

  6. Really nice article, thanks!

    • Jonathan January 11, 2011 Reply

      Hey Cody, thanks for your kindness!

  7. Stephen May 1, 2009 Reply

    Jonathan, your article was timely for me. I had the worst day I’ve had in a long time for a bunch of small reasons. I woke up this morning to find out that during my “bad” day when I didn’t put up a new article, I had a higher number of subscribers to my blog than usual. So in the aspect of what really matters to me, it was a really good day. I just didn’t know it.

    • Jonathan January 11, 2011 Reply

      Hey Stephen, you have planted and tended to a powerful seed with your blog. Now it’s strong enough to grow even without so much constant nurturing. Your day away gave you a valuable “pull back” perspective. Now it’s time to celebrate what you have accomplished in a remarkably short time.

  8. Annette Colby, PhD May 1, 2009 Reply

    Jonathan, I am so sorry to hear of the mess that you went through. What an adventure! What I noticed most is that while you most likely felt upset and momentary overwhelm, you managed the situation with dignity and integrity. You are an inspiration to all!

    “Adventure isn’t hanging on a rope off the side of a mountain. Adventure is an attitude that we must apply to the day to day obstacles of life facing new challenges, seizing new opportunities, testing our resources against the unknown and in the process, discovering our own unique potential.” ~ John Amatt

    • Jonathan January 11, 2011 Reply

      Hi Annette, always makes me happy when you stop by. The adventure mindset certainly helps reframe life’s little episodes in an advantageous way. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and the John Amatt quote.

  9. Dragos Roua May 1, 2009 Reply

    I’ve been there a thousand times (well, at least a dozen) when I had to cope with digital disasters on a large scale. At some point, 2 of the forums I ran were broken and there were forums with a total of 150.000 users. You can imagine the pressure.

    I also share with you the idea that those things are there to help us grow in some way. As for the 10 things on your list, they should be printed and put on the wall. Or even better, on the ceiling, so we can see it when we go to sleep or wake up.

    • Jonathan January 11, 2011 Reply

      Hey Dragos, thank you my friend. Since posting this article I have become aware of several online friends who have had similar experiences. Sadly, I think it just goes with the territory. As our traffic grows we attract more attention, most of which is wonderful. It’s that tiny fraction of people with misguided intent that like to challenge our positive perspective. Funny thing is, they actually help us grow.

  10. Jamie May 1, 2009 Reply

    You have a great blog – great layout and great articles! Thanks for all your helpful insights.

    • Jonathan January 11, 2011 Reply

      Hi Jamie, thank you for your kindness.

  11. Laurie May 2, 2009 Reply

    Great post – thanks for showing us how to turn an unfortunate situation into a learning experience.

    Detaching myself emotionally is what really helps me get through challenges. There’s no use getting upset and frustrated; it blocks creative thinking and problem solving skills.

    Thanks for the introduction to Rescue Remedy. I’m going to check it out.

    • Jonathan January 11, 2011 Reply

      Hi Laurie, I totally agree. Emotional detachment is the key to not taking things personally. It allows us to cope rationally instead of react emotionally.

  12. Matt Clark May 4, 2009 Reply

    Hey Jonathan, well done it really is how we respond to things that creates the stress in our lives. I had a hard drive fail on my server last summer and I just stayed calm and was able to get everything back up in 24 hours. Thanks again for sharing!

    • Jonathan January 11, 2011 Reply

      Hi Matt, sometimes these situations can seem like the end of the world, there not. The better are response, the smaller the problem becomes.

  13. CJ January 8, 2011 Reply

    I agree with most of the suggestions…laugh, grow, move-on, learn from our experiences. Favorite coping skills?
    #1 Remember, it’s not all about us! So many times, it seems, my problems are not just lessons for ME, but also lessons for someone else. It could be someone watching our lives or down the road purposed as a teachable moment to kids, friends, & co-workers who battle similar trials/stumbling blocks.
    #2 Forgive. Often we move on without healing, dealing, or handling the reality of a situation. In the moment it seems successful, but in the long run, from my experience…my mistakes will often rear their ugly heads. Forgive others….but also ourselves…a vital key I have found to moving forward!

    Thanks for your great post! Lots of useful suggestions!

    • Jonathan January 11, 2011 Reply

      Hi CJ , I loved this: “Often we move on without healing, dealing, or handling the reality of a situation.” This is a vital point.

  14. christy January 28, 2013 Reply

    Hi. I am new at this. I get excited when I see articles like this, but all of it sounds wonderful, but when you’ve been stressed and anxious for such a long time, how do you begin to do these things and start to feel better?

  15. Linda February 7, 2013 Reply

    Wow and thank you. I am dealing with some challenges in my life right now and just last night I said to myself (with tears rolling down my cheeks) “Why” am I here? “Why” is this happening? Then this morning, I decided I needed to find some positive suggestions and support. Reading this article -“10 Coping Skills…” I know this will be my guide and I Will come out on top of this and feel amazing. I am usually a very positive person, it’s just sometimes, things catch me off guard and put me in a spin. But thank you again for this guide.

  16. Daniel February 11, 2013 Reply

    I love challenges. When I encounter tough ones (mostly unwelcomed challenges!), I always use/think of #3 (look for value) and #5 (“it’s temporary”) and these help a lot in coping when bad things strike.

    Looking for value in every situation, particularly bad situations, gives us a richer, more detailed perspective of things, and we learn more in the process.

    By thinking that “it’s temporary”, I am telling myself that “sooner or later this will end” and it makes the tough situation look less difficult thatnit really is!

    I prefer to tackle challenges or tough situations myself (as opposed to #4 “ask for help”), because I ‘get more’ by doing it this way and I get to expose any weakness that I have, which in turn enables me to make necessary improvements.

  17. Divya g.nair February 14, 2013 Reply

    good post and its worth reading!!. I strongly believe that to all our problems there is an ending and most of the time a happy ending as you mentioned in the 5th point..at that time we need to cope with the situation positively..Thank you Jonathan :)

  18. Shruti September 9, 2013 Reply

    I am amazed at your positivity. Wow… you would be a great teacher! I am going through a lot right now and am having trouble dealing with things. I seem to handle everything the wrong way… I want to be more like you and have your positive attitude. How does a person achieve this???? I NEED this badly!! You are an amazing person… my hat is off to you! :)

    Thanks,
    Shruti

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