10 coping strategies for dealing with the hard stuff

When you’re experiencing a tough time or life seems particularly difficult, what do you do to get through the hard stuff? Whether you’re in the middle of a stressful situation or you’re feeling anxious about events from the past, knowing some reliable coping mechanisms and strategies can help you find relief.

Try using some of the coping strategies listed below. They’ll help you to manage and relieve stress when you need it the most.

Teenage girl with red hair looking upset

1. Talk to someone

Coping with the hard stuff doesn’t have to be done on your own. Share your worries with a trusted friend or family member. It could take pressure off your shoulders, and they just might have some advice that you’ll find useful. It can be hard to open up, but we’ve got you covered. Try our five steps to talking to someone you trust.

You could also chat with a health professional such as a peer worker, who've had their own experience with tough times as young people, and can use this experience to support you with coping, in a way that works for you. Book a free, text-based session with ReachOut PeerChat here.

2. Get journalling

Journalling is one of the most widely recommended coping mechanisms for a reason! Writing down your feelings can help you work out what might be troubling you and ways you can improve the situation. Don’t worry too much about what you write; just write down whatever comes to mind. Keep your journal handy so that you can look back at what you’ve written.

3. Self-love

You’ve gotta look after yourself! Try some regular exercise, or meditate, or listen to music. Do whatever makes you feel good, even if it’s only for five minutes a day. Find some inspiration on how to cope with stress with these handy self-care ideas.

4. Take a break when coping with stress

Don’t feel like you have to slog through the hard stuff. Give yourself permission to leave situations that make you feel stressed or angry. For example, if you’re in a stressful conversation, try leaving the room for a moment and only resume talking when you feel calm and ready.

If you're involved in group chats, it can get a bit overwhelming, especially when you're already stressing out. If this happens, you can leave a chat or set some boundaries. For example, you could let your friends know that you're not going to check your phone for the rest of the day or only look at messages at a certain time each day. For more ideas on how to take a break from tech check out our guide on taming social media use.

5. Be nice to yourself

It might sound strange, but an important step in coping through hard times is remembering to be easy on yourself. How we talk to ourselves makes a huge difference to how we feel. Using positive self-talk can help you overcome negative thought patterns. Here’s some ways to talk yourself up.

6. Make a list of what needs to be done

Remember: you can’t do everything. Make a list of the things you need to get done, and work out a schedule that will help you get there. Don’t forget to schedule some fun and relaxing times, too!

7. Think about the big picture

One of the most useful positive coping strategies is putting things in perspective. When you’re going through a stressful situation, ask yourself: ‘How important is this? Will it matter in the long run?’ Some people find it handy to ask themselves: ‘Is this going to matter in five years’ time?’

8. Focus on the positive

It can be so easy to get caught up in all the negatives. It may feel hard in the moment but trying to find the positives in a stressful situation can help you with coping and overcoming what you’re going through. If you can find at least one positive thing about a situation (Is it teaching you something about yourself? Is it strengthening your relationship with someone?), it will help you to see a more balanced picture. This can be hard to do, but you’ll improve with practise!

9. Say thanks

If you’re feeling down, practise being grateful by writing down three things you’re thankful for. They can be really little things, like your morning coffee. Look at these gratitude lists whenever you’re feeling down.

10. Make the big things feel small

When life is being a jerk, you might feel tempted to get back into bed, pop your phone on aeroplane mode and avoid everything. Instead, try breaking big tasks down into smaller, more achievable goals. Celebrating small wins (like finally doing the laundry) will help you to build confidence and stay motivated until life feels easier. These small wins may feel insignificant, but in time, you’ll build up the mental and physical energy to take on the bigger things you’re coping with. You’ve got this.

What can I do now?

  • Write a 'gratitude list' that you can read whenever you're feeling stressed or down.

  • If you're struggling, consider getting professional help.

  • Visit ReachOut's OnlineCommunity to check out what coping strategies other young people are using to deal with tough times.