How to brace for a tough time ahead

Difficult days, challenging conversations and awkward situations can be neutralised with these simple psychological tips, according to Dr Lyn O’Grady MAPS.

  1. Anticipate that tough times can be upsetting

    We often know when challenges are approaching and the anticipation of the event or the situation can trigger a range of thoughts and feelings which can make things feel worse. It is normal to feel upset or worried when tough times are coming.

  2. Know that we have choices about how we respond

    Sometimes it feels better to avoid thinking about the event or situation. This can mean we don’t feel in control of our responses and it may increase our stress on the day. If we know that a tough time is approaching we can make a choice to prepare ourselves.

  3. Know ourselves and our typical reactions

    Anticipating that we are likely to feel upset and reminding ourselves that these are normal reactions to the upcoming event can help us to feel more prepared and capable of managing them.

  4. Remind ourselves that we have dealt with difficult times before

    We will all have experienced difficulties at one time or another. Remembering what has helped us to manage in the past or thinking about what we might be able to learn from past experiences can help us to feel prepared and better able to find useful strategies to deal with the situation.

  5. Recognise specific feelings and thoughts that are related to the event

    Tuning into our actual feelings and thoughts can help us to understand how our bodies and minds respond to stressful situations. Finding ways to describe these thoughts and feelings and place them in perspective as responses to stress can help us feel more in control of ourselves. This might help us to see the event in a new light and feel less concerned about whether we can cope.

  6. Manage our responses

    We will all have ways of managing thoughts and feelings that work for us. Sometimes it’s physical exercise, like a walk or breathing exercises. It might also be distracting ourselves to give our mind and body a break. We might talk to a friend or family member. Drawing or writing in a journal might be useful. Keeping a gratitude diary can help us gain perspective over some of our thoughts. Planning to do this before the event will mean we are in the best possible position to deal with the demands the event may place on us.

  7. Seek out people who are supportive

    Social support is important for everyone, particularly at times of challenge and distress.  We may be able to reach out in person or use social media to connect with people who are helpful and understand us and how we are feeling.  Seeking out supportive people can also mean making choices not to engage with people who are disrespectful of our feelings or unhelpful in how they respond to us. Sometimes we might decide that professional help is needed and through early planning before the situation arises we’ll be better equipped.

  8. Monitor our response and continue to learn for the future 

    Knowing that we are able to try new ways to cope and learn from the experience can be helpful in continuing to know ourselves and our responses. This will help us get through the event but also manage other events more easily in the future.