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21 December 2021

Making a plan to cope with life's challenges

As we head into the end-of-year holiday time, you might be finding any new, additional Covid-19 restrictions challenging. You will not be alone in this. At a time when many have been looking forward to a relatively constraint-free festive season, having to adapt or abandon plans is understandably tough.

At times like this it can be helpful to have a plan for how you might cope when you find yourself faced with unexpected challenges in life. You will probably already have a range of coping skills and personal and professional resources you draw on in these situations, but you might not have consciously thought about how you can use this proactively as a plan when things get tough.

If you’d like to make a plan for yourself, it could include the following steps:

  • Note down the signs that let you know you might be struggling. What thoughts, emotions or behaviours might tip you over into feeling isolated, anxious, angry or any other emotions that can become difficult to manage? Sometimes we know what the signs are, sometimes they surprise us, but thinking specifically about what the warning signals are that you’re starting to struggle can be a first step in recognising them as early as possible, and then actively managing how you cope.
  • What personal coping strategies work for you? Is it making a cup of tea, streaming a movie, going for a walk, listening to music or gaming? Write down the things you do that successfully distract you and calm you down.
  • Write down the places and people that can helpfully distract you when you are struggling. Walking with friends in the park, visiting a local café with friendly staff, a work environment where you interact with other people (even on Zoom!) or visiting the gym or another sporting venue can all help.
  • If you aren't able to get out, try to get some natural light at home. Sitting by a window and looking at the view outside can give you a sense of space and, if it's possible, you could change rooms during the day depending on which rooms get the most light at different times. As the nights draw in, try to keep your home well-lit.
  • Include the people that you trust that you can talk to and ask for help when you are struggling. This could be family members, friends, work colleagues or neighbours that you trust and who will listen with compassion and no judgement and who will support you.
  • If you don’t feel you have someone in your life you can turn to, note down the professionals or the support services that you can reach out to. This could be a school counsellor, a therapist you’ve worked with (or a new one), your GP, or a digital support service.
  • Don’t forget, we’re available around the clock: just text SHOUT to 85258 to have a free text conversation with a compassionate trained volunteer. Connecting with someone and discussing what you are struggling with can help bring those racing thoughts and emotions under control and return you to a calmer state.
  • Remember, in an emergency, if you or someone close to you needs immediate urgent support, call 999.

Whether you keep your plan on your phone, display it on your fridge or share it with others, take 10 minutes out of your day to think about what your personal plan looks like. In stressful situations (and we all have them), having a plan like this can help remind you that you are aware of the signs that you may be starting to struggle, that you have effective coping and distractionary strategies at hand and that you know who to turn to, both personally and professionally, when you need the support of others.