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7 Tips for Coping When Life Is Bumpy


Aug. 10, 2021 Psychology Today

A task I had expected to be simple would now require two more errands, and more money. Grrr!

Often, this is how life goes. Mistakes happen, things don’t work as they should, processes are inefficient. Or, we get more bad news when we’re already feeling fragile.

Here are seven tips for learning to roll with the punches, and not feel knocked out of kilter.

1. Don’t expect life to go smoothly.

In modern, developed countries, we often expect our transactions to go very smoothly. If we reserve a hotel room, we expect it will be available when we arrive. We expect clean water to come out of the tap. We expect that if we buy a product and it’s faulty or not as described, we’ll be able to return it. We expect the product we order will be the product that arrives, and not some other random item.

We expect reliability, and we expect physical comfort (e.g., air conditioning). And this can extend to us also expecting emotional comfort. Perhaps over-expecting it. But the more you think of discomfort (of all kinds) as something to be expected periodically, the easier it can be to handle when it arises. It’s helpful to think of these experiences as universal rather than personalizing them.

2. Notice when you are personalizing events.

I haven’t seen my mother in over two years because of the pandemic. I live in the U.S, she lives in New Zealand, and their border is essentially closed. Many New Zealanders aren’t personally affected by the border restrictions, and are grateful the border closures are keeping their lives COVID-free. However, part of me thinks, “No one cares about families like ours” who are affected by it. When I think like this, I get upset about New Zealanders in my circle who are choosing not to vaccinate, because it likely means a longer wait until my family can freely see each other again. It took me a long time to realize how much I was personalizing other New Zealanders’ attitudes to the border closure. When I did realize it, it helped me to see the big picture more.

3. Use self-compassion.

We often criticize ourselves that we should be able to handle blips, frustrations, disappointments, sadness, etc., better. You might think, “Other people wouldn’t be rocked by this. Other people would take this in stride.” Self-compassion skills should help a great deal if you’re doing this type of criticism.

4. Understand what pushes your buttons.

Cars and mechanical or electrical issues feel pretty foreign to me. Therefore, anything to do with those makes me feel out of my comfort zone. I didn’t want to figure out a car problem.

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