Three Strategies for Dealing with Difficult Situations

Yulia Pellegrin

When I'm going through difficult situations in my life, there are three coping strategies that I find useful. They are my personal strategies and might not work for everyone, but I’d still like to share them with you in case you’d like to try them. 

Strategy one: Acknowledge your emotions

Give yourself permission to feel what you feel. Your emotions are a source of feedback about what is important to you. So instead of ignoring them or pushing them away, take a few days to experience them and reflect on what caused this strong reaction and how this is connected to your values or your self-narrative. Once you have gone through this process, it will be easier for you to move on.

Strategy two: Get inspired by your other selves

I really love the concept of possible selves, which means that we all hold multiple identities. For example, I may be an HR professional, but I'm also a learner who enjoys mastering a new craft or skill. I'm also an artist who is curious, creative, and playful. We all have possible versions of ourselves that we may or may not reveal to the world.

So consider all your different identities within you, and when one of those identities gets impacted, look for inspiration and support in other ones.

A few years ago I was going through a very challenging personal situation. To help myself to cope, I turned to my “artist” identity and designed and produced a clothing collection. This collection was never released to the world but this experience turned out to be an amazing outlet to learn new skills, push myself but also refocus and detach from my existing situation. I was really inspired by this project and I think it helped me to find some inner strength and resilience that I had nearly forgotten. 

Strategy three: Imagine yourself as a fictional character

My third strategy comes from my childhood. As a child, I loved reading books about fantastical journeys and adventures. I remember I could close my eyes and imagine endless whimsical worlds. So when I had to face challenging situations in real life, I would imagine that I was just watching a movie or reading a book and all these things were not actually happening to me but to a hero in that movie. It was them experiencing adverse situations and I was more like a movie director who would then decide which turn the story would take or how my hero would want to respond.

I still find this strategy useful today, because it represents an opportunity to detach from the situation and consider different ways the story could go. Can you find a way to write a different ending or think of an unexpected turn of events? You can even look at it through the lens of creativity or art. For example, I could ask myself, "What can I do with this sad situation to make it beautiful?". If I was a cameraman, what angle could I focus on to show that there is beauty in every moment of our life? These playful considerations are a powerful reminder of the multiple perspectives that any story has.

So there you go – three strategies to try next time you encounter a challenging situation. I hope you find these useful!