7 Tips To Help You Cope With The Unexpected

Distressed woman looking down over a brown rail trying to cope with the unexpected.

Have you experienced cruising through life with things going smoothly, and you hit a bump in the road out of nowhere, causing you to slow down or even come to a screeching halt? Of course, I am referring to being confronted with an event that has stretched the limits of your average ability to cope with the unexpected making it hard for you to continue your daily routine. 

Loss of a job, loss of a loved one, divorce, serious illness, or experiencing a stressful or traumatic event such as a crime, accident, or natural disaster could all be considered a stressful situation that overwhelms your usual coping mechanisms. The event could even be perceived as being positive (marriage, starting a new job), but the stress associated with the event has exceeded your ability to cope with the unexpected.

The event doesn’t necessarily have to happen to you, it could happen to a loved one, and you are affected by watching them go through it.

We naturally experience emotional and mental responses when we go through these situations. But, of course, every person reacts differently, and there really is no right or wrong way to feel. You might even find yourself saying, “I feel depressed.” But are you experiencing true depression?

Situational depression. What is it?

What you could be experiencing is called Situational Depression which is a short-term condition that occurs when a person has great difficulty coping with or adjusting to a particular source of stress like those mentioned above. It has also been referred to as adjustment disorder rather than true depression. However, that does not mean you should ignore it. If situational depression goes untreated, it could develop into major depression.

So, are you having a hard time coping with the unexpected?

Ask yourself if you have any of these symptoms of situational depression:

  • Weight loss or gain — increase or decrease in appetite
  • A depressed mood
  • Not sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Loss of pleasure in previously enjoyed activities
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feeling restless or slowed down
  • Trouble concentrating or difficulty making decisions
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of excessive guilt 
  • Recurrent thoughts of death, thoughts of suicide with or without a plan


Have you had a stressful situation occur within the last three months before your symptoms developed?


Do you think your symptoms are worse than expected, or are you having trouble functioning in your job, school, or social relationships?

Suppose you can answer yes to these questions. In that case, you probably are experiencing situational depression. You could benefit from therapy or, at the very least, some self-help efforts to make you feel better. These are all symptoms that both situational and clinical depression share. However, unlike clinical depression, where you are overwhelmed by symptoms for a long time, situational depression should disappear once you have adapted to your new situation. 

Tips to cope with the unexpected

Several ways you might find helpful to cope with depression following trauma are:

  • Allowing yourself time to grieve. Don’t hide or deny your feelings.
  • Talk to friends and family members about how you feel. Ask for support from people you trust.
  • Keep to your daily routine. Even if you don’t feel like it, do your best to eat balanced meals and get plenty of rest.
  • Stay physically active. Even light exercise, such as walking, can help minimize the physical effects of stress.
  • Join a support group.
  • Don’t use alcohol or illegal drugs to cope.
  • Spend time doing things you enjoy (painting, working in your garden, watching a movie, spending time with friends, listening to music, or reading a book before bed instead of watching the news).

Seek help early on

The healing process after a traumatic event takes time, especially if you have experienced a personal loss.

Frequently, people who could benefit from therapy will not seek it because they think their reactions are normal and that they will pass or are ashamed of their emotions. While depression can be considered normal and experienced by almost everyone at some point in their lives, that does not mean you can’t benefit from help dealing with the situation causing your distress. Your perception and perspective of life and its circumstances often dictate your mood. If you can change your thoughts, you can change your feelings and behavior. That is where therapy can be of great help.

It has been found that people who are depressed because of difficulty adjusting to their new situation are often the ones who respond most quickly and successfully to treatment. Once they can isolate some of the stresses and causes of their depression, they feel relieved. However, sometimes it is the anguish that they are depressed and the feeling of being out of control that can worsen the situation—so knowing why can free them up to examine how they can improve their situational depression by thinking about the stress differently.

“Sometimes the most scenic roads in life are the detours you didn’t mean to take.” ― Angela N. Blount

Everyone, at some time in life, will face unexpected events. And most assuredly, some will be harder to navigate than others. But the above tips can make the whole process more manageable. However, if you want to learn additional skills to cope with the unexpected, working with a coach is a great way to do it. They can help you develop the skills and abilities to deal positively with whatever life puts in your path.

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson. I want you to know that I am here to help. If you want more personalized support, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. Together, we can work on strategies to help you move forward through any difficult situations you may be going through right now, as well as ones you may encounter in the future.

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.

Spring Cleaning: Clearing Out The Clutter Of Our Lives

Young woman spring cleaning by sorting items to donate

Today I saw my first Robin since they flew the coop of Michigan and headed south for warmer weather. It gave me much hope that Spring is indeed just around the corner, the season of new beginnings. So I guess I better gear myself up for some spring cleaning around here.

Spring cleaning usually refers to such things as washing windows, raking out leftover fall leaves that settled in the flower bed, or purging unused items cluttering the closets. While that always brings about a wonderful sense of accomplishment, sometimes our homes are not the only things that need decluttering and cleaning up. But I’ll get into that in a minute.

Clutter causes stress

Clutter can significantly affect how we feel about our homes, workplaces, and ourselves. Messy homes and work spaces can make us anxious, helpless, and overwhelmed. Most people might not even recognize it as a significant source of stress in their lives. Whether it be their closet or office desk, excess things in their surroundings can hinder their ability to focus and process information.

Neuroscientists at Princeton University studied people’s task performance in an organized versus disorganized environment. Not surprisingly, the study showed that physical clutter in their surroundings competed for their attention, resulting in decreased performance and increased stress.

That is not to say everyone must have clean, empty surfaces everywhere. Some people work better when there is some clutter going on because it makes them feel inspired to get some work done. It does not distract them but instead motivates them. The main thing is to create a space that makes you feel at ease. Fortunately, physical clutter is one of the most manageable life stressors to fix.

Spring cleaning our mental state

On the other hand, mental clutter can be a little more challenging to deal with. Mind clutter builds up just like out-of-fashion clothes, dusty knickknacks, and long-forgotten Christmas decor. Therefore some of us might need a little “weed pulling” and “clearing out the clutter”  in our minds that has crept in over time.

Mind clutter can often be related to the past.

What kinds of things have you shoved into the back corners of your mind but yet are choking out the good stuff you want in there? Do you have negative thoughts you have harbored over time, either about yourself, somebody else, or maybe about situations in your life? Let’s look at four steps you can take to “spring clean” your brain.

1. Purge your mental filing cabinet

Most people unconsciously keep a sizeable ugly file cabinet in their minds. The drawers fill up with mistakes they have made, people who have hurt them, people they have hurt, opportunities they have missed, and so on and so on. And this last statement could be a whole blog unto itself, but that will have to be for another time. So for the sake of spring cleaning your mind, take some time and go through those mental drawers and decide to get rid of memories of the past that are not serving you well but are dragging you down and cluttering your current life.

2. Write your thoughts down 

Keeping a journal is an excellent way to free up your mind by jotting down thoughts and feelings that constantly interrupt your thought process, especially when you are trying to get essential tasks done. It could be situations you are worried about, goals you want to achieve, or concerns about a relationship that isn’t going well, for example. 

3. Don’t procrastinate

Sometimes our brains get so clogged up that making even easy decisions seems hard. However, putting it off creates more clutter and can make life more stressful. And, because you are stressed, you keep shoving the decisions to be made to the back of your mind, but you know you are eventually going to have to take care of matters. It really becomes a vicious cycle, so learning how to break it is beneficial to your peace of mind.

4. Tend the garden of your mind

We need to consider our life a garden and determine what we want to grow there. As with all gardens, we know how easy and fast weeds can creep in and take over. It not only takes diligence and patience to grow desirable crops but also the right fertilizer. Fertilizer would be what you are feeding your crops. Positive thoughts will make them flourish, while negative thoughts will strangle them. Unfortunately, weeds seem to spring up overnight, while the tasty produce can take months. But I’d rather wait for a juicy tomato than eat an overgrown weed any day. How about you? The point here is pulling weeds, watering the garden, and feeding it the right fertilizer will reward you with a good crop.

Get rid of clutter, and you may just find it was blocking the door you’ve been looking for. — Katrina Mayer

Are you struggling with weeds that have taken deep root in your life and seem to be choking out what you want to grow there? If so, working with a coach can help motivate you to set goals as you move forward to an uncluttered mindset and lifestyle.  

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson. I want you to know that I am here to help. If you desire personalized support, I invite you to contact me or schedule your phone call today. 

This article originally appeared on Counseling Solutions of West Michigan.