I cope by: running. I was reluctant for years because I thought it was too hard but it’s one of the most helpful things I’ve found for managing anxiety. I always feel confident and happy after a run. I would highly recommend the couch to 5k for people starting with no experience like I did. Walking in nature: being around green space or water is relaxing and helps me switch off from everything else. Journaling: I just write out everything I feel without changing or judging anything. Helps me figure out how I’m feeling and how I can move past any issues. Eating healthily and keeping to a healthy sleeping schedule: helps to stop blood sugar highs and lows that can cause or aggravate anxiety.

How do you cope when you’re feeling stressed, anxious or low?

We all get into habits for coping, some of which are healthier than others. Below you’ll find some ideas that others find helpful for coping with difficult emotions and feelings.

Mental health charity Mind has a helpful link to help you stay calm; deal with scary thoughts; and plan your day.

Wherever you go in this site, you’ll find more ideas and suggestions which you can try for yourself:

  • They’re free, and easy to fit around your children and other commitments
  • You might be able to make one or two them into a habit by fitting them into your daily routine

Remember that there’s no such thing as a perfect parent and:

  • Take care of yourself
  • Be kind to yourself
  • Ask for help
  • Accept help when it’s offered
  • Keep connected: friends, other single parents, support groups, work colleagues and others
  • Share the childcare with others if you can
  • Don’t take your stress or anger out on your children
  • Be honest and open with your children about what’s going on

Letting go of worries

Try this exercise to help you get rid of worrying thoughts which can go round and round in your head in an endless loop. When you get rid of the unhelpful ‘chatter’, it can relax you and help you see things more clearly.

Leaves on a stream

  1. Lie down or sit comfortably. Close your eyes, or rest them by looking at a fixed spot
  2. Imagine you are sitting by a stream with leaves gently floating along the surface
  3. For the next few minutes, take every thought that enters your head and put it on a leaf. Let the leaf float on by. Do this with every thought you have –whether it’s happy, sad, painful or neutral
  4. If your thoughts come to an end, keep watching the stream. Sooner or later thoughts will start up again
  5. Allow the stream and the leaves to float along at their own speed. Don’t try to speed them up
  6. Allow your thoughts to come and go at their own speed
  7. If your thoughts are ‘this is pointless’ or ‘I’m bored’ or similar, put these thoughts on a leaf too
  8. If a leaf gets stuck, allow it to stick around before floating away
  9. If a thought is painful or difficult it, notice it. ‘I notice that I feel angry, sad, frustrated ….’. Place this thought on a leaf, and allow it to float away

You’ll probably find when you are doing this that your mind drifts off. It doesn’t matter. When you notice this happening, just bring your attention back to the exercise and the stream you are sitting beside.

Coping on the spot

Sometimes when I’m having a difficult day the slightest thing can make me feel irritated. Like when my kids are constantly asking for something, but my head is bursting with other thoughts and things I’m worried about. I know it’s not their fault but in the moment at times I’ve shouted at them which just makes me feel worse. I try to recognise when my stress is spiralling out of control and give them an activity to keep them busy while I can have five minutes or so to myself. Then when I’m feeling slightly better, I can listen to them properly.

When you know that something or someone is making you feel stressed, but you don’t have time to quietly consider a ‘positive’ response, what can you do?

Practise this ‘coping on the spot’ exercise to see if it helps when you feel stressed out or upset:

Coping on the spot

  1. Slowly count to 20 inside
  2. Take long, deep and low breaths
  3. Don’t get into conflict
  4. Move away from the situation
  5. Get to a quiet place where you can think
  6. Try to think of something positive/funny

You can do it

This exercise is to help you say ‘I can’ to yourself rather than ‘I can’t’. It takes practice. It encourages you to think about what you can do. And it stops you from comparing yourself to others.

If you’re often quite hard on yourself, you might find this exercise quite hard too.

So, if you can’t think of anything nice to say about yourself, ask yourself what other people would say that you’re good at or that they like about you.

Write down:

  • Some things you know you are good at (try for 5 things)
  • 5 things that you like about yourself (ignore the things you don’t like about yourself!)
  • What’s good about your life (if you can’t think of anything, what would be good if you were feeling more positive?)
  • 3 things that you do that you enjoy (this can help you see why you can’t think of anything good about your life and what’s missing)
  • Some choices for yourself (try to choose 3 things for yourself)

‘I choose to …’

I choose to …’

I choose to …’

This can help you take responsibility for yourself rather than doing things that you ‘have to’ or ‘should’ do.

Saying something positive to yourself

When you say something positive to yourself, you can make it stick by repeating it. If you say it often enough, you might even believe it.

Write down some positive statements to practise saying to yourself. You can take some of them from the ‘you can do it’ exercise. For example:

You can do it

  • I am good at…
  • I like… about myself
  • I am relaxed
  • I am calm
  • I feel in control

Pick one of your statements and say it out loud or under your breath.

Repeat it for as long as you can: at least a minute is good; longer is even better.

It can help to keep your eyes closed so you can see what you are saying in your mind’s eye.

Now repeat as often as you can, every day. Try doing this while you’re waiting for the kettle to boil. Or while you’re brushing your teeth.

You could also try this exercise from Cope Scotland and make yourself an ‘affirmation jar‘.

Useful links

When to see your GP

If these tips don’t help and you continue to feel overwhelmed or become increasingly worried, it’s a good idea to speak to your GP or other health professional.