learn how to handle tough times to help your headspace

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Developing your own positive ways to handle tough times can help make you more resilient, develop your self-awareness and build your confidence. All these things help to keep your headspace healthy.

Developing your personal coping strategies

There's no doubt about it - life can be really hard sometimes. From relationship issues, to work and study stress, to simply feeling low – we all go through stressful and emotional periods.

When this happens, our coping strategies kick in - things we've learnt over time to help us cope. Some people use helpful ways of coping - like journaling, meditation or talking with family or friends. But for many of us, the strategies we turn to can actually leave us feeling worse. We may stop doing things we enjoy, turn to alcohol and other drugs or disconnect from friends and family. 

Hands sketching on a notepad.

So, where should you start if you want to learn new ways to cope with difficult times? The important first step is to reflect on how you react to stress. Taking time to understand what you do and why you do it. This builds your self awareness. It can also help you learn things about yourself that will help you handle tough times in the future. The more you understand yourself, the better you will be at applying positive strategies that work for you.

Here’s how learning new and positive ways to handle tough times can help your headspace. It can:

  • Improve your self-awareness

  • Give you a sense of achievement

  • Build your confidence

  • Lift your energy

  • Improve your motivation

  • Allow you to identify strategies that might not be as helpful


Download our fact sheet on learning skills for tough times

(PDF 540 kb)

Ask an expert

Here’s how our headspace experts suggest you develop your own, coping strategies.

  • Notice how you respond in tough times. Everyone goes through hard times, and everyone copes in different ways. Noticing how you handle tough times is the first step towards changing things that aren't working for you. Pausing for a few seconds gives you the power to choose how you'd like to respond, rather than reacting automatically.


  • Reflect. Think about whether your current coping strategies are helpful. This is not easy to do, and can take some practice. It might help to give yourself some time to ponder these questions, and write down anything that comes up:

      • Is the way I respond to tough times useful, or not?

      • How are my thoughts or feelings influencing what you do?

      • Why do I respond in that way?

      • How could I approach these challenges differently?


  • Start sooner rather than later. Try to build your coping strategies as soon as you notice you're having a rocky time. It doesn't matter how long you've been having difficulties, there's always time to learn new strategies.


  • Make it work for you. Your strategies might be very different to someone else, and that's OK! Everyone is different. Coping with stress and emotion is personal, which is why it's good to learn what’s working for you.


  • Get support. It can help to let those closest to you know your new coping strategies. That way, when you're distressed, and if you're not thinking clearly, they can support you with your new plan.


  • Notice the benefits. Learning to notice how you handle these challenges and paying attention to whether the strategies are useful or not is a great skill to work on. A lot of growth can come from how we manage the challenges that life throws at us. Noticing the benefits will help motivate you to continue trying new ways. Plus, it will help build your resilience!
  • journal

  • use artwork to express your feelings

  • write down your triggers or what you find difficult

  • schedule in regular catch ups with family and friends

  • do a digital detox or reduce screen time

  • spend time in nature

  • practice being kind to yourself

  • listen to things that make you feel happy, like a podcast or your favourite song

  • meditate/relaxation exercises

  • try some breathing exercises.


“When I'm experiencing a tough time, I’ve learnt a few skills to help me out. The main techniques I use are meditation and talking about how I'm feeling with other people. I've learnt these skills from my school counsellors throughout high school, and now use these skills in university and beyond. I've realised that when I need support, it's always been there, I've just had to ask. I find support in my family, school and the wider community. Other things I do to look after myself are eating well,  staying active, and hanging out with friends - these are the key ways I maintain a good headspace."

- Rohan, headspace Youth National Reference Group member

Healthy habits

When you go through tough times, it’s important to put healthy habits in place – to give yourself a better chance of coping with life’s challenges.

Having a plan for how you can best look after yourself in times of stress is one important habit, but it's not the only one. Things like exercise, eating well, and spending time on your relationships are also important for good mental health.

 The headspace Clinical Reference Group oversee and approve clinical resources made available on this website.

Last reviewed 10 September 2021

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