7 Productive Ways to Manage Yourself When Times Get Rough

Stress Shattered Glass Word Cloud Concept

The stresses of life can sometimes cause conflict within us internally, and externally in our work and relationships. Although some things may truly be beyond our control, exercising some control over how we respond can be useful in helping us to deal with, and work through challenging times. Each of us can respond to stress in a variety of different ways. Some of those responses can be helpful, and some can be hurtful.

Here are 7 productive ways to manage yourself when times get rough

Don’t Project

When times are difficult, sometimes the ones who are closest to us end up receiving the brunt of our frustrations. It can also show up at work or in everyday life in the form of lashing out against someone else who has nothing to do with the conflict we might be experiencing. Don’t let this happen. Instead…

Acknowledge Your True Feelings

What’s really going on? What is the source of your stress, and how are you feeling about it? Are you really angry, or are you actually scared of something? Are you fearful about losing something, not living up to something, not being something. Are you embarrassed? Feeling hopeless, afraid, or inadequate?

Acknowledging your true feelings and not denying them can be a helpful place to start in terms of figuring out what to do next. Being honest about your feelings about what might be causing you stress can also help prevent harmful conflicts in your relationships because being honest about what you might be experiencing in real-time can enable you to better prevent build-up from unacknowledged issues and the impending blow-up in the form of self-defeating behaviors which can show up when that denial comes to a head.

Dispute Negative Self-Talk

What is negative self-talk? Negative self-talk can show up as the voices of self-doubt. They are the whispering thoughts that we might have within ourselves as we’re encountering something difficult that play on our insecurities.

Sometimes it can seem as if the message is screaming at us, sometimes it can start from just a whisper of doubt (which can be just as damaging if we believe it). The messages can say a wide variety of things, many of which can boil down to telling us we can’t make it; that we’re not good enough, and that we should just give up.

Sometimes we can have a tendency to beat ourselves up when times get rough. But challenging negative thoughts about ourselves that may arise can help us to move forward.

Just think about it. Is what you’re thinking or feeling about yourself in the moment really true? Are you really a loser, or are you just having a rough day? Is the goal you’re trying to obtain really impossible to reach, or have you just hit a roadblock? Are you really stuck, are there other methods of getting to where you want to go?

Whatever the messages might be, in challenging the negative thoughts you may be experiencing, you might find that what you may have been thinking previously couldn’t have been further from reality.

Think of Past Victories

Not past “failures”. We can’t change what happened in the past. What we can do is take lessons from what’s happened before and try to do better in the future. Beating yourself up about what didn’t happen serves no purpose other than to keep you where you are: Stuck.

Instead, think of past victories. What has worked for you in the past? Have you ever been in a situation in which you thought something wasn’t going to turn out right, only to see things fall together over time? Think about those times. Use them as a reminder of the good that can happen.  What happened? What did you do? What/who helped you achieve that desired outcome? Thinking about past victories can snap us out of feeling hopeless and into feeling hopeful.

Take Action Steps

Spending too much time dwelling on what you might perceive as going wrong can keep you immobolized. Assess your situation. Even if it’s just a little each day, take out time to be intentional about moving forward with addressing the problem by working towards a solution.

Seek Support

Spending time with people who care about you and understand you can be refreshing and sustaining, especially during the hard times. Lean on them. That’s what they’re there for.


Understand it’s a process

Be patient. Things take time. Sometimes in life it can seem as if we’re traveling more on a winding road than in a straight line. I think the photo above can be a symbolic reminder to stay focused on the light through whatever turns you might encounter.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, and as with all things, I’ll need your help to make the picture more complete.

What did you think about this list? What are some other productive ways to manage yourself in difficult times?


From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins, MSW



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Written by

I'm a Social Justice Educator and Aspiring Humanitarian who is interested in conflict resolution, improving intergroup relations, and building more equitable and inclusive communities. "Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian" is my blog, where I write about issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice. By exploring social identities through written word, film & video, and other forms of media, I hope to continue to expand and enrich conversations about social issues that face our society, and to find ways to take social action while encouraging others to do so as well in their own ways.

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2 Responses

  1. lorigreer says:

    Very useful post, thank you.

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