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Bouncing back from life's challenges

It might seem like the most important time to take care of your mental wellbeing is when you are not feeling your best.

But it's actually a great idea to take steps to look after your mental health every day, regardless of how you may currently be feeling or what's happening in your life.

Video: Bouncing back from life's challenges

This video will explain what strategies you can use to build resilience to help you cope and deal with problems when times are tougher.

Steps and strategies to build resilience and help you bounce back

Taking these steps to stay on top of your wellbeing even when things are OK helps you to learn how to bounce back.

This means having the skills you need to cope with life's challenges and feel better in tougher times – it's also called building resilience.

This might sound difficult, but the chances are you already manage challenges well in many areas of your life, no matter how big or small. And there are lots of different things you can do and think about to help you learn to build resilience and bounce back.

These 6 tips will help get you started.

1. Start with what you're good at

Thinking about something you're good at, big or small, can help you to recognise your skills and abilities.

Maybe you play a team sport, cook or garden? It could also be something like being a caring friend or parent.

Consider what makes you good at it. Does it take patience? Organisation? Compassion?

If you need help to identify your strengths, consider an average day: which parts do you find easier? Are there any tasks you feel more confident doing?

2. Think about difficulties you have overcome

Even the things we are really good at can come with difficulties.

Take the activity or trait from step 1 and see if you can remember times that were harder or required a change in your approach. How were you able to overcome it?

For example, you may have prepared a complicated meal for friends or family by reading the recipe beforehand and breaking it down into manageable chunks.

What can you learn from this earlier situation that might help you with other challenges now and in the future?

3. See how you can apply this elsewhere

Now think about how these positive traits could be applied to other, more challenging areas of your life.

For example, knowing how to manage your time when cooking could mean you have the skills to manage your time at work when things feel busy. Being a caring friend could mean you have good listening skills, which could help you to resolve conflict in other areas of your life.

Repeat this exercise whenever you face a challenge.

4. Find an image or metaphor to help you in difficult times

Changing the way we think about a situation can be a big help, especially when a challenge feels too difficult at first. Many people find using images or metaphors can have a positive impact on how they feel.

For example, a DJ can change the mood in the room instantly with the choice of track. If you're struggling to start or complete a task, try to imagine you're out and the DJ has just changed the music to your favorite upbeat tune. Would this give you a burst of energy to keep going?

Can you use this example and apply it to your difficult time?

If using metaphors and image comparisons is helpful to you, try writing them down to look back at when you need a reminder

5. Take some time to plan ahead

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, try to find 5 or 10 minutes to sit in a quiet place and problem solve. This may be easier with a pen and paper, or by recording yourself speaking.

Use the previous 4 tips to help you come up with strategies for working through challenges. To get started, it might help to think about these questions:

  • What are the issues I am facing?
  • What actions do I need to take first?
  • Which strategies have I used in the past that can help me now?
  • Can I look at this situation in a different way?

6. Reflect, recognise and reward

Learning to manage and bounce back from life's challenges does not happen overnight, but it's important to recognise all the positive steps you have made.

In time, these tips can become habits, and you might notice that you start to work through these steps automatically. To help you get to this stage it can be useful to take some time each week or month to reflect.

Think about the challenges you have faced and how you dealt with them, making sure you take the time to recognise and celebrate your achievements.

You may want to mark the moment by rewarding your achievements with an activity you really enjoy, like cooking your favourite meal or watching a favourite film.

More self-help CBT techniques you can try

Facing your fears

Facing our fears can be tough – but avoiding situations can mean that our fears grow. See our guidance and the steps you can take to gradually face your fears, start to overcome them and feel more in control.

Find more ideas to try in self-help CBT techniques