Three tips for coping when life throws you a curveball

Photo by Eduardo Balderas

This past week I’ve been asking myself about coping when life throws you a curveball.


What are some tips for coping in those times when things happen you didn’t want or expect? When all your plans change overnight?


As I was pondering these things, I came upon a blog post that I had written eighteen months ago on this topic and never published. Serendipity? Probably. I need my own advice here.


Bear in mind that the story I share is well before the pandemic of 2020.



The sad story of the fallen tree


The day began well. I’d woken up early and managed a walk in the woods before anyone in the family woke up. I arrived home energised and full of purpose.


My four year old daughter had just got up and wanted to play. We played together while my husband made us all breakfast. Fantastic! This was going to be a good day.


The children went off to school and I started work with a sense of focus. A good session with a coaching client. Catching up with a friend about a project we’re working on and getting some admin tasks done.


Then I heard it.


A terrible noise that sounded like it was coming from our back garden.


I went to investigate and to my horror a man with a chainsaw was merrily sawing off branches from the beautiful mature silver birch tree. The tree is in our neighbour’s garden but as it’s on the border we enjoyed the full benefit of it. It was my favourite tree, even though it wasn’t ‘ours’.



Notice the impact


It never occurred to me that my neighbour would want to cut it down. I went and spoke to her and she said that she wanted it gone as it was casting too much shade on the garden and she wanted to build a brick shed for extra storage. She wasn’t for turning.


Well, I was gutted.


I love trees.  And I especially loved that tree. In the summer evening light it cast a dappled glow over the bedroom walls. It was the main thing in the view out the back that made me feel less like I’m in the middle of the city.


Unsurprisingly, I didn’t get a lot done after that. I negotiated to take some of the wood for our wood burner and that took some time. I tried to make contact with family – I needed some connection – but everyone was busy. I distracted myself.


I could feel myself starting to get angry for not being able to pick up and ‘just get on with it’ more quickly. The inner critic started to emerge. I recognise her more quickly now, though.


Then I stopped in my tracks.


Notice and name the emotions


No, I said. I’m going to feel this sadness. If I don’t it will just drag me down and become stuck energy in my body.


I sat and cried. I’m not ashamed to admit it. I sobbed over a great big tree that was gone.


Reset your expectations and be kind to yourself


Then, I reset my expectations of myself for the rest of the day. Just do one thing that feels achievable. I sat down to write this blog post!


Being kind to ourselves is something that many of us find hard. We’re so busy. Life is full up and we have very little leeway. We want to be productive and stay on track. We have goals we want to achieve. Heck, just surviving sometimes feels like a race.


However, life has a way of reminding us that we’re not in control. All that we can control is our response.


It has taken a long time, but I’ve gradually learned to be kinder to myself in these situations.


So to summarise, here are my three tips for coping when life throws you a curveball:


1. Notice and accept that life has thrown you a curveball. If you fight it or judge it, that creates more stress.


2. Notice, name and feel your emotions. Stop and feel it. Feelings are not right or wrong. They just are. They are real and the more we resist the stronger they get.


3. Reset your expectations. This could be for that day or in the case of much bigger challenges, for much longer. Accept what you cannot change and make a plan based on this new reality.


What has helped you deal with the curveballs of this past year?