How to Cope Through Tough Times: Tips for Adults

Image for increased anxiety article Each person's response to a tough situation is different. The response can appear right away or months later. It important to know that you are not alone in your pain and that there is help.

Responses to Tough Situations

Some common responses are:

  • Disbelief and shock
  • Fear and anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Emotional numbness
  • Irritability and anger
  • Sadness and depression
  • Feeling powerless
  • Extreme hunger or lack of hunger
  • Problems making decisions
  • Crying without cause
  • Headaches and stomach problems
  • Problems sleeping
  • Drinking too much or using drugs

What You Can Do

Some tips to help deal with the stress, pain, and anxiety are:

  • Talk about it. You can't work through what has happened without talking about it. By talking with others, you will ease stress, find out that other people share your feelings, and know that you are not alone.
  • Take good care of your physical health. Get plenty of rest and exercise. Remember to eat well. Do not drink too much alcohol or do things that are risky.
  • Take good care of your mental health. Do things that you find relaxing. Give yourself time to cope. Think about other times you have had strong emotions and how they were resolved.
  • Spend time with your family and friends. If you have children, encourage them to talk about their feelings with you.
  • Create and maintain a daily routine. Routines are comforting when times are uncertain.
  • Do something positive that will help you feel in control. Some examples are giving blood or donating food or clothing.
  • Ask for help. Feeling overwhelmed is not a sign of weakness. Find someone who can help.
  • Stay informed. Not knowing what is happening may raise stress or anxiety. Use reliable sources of information to keep up with what is going on.

Talk to a therapist if you have problems that last more than 4 to 6 weeks. If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or others, get help right away.


Mental Health America

National Institute of Mental Health


Canadian Psychiatric Association

Canadian Psychological Association


Coping with disaster. Federal Emergency Management Agency website. Available at: Updated January 13, 2020. Accessed April 22, 2020.

Coping with disaster. National Mental Health Association website. Available at: Accessed April 22, 2020.

Coping with a disaster or a traumatic event. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: Updated September 13, 2019. Accessed April 22, 2020.

Last reviewed June 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board