psychological first aid | coping with stressful surprises

Hello! I hope you’re doing well. ❤ This is a post series I had the idea for back in October (read the intro here), then I lost interest/kept forgetting about it, lol. But now I’m back for the first installment!

Psychological first aid is a helpful/inspirational post series inspired by a college course I found some months ago. The goal of this kind of article is to help people cope with the emotional and mental side of stressful events – think first aid for the mind!

Just like we use bandages, medicine, and rest to heal from physical trauma, there are ways to emotionally recover and bounce back after mental stress.

The tips I give in this series are from my own personal experiences. I’m not a medical professional, so please seek professional help when you’re in situations that require it.

If some of the points I make in these posts help you along in strengthening your mental health, that’s truly my ultimate goal! I hope that through sharing what I’ve learned that it helps you in your life, too. ❤

coping with stressful surprises

We’ve all been there: things are going along quite normally and then, all of a sudden, everything takes a turn. We get news that spins the day around, in some instances bringing it to a complete standstill.

Time feels very strange when something upsetting surprises us.

It’s like one moment, we we’re casually strolling through a park, admiring nature and the fresh air. But then, something unexpected and stressful teleports us into a loop on a roller coaster.

It’s dizzying, painful, and often leaves us feeling frantic, not knowing what to do next.

One thing I’ve noticed in my life is that I’ll get stuck in a feeling-out-of-control cycle when I’m stressed out. I’ll want to put coping methods into action, but when I’m right in the middle of feeling scared, helpless, and worried, it’s hard to feel grounded and regain a sense of control.

What I’ve been working on for a while now is looking at hard situations once I’m out of them, assessing what I want to do next time I’m faced with something similar. It’s really challenging, let me tell you 🤣 BUT I learn a little bit more every time! And that’s getting me somewhere.

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Here are some really helpful tips I’ve discovered
through coping with stressful surprises in my own life!

1. Give yourself time to process this new situation.

Sometimes I’ll be like, Why do I feel so shaken by this? I just need to relax and feel okay so I can get through it. What’s wrong with me? Even though my intentions may be good, it’s actually what can send me going down the Stress Slide. Talk about counter-productive.

What I can do instead of feeling bad about myself is acknowledge that nothing’s wrong with me. I just need some time to let the news sink in. If I think I “should” be able to instantly roll with it, I’m not taking my emotional and mental needs into consideration.

Be kind to yourself; it’s one of the most helpful things you can do during stressful times. ❤

2. Think about what you can do, and acknowledge what you can’t.

It’s quite admirable to set out to solve everything and make things okay again, but oftentimes that’s not within our power. We’ll easily get feeling defeated when we set goals we can’t instantly reach, both in stressful times and when things are easy.

So do what you can, be open to helping out where you’re needed, and focus on keeping yourself feeling as okay as you can.

3. Be there for others that are working through this stress with you.

It’s quite likely there’s at least one other person involved in this situation with you. If you’re currently doing something on your own, please confide in someone you trust! Share with them the details you can and allow them to be there for you.

When there are other people in a stressful situation you’re also part of, it’s a truly beautiful thing to offer support. It gets our minds off of feeling powerless and onto doing what we can to make the situation lighter for someone else. You can offer kind words, help out with little to-do’s that make the workload easier, and be open to offering assistance as things come up.

4. Understand this: when you’re doing the best you can and things are still stressful, that does NOT mean that you’ve failed.

That statement is exactly what I needed to hear when facing really hard stuff in my life as a teenager. It would have made me feel ten times lighter to know that simple truth. I really believed that if I was doing my best, then everything would be okay. But when things kept being hard, I felt defeated. The moments when I knew I was helping were good, but that comfort didn’t carry me through the hard stuff.

Understanding that my best is enough, and I’m doing all I can, really helps me to confidently face tough things as they come.

Give yourself credit when you’re doing all that you’re able to do. ❤


Thank you so much for reading! I hope this series inspires you and can help you through hard times, if even in the smallest of ways.

What other mental health topics would you like to see me cover? I’d love to hear from you!

14 Comments

  1. What a great and generous topic Maggy! Thank you. Having given up the obvious go-too’s to drown all uncomfortable emotions, it’s so good for me to be reminded that everyone struggles at times.
    Looking forward to your next installment
    muchas gracias 🙏💖🌸

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You’re very welcome! It was great to write, as I touched base with different coping habits I have to remember to put into place. 😂❤️ yes definitely. It’s great when we can share our experiences with each other and learn through what we’ve gone through! Yay and you’re welcome 💜

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Inspiring and informative as always, Maggie! ✨I think tip 4 is something that we all need to keep in mind. It’s so easy to lose heart when we perceive everything in a negative manner. This was a truly beautiful and relevant topic, one I believe many including me is going to come back for a second read ❤️ Can’t wait for more of this series!
    Also, that featured image calmed every single of my nerves down😂💕

    Liked by 1 person

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