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Let it go.

Let it go.

You can’t always control what life throws at you, but a few go-to strategies can help you through the disappointments. Here, Amelia Ball shares some ideas that might just make all the difference.

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So, you’ve seen your future. You’ll cruise through school with your life-long friends, ace your dream course and swan into the perfect job – all with a happy family and soulmate by your side. Sound familiar? Not for most people who are on the other side of it all. Spoiler alert: things rarely go to plan.

Whether it’s an all-consuming heartbreak, end of a friendship you thought would last forever or a different type of challenge, it can sometimes feel like we get hit with one drama after another. According to Vikki Ryall, head of clinical practice at headspace, it’s the combination of biological, psychological and social shifts in our teens and early 20s that makes these experiences so significant. “It’s an enormous number of big changes in one condensed time,” she says. However, Vikki adds that not only are these experiences “normal” but also “required” for us to grow and figure out who we want to be.

So, how do we rise above the chaos?
It can come down to believing there will be a silver lining, even if it’s impossible to imagine at the time.

As productivity coach Jo Bendle says, “The one thing that’s constant in life is change, so whatever you’re going through, remember it won’t last!” For someone who helps people exceed their life goals, Jo knows first-hand you can never underestimate the power of perspective. “If you focus only on the negative things happening, you will attract more negativity into your life,” she says.

Pay attention to your inner monologue. Would you talk to a friend like that? Would you tell her the things you say to your own reflection? Or put her down and blame her when things don’t work out?

If you’re prone to negative self-talk, switch the language and tone you use, and practise being kinder to yourself. If all this positivity feels out of reach, try the following ideas.

1. Find your confidante.

Your great mate who’s always up for a good time isn’t necessarily the right person to turn to when you need it most.

Knowing which people in your world are going to listen, empathise and support you in the best possible way is a huge step towards knowing how to help yourself.

Vikki of headspace says we often need to turn to someone outside our regular circle, such as an older cousin, and that talking is critical because it keeps us socially connected. “We can get stuck in our heads and be our own worst enemies, so sometimes, by saying things out loud, it can be a reality-check and help people to reflect,” Vikki says.

Finding the right person to talk to can also mean turning to various support centres and helplines, with headspace just one service offering access to people who are ready to listen objectively and without judgement.

2. Stick to the schedule.

It’s tempting to run away from the problem and pretend it’s not happening, but don’t worry – this is a universal response. “We learn to move away from the thing that’s scary from a young age, so these patterns start early,” Vikki says.

She does suggest, however, that one of the best things to do when reeling from a challenge is stick to our regular schedule. “Maintaining work, school and activities when you’re struggling can be very constructive,” Vikki says. This provides a sense of purpose, keeps us doing what we enjoy and also ensures we retain contact with the people around us.

We do still need to go easy on ourselves though. Give yourself a bit of time to lick your wounds. That doesn’t mean binge-watching in bed forever; just listen to your body. Follow your instincts and learn how to do what’s right for you. Skipping that party or saying no to those extra shifts might be exactly what you need – or not!  

3. Sweat it out.

Working up a sweat when things don’t feel great isn’t always enticing, but it will help. Personal trainer Kea Thorburn, owner of Sydney’s, Fit Yeah, says it’s because exercise releases those ‘feel-good’ chemicals such as endorphins and serotonin.

“These chemicals can make you feel happy, and reduce stress, depression and anxiety,” Kea says. Exercise also comes with the added benefits of boosting confidence. “Whether it’s to do with your appearance, lifting a certain weight or just walking up that huge flight of stairs, it gives you a sense of achievement. Better still, grab some friends and do it together. Then you have others to encourage and work together to get through the workout, and it will help you stay committed to the new regime too.”

If the thought of exercise makes you reach for the doona, try just a walk around the block. Be present. Try focusing on only the sun, the breeze and the sights, sounds and smells along the way.

If you’ve been holed up at home, this will feel like a glorious feast for your senses. Even if a stroll lifts your spirits just a little bit, that’s great.

4. Remember the bad too.

Sometimes when a relationship ends, it’s extremely difficult to see things as they are. We can often take on the blame and obsess over every ‘wrong’ step we’re convinced we made. But stop! Remind yourself of all the times this person let you down or disappointed you.

Quite simply, list the reasons they’re not right for you. US psychologist Guy Winch details this approach in his TED Talk, ‘How to fix a broken heart’.

Write your list, Guy says, and refer to it whenever you find yourself idealising your ex or replaying the relationship yet again. It’s no surprise these are common responses though; Guy cites brain studies that have found the withdrawal of romantic love activates the same mechanisms in the brain that addicts experience during substance withdrawal.

Always take time to recognise and acknowledge how overwhelming a break-up can be, but this practical approach can allow you to see things rationally and help you to move on.     

5. Commit to your bucket-list.

If you’ve been stuck in your head, remember the bigger picture. What is it that you really want to do? If Plan A has fallen over, are you now free to pursue Plan B? Remind yourself that you always wanted to learn Spanish. Or learn ballet. Travel around South America. Apply for that course. No matter how big or small, add your amazing plans to your list and read it often.

In productivity coach Jo Bendle’s work, it’s all about making things happen. “Focus on the exciting plans and ideas you have for the future, and your mind will look for ways to do them,” she says. “That’s why focusing on your bucket-list is more powerful than it seems – you’re literally inviting those things into your life.”

Jo even suggests writing a diary entry as if you’ve just had your ideal day and achieved something off that dream to-do list. “It’s an excellent way of pulling yourself out of your current thinking to help you see how good the future can be,” Jo says.   

6. Be your own best mate.

Here’s the thing: if you enjoy your own company, you’ve got a best mate for life. If you find it particularly challenging to do things solo, start small. See a movie. Go to the beach. Eat in a cafe – without your phone!

The bottom line? Invest in your own relationship with yourself and feel your confidence, self-worth and resilience skyrocket. This can only mean amazing things for when life throws that next challenge your way.

People aged 12 to 25 seeking help for a mental health problem should contact headspace