"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
April 11, 2013
Coping Strategies
by Cyndie Swindlehurst


Something really traumatic has happened to me this month. Everything is falling apart: all of my plans and goals and expectations are destroyed. I don’t want to turn my back on God, but I feel very angry right now.

What can I do to stay afloat while I try to deal with my totally changed circumstances in life?


I think you are asking the right question: how to stay afloat while you mourn, adjust, and cope.
Here are my suggestions.

  1. Go through the motions. There is enormous benefit to keeping your covenants and fulfilling your responsibilities, especially when you don’t feel like it. It is an expression of faith: that although your observances did not prevent this awful thing from happening to you, you hope they can help you endure it.

    Always go to church, even if you don’t feel like it. Even if you think the entire ward is judging you. Even if you know the entire ward is judging you. Even when people say stupid things to you.

    Try to continue in your calling and assignments. If you cannot, talk with the head of the organization in which you serve about ways you can continue given your new circumstances.

    Kneel down to pray. Open your prayer, and if you can’t think of anything to say, just kneel there for a while. Then close your prayer.

    Read your scriptures. Have Family Home Evening. Watch General Conference.

  2. Don’t ask why this happened or what you are supposed to learn from this. Those answers may not come for years, if at all. Leave a place in your heart for them, in case they do.

  3. Be willing to acknowledge that parts of your testimony may need to be rebuilt. For example, the part where you thought you could avoid awful things if you were good.

  4. If you get angry at God when you contemplate your situation, think about something else. Hold fast to what you do know and what you cannot deny about God, and work from there.

    Put another way, a testimony is based on knowledge and feeling; if you are feeling weak or angry, rely on your knowledge for a while. If your knowledge seems to be decimated, rely on your feelings until you can reconstruct what you know.

    And don’t get stuck on your anger. Feel the bad feelings, but don’t let them become your identity. They are something you feel, not something you are.

  5. Don’t listen to people who say things like, “I’m glad I had this trial because I learned....” You are under no obligation to be glad for your trial.

  6. If you are having a good day, enjoy it. Don’t purposefully dredge up negative thoughts and wallow in your sadness if you are not already feeling sad. And when you have a bad day, go ahead and have a bad day.

  7. Once the initial shock has passed, find something funny to watch. There are many trials of life that cannot be laughed at. But there are TV programs that you can laugh at. And it feels good to laugh at something that is actually funny.

  8. Find something to read or watch or do that will take your mind off your situation. If you know that you get lonely or depressed in the evenings, for example, distract yourself with a show or book or task. If you can’t sleep at night because your mind is full of terrible thoughts, get up and watch “Firefly” or “Horatio Hornblower” or “Medium” or some other engrossing, distracting show.

  9. Go outside. The sun, the wind, and the sky are marvelous medicine.

  10. Dress up. This might sound odd, but on the days you feel the worst, put on something nice, do your hair (if you have any), put on some makeup (if you normally wear it), and put your best foot forward. If nothing fits, go buy something that does. You don’t have to smile, but stand up as straight as you can.

  11. Accept offers of help. If kind people offer to help you, accept their offers. If your friends, visiting teachers, Relief Society, or bishop ask what they can do to help you, tell them. If you need help, ask for it. You don’t get any special awards for refusing help when you need it.

Do you have a quandary, conundrum, or sticky situation in your life? Click this button to drop Cyndie a line, and she’ll be happy to answer your question in a future column. Any topic is welcome!

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About Cyndie Swindlehurst

Cynthia Munk Swindlehurst spent her childhood in New Hampshire and her adolescence in San Diego. She served a mission in Manaus Brazil. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and from Duke University with a law degree.

She practiced law until her first child was born. She enjoys reading, tap dancing, and discussing current events. She and her husband live in Greensboro, North Carolina with their two sons.

Cyndie serves as the Sunbeams teacher in her ward.

Visit Cyndie at Dear Cyndie
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