We Asked: How do you Cope with Negative Experiences?

After a pretty rough couple of years, nobody expected Ariana Grande to release her latest single “Thank U, Next”. The amazing thing being that it was based on her negative experiences, and it was made clear that this was just her way of dealing with it all. Inspired by her way of coping with the difficult times, I asked a group of brilliant women to share how they cope when they feel down. It was wonderful to hear such a variety of ways, and I hope you find giving them a read as valuable as I did.


Nura Alyah​

What helps the most for difficult, stressful nights is tucking myself away at my desk, popping on a podcast (my personal favourites are My Brother, My Brother and Me, or The Adventure Zone, both by the McElroy Brothers) and just drawing for however long it takes for the episodes to run and my anxiety to go away. I struggle sitting still, which is exacerbated when I'm having an anxiety attack. Yet, there's something so, so easy about letting my mind go quiet while listening to absolutely ridiculous stories in my ear, and simultaneously having my hands busy via drawing and painting. It really helps to calm me down and pass the time - plus, it means that my artistic skills have skyrocketed. I draw for hours on end without really noticing or caring about how pieces turn out, which boosts my self-confidence while also beating anxiety. A win win!


Sacha Dhabalia

I’d say that the most difficult times for me, would be just after a break-up (shock). What a first-world problem, but a problem that nonetheless can leave a lot of us feeling extremely lonely, isolated, and confused about our identity and the months prior to the break up. Memories are now bitter-sweet, and we must re-structure our days completely differently to how they were before. Most of the time, it’s actually me that initiates the break-up. I’ve done my fair share of cheating, and after ending things I feel a gaping hole of guilt, regret, and self-hatred for hurting someone I love. Cheating is usually worse for the one who was cheated on, but it often leaves me completely disorientated about all aspects of my identity, and I frequently wonder, like my ex… ‘Who am I?’. Whenever this low comes around, I walk myself out of the house and into a cozy cafe, which is not too hard to find around Bristol. Sipping on a comforting hot drink, I’ll get my beloved diary out, and write. Many people ask me (since I’ve been writing a diary for 10 years now), what do you write and how do you go about having a diary? Well, it’s different for everyone, but whenever my heart is hurting, things seem to just pour out. There’s often a pattern among these passages. Firstly, it’s recounting an event or just saying how I feel, and then eventually, I somehow find answers to everything I’ve just written. It’s as though writing allows you time and space to figure out things, which would probably have not happened had I kept it all bubbling away in my head. There’s nothing more satisfying than finding yourself the exact help that you need. Of course it doesn’t all go away instantly, and it’s important to accept that your heart won’t always be where your head is, but it’s a little moment of relief at a time when you really need it. So, my recommendation is to take yourself out on dates, write, and get back to understanding who you are without that significant other.


Iris Maxfield​

As quite an emotional individual, my pits tend to be low, and my peaks high, which I love in many ways but it means I've learnt well what to do in the pits. Rugby has been a huge game changer in my life and improved my mental health overall. But recently when I was feeling disappointed by a grade I'd received, a friend on the team messaged unexpectedly asking for a kick about with a rugby ball. I didn't want to go but it helped to no end when I did; just letting my mind have a break and I was able to look back at the assignment and recognise what was great about it as well as the mistakes. This love for rugby also has led to my favourite cheer up movie. Called The Handsome Devil (on Netflix, check it out) it’s an Irish film about gay school kids and rugby. This film, with no exaggeration, makes me feel so many things, even on the at least 20th viewing. Light hearted and realistic, it reminds me how much I've grown since my school years and also warms me watching characters growing. (Please check it out, I promise it'll be worth it.)

I can't avoid bad days or rubbish moments but I have an arsenal of methods I can deploy to feel better. I can't always make it outside or to the gym, but I'll always find my way to Netflix, and I find it easier to return to normality by first stepping out of it and jumping into stories.


Emily Marie Gates

It’s so easy to get lost in your thoughts so for me one of the best ways of coping with any negative situation is to write everything down. Personally, I prefer old-school pen and paper because there’s something really therapeutic about actually seeing everything in front of you on a sheet of paper. I’ll usually write out a list of what’s bothering me and then write down all the ways I can tackle it. Even just writing in my diary, or writing a letter to my family helps — sometimes things are a lot harder to talk about in person, so writing it down takes away any nerves that come with expressing something out loud. I did this a lot in first year when I was stressing about money; I’d write down everything I needed to pay out for, how much I had saved or was going to save and being able to see, on paper, that things were going to be okay helped massively.


Becky Messer

A recent negative time I experienced was when I overslept and missed an essay deadline. I’d been obsessing over the essay for weeks and was desperate to do well and make up for how badly my January exams went. I would go to sleep thinking about the essay and wake up thinking about it the next day. The night before it was due I was exhausted and the essay was finished, other than the referencing, so I decided I could go on a celebratory night out and finish and submit it in the morning. So as you can imagine, when I realised I’d missed the deadline and I’d automatically lose ten marks I felt really overwhelmed. There were so many negative thoughts in my mind. In my mind, I had ruined it and couldn’t blame anyone but myself. Usually in this situation I would seclude myself, and torment myself with my mistakes. Recently, however, I had been going to an anxiety management course in which they reminded us that other people really do want to help us and we are not as alone as we feel. This completely changed my response to this negative situation. I didn’t necessarily trust this advice, but it seemed worth a try. After waking up, within two minutes I was out of my house on my way to a friends (shout out to Iris!) Being with Iris didn’t fix the problem, but being comforted by a good friend made a world of difference to how I felt. I learnt that it really is worth it to be vulnerable others (and that you should submit your essay before you get fucked up!)



When I was 10, my school classed me as too fat for my own good — I had to run almost 2km every alternate morning for the next two years.

When I was 13, a boy I really liked told me to hit the gym — he called me ‘chubs’ and said he liked them fit.

Now, at 21, I’m still reminded of any ‘extra’ weight every time I go home — if I don’t suck in my tummy at a family feast, it can be entertaining to hear creative comments about my appearance.

Trivial as it sounds, it really made me hate looking at mirrors for a long time. I couldn’t afford operations like liposuction and I was already quite active in sports and watching my diet, so I began to wonder if manual fat removal could be a DIY project.

What helped was an activity my friend suggested I do: at the end of every day, write down 1 thing you’re grateful for and 3 things you liked about yourself that day. It sounded simple but, having done it consistently over a year, it has had significant impact on how I see myself. Despite growing up being taught that my body is my greatest asset, I began to see that my own worth went beyond what looked back at me in the mirror.

Body positivity comes more naturally to some than others and really, that’s okay — maybe this little exercise can help somebody who needs a nudge to see how amazing they are. 🙂


Andra Popa​

Creating a routine filled with a myriad of things you enjoy and rewards helps a great deal. If I wake up feeling down, getting a good breakfast and splurging on a fancy coffee will make me want to feel more motivated and conscious. Also, getting some work done, not like ‘work work’, but some cleaning, or replying to that email you forgot about, or even texting back your friends, something that will make me feel like I got some weight off my shoulders. My perfect go-to if I really feel sad is facetiming my best friend while cleaning my make-up drawers, then going to the gym to get angry at those machines, not my life.


Dulcie Godfrey

Recently I have had periods of feeling particularly negative or down. Being relatively new to university life this is not unheard nor unanticipated by me. The first thing I do is allow myself to wallow for a bit. Stay in bed, eat some chocolate. However, most importantly, I give myself an end point. By X o’clock I will get out of bed, get dressed, exercise, do some reading. If I’m finding this particularly difficult I count down from 5 in my head, then force myself up. This is scientifically proven to block your brain from talking itself out of what it doesn’t want to do. I think trying not to be too hard on yourself is important; sometimes we just feel down, and that’s okay. I started feeling better when I acknowledged that sometimes doing the things that usually make you feel better don’t always work, but it’s just a bad day not a bad life.


Sarah Wilson

University is a series of peaks and troughs and sometimes negative events can do a pretty good job of casting a black cloud over our day, week, month or even year. In think it’s important to wallow for a bit to get it out of your system. In the past, this translated to endless evenings watching Bridget Jones and eating Ben and Jerrys, or countless days watching Friends on repeat in my pj’s. Now, I set myself a deadline for wallowing. Once the deadline is up I get organised and keep myself busy. Although it doesn’t work for everyone, I find that going to the gym is instant therapy. That rush of endorphins helps to settle my emotions and allows me to look at things in a more measured way. I’ve also really found that it boosts my self esteem and makes me feel confident enough to get through tough situations.


Emilia Peters

I struggled to adjust to university in my first term. Making friends was quite difficult, I didn’t understand the content of my lectures, and I had broken up with my boyfriend. My confidence had plummeted. Suddenly I was a little fish in a big pond. I did not think I deserved to be there, and I thought there was something wrong with me. I heard about Rupi Kaur’s Milk & Honey, so I asked for it for Christmas. I read the whole thing in one sitting on Boxing Day. It was very comforting to see someone else experience the negative feelings I did, which gave me more faith when I went on to read the more optimistic poems. Her poems made me look at myself in a different way. I had read it at exactly the right time. Although it definitely did not solve everything, it was definitely was a big moment for me in getting my confidence back. More recently, when I generally feel sad or stressed, I love a magazine. Easy to sink into with short, light-hearted articles, and a way to step away from the screens. My favourite bit: cutting out all the things I find pretty or inspiring to make a collage!


So here you go, there are many different ways to practice self-care and I think this is evidence of it! Thank you so much to all the people for being open about their personal experiences. If you are still figuring out what works best for you, I hope this gives you some ideas.