What Happens When: Life Throws You A Curve-ball

I want to start a new series called “What Happens When…” which will be a set of articles targeted at life’s hiccups and how to sit with them and overcome them. On the list to cover first are: ‘What Happens When Life Throws You A Curve-ball’, ‘What Happens When Your Motivation Disappears’, ‘What Happens When You Change Your Career-path’. I’d like this series to be as helpful as it can be, so if you have any ideas or requests for other topics, please get in touch. 

What happens when Life (with a capital ‘L’) throws you a curve-ball…? In my experience, a whole heap of both unhelpful and helpful things. This article is aimed at helping those who, for whatever reason, are feeling like life is getting on top of them and are struggling to cope as they ‘normally’ do. This is particularly for anyone who has come up against a bump in the road at a crucial time of study or work. I have personal experience of both, and whether it is home, heart or health related I don’t think we can underestimate that life often throws us for a loop and we can struggle.

So how do you keep going when you just want to hit the pause button? [caveat: there are times when you absolutely must (or have no other option but to) push the pause button – this is not a cure-all post, but a resource for support]. See below a list of practical and simple ways to ride those bumps with a little cushioning.



  • This is the key to feeling more in control and on top of things – and also getting what you need to get done while feeling overwhelmed or incapable. I wrote about it here to deal with procrastination, but the principle still applies.
  • In your head (or on paper) sort things into three categories: Essential, Important, Trivial. Then focus your more limited energy, resources, emotions, etc. on the ‘Essential’ category only.
  • This becomes a virtuous circle – the more you slowly chip away at the essential tasks the better you will feel and the more you are likely to do.

Make a list or a schedule

  • This is linked to the above, but can be used as a visible tracker/organiser.
  • I use a colour-coded Excel spreadsheet (yes I am that person…) during revision and exam season to ensure I can, at-a-glance, check I’m covering everything I need to, scheduling in breaks and fun activities and also can then move things around if life happens. I found this helps me really relax and feel less snowed under. It’s been a lifesaver during my university years – when something has always happened over exam period to derail my prep or up-end my life.
  • When I worked, I had a book that I wrote down everything I needed to do that day/week/month and then ticked things off.
  • These are both satisfying and practical ways to allow your brain to ‘park’ the worry of not being ‘sorted’ while allowing flexibility that life requires.

Take some time out

  • When life gives you lemons…make lemonade, sip it and take some time out.
  • We can often feel like we need to ‘power through’ or ‘man up’ – fairly toxic phrases when you feel you just can’t keep going. And the answer is simple – don’t push through, don’t stiffen that upper lip – step away and have a night off.
  • Sometimes the very act of driving on can feed our stress levels and create more problems. There are times when you do need to hit that pause button and allow yourself some breathing space.
  • Go for a walk, watch a film, cook a meal, take a nap, have a cry. These are all short, but constructive and cathartic ways to take some time out from life – yet are healthy.

Give in and let go

  • This is related to taking time out, but takes it one step further. As already mentioned we can often try and ignore things and push on. Although this can be useful and necessary, there is a fine line between stretching yourself enough and pushing yourself too far when you’re under the cosh. I personally find the line hard to tread.
  • I find that if I’m physically unwell I struggle to give into that and just let things take their course. I battle internally and beat myself up for missing things or having to postpone plans or having to rely on people for help.
  • But my best piece of advice in situations like that is to let go; allow yourself to be tucked up in bed with a bowl of soup and some painkillers and ride it out. That way you give yourself the best chance of recovery and don’t punish yourself for things you can’t control. Que sera, sera.”
  • I find I often get physically better quicker by giving in and letting go.

Ask for help

  • This might sound basic, but people often feel too ashamed, too headstrong or too stuck to ask for help. Yet it is a sure fire way to ease your burden – even if just by venting to someone.
  • Ask for practical help – if you’re ill: ask for a care package of food; if you missed a lecture: ask for notes; if you feel overwhelmed: ask for some time; if you feel upset: ask someone for a cup of tea and a chat.

Treat yo’self

  • This sends yourself positive messages by implementing simple self-care tips. Another virtuous circle – the kinder you are to yourself, the better you feel and the better you feel the kinder you want to be to yourself.
  • I am a big advocate of face masks (gives you 15 minutes where you can’t move and have to just ‘be’), baths, yoga or meditation sessions or a square (or three) of dark chocolate which is known to boost mood when it contains a high percentage of cocoa.

Re-frame and regroup

  • Re-framing life’s difficulties could unlock a bit of inner and outer peace – I’m not saying re-framing is a panacea, but it could help.
  • In my view, life is meant to be lived as a heartbeat looks on a cardiogram – with ups and downs, peaks and troughs – not as a straight line. If your heartbeat doesn’t have those highs and lows – you’re flat-lining, and you don’t need to be a medic to know that’s not good news…
  • Those low points often hold (unasked for) life lessons that help shape you and allow you to grow. You will come through them stronger, more focused and more able to face the next challenge. It may not feel like it at the time, but I truly believe that life only throws you what you can handle.
  • You’ve got through everything up to today, so there’s no reason why you won’t cope going forward. Even if you feel at the lowest you’ve ever felt – that just means the only way is up.




11 thoughts on “What Happens When: Life Throws You A Curve-ball

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