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Woman smilingPhoto: Chaz McGregor

How to Smile Through a Crisis

Aly Johnson
By Aly Johnson

Sometimes life gets you down. You hit a rough patch and it seems like the darkness is closing in and there is nothing you can do to rise above it. Occasionally all you need is a bit of resilience to weather the storm, sometimes you need more, like a coping strategy.

Burying your head in the sand and willing the problem to go away won’t resolve it. It will end up nagging away at you, like a persistent itch that can’t be scratched.

We all handle stress in different ways, and if your usual method isn’t working for you, try another tack.

First of all smile

You might not feel like it, but smile. Force your mouth to turn up at the sides. It may seem like a wasted effort, but it’s not. You can actually trick your brain into thinking you’re happy, as smiling helps boost your mood and lowers your stress levels.

Run toward the problem, not away

Nothing is ever achieved by trying to ignore what is bothering you. Deal with it head on and early, if you can. Don’t let anything sit and stew. Try and accept that whatever has happened, has happened. And that what you’re feeling is normal, and OK.

If you can verbalise your emotions, talk to someone, if you can’t, write them down. You don’t need to construct coherent sentences, but working through your feelings will help you release them. And that in itself can be cathartic.

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Remember there will always be an end point

Stop and think back to the last time you had a crisis. Did it go on forever? Or did you find a path through it?

At the time it can be so hard to see the wood for the trees, but keep looking, there is always an end point. And if you’re lucky, there will be some respite along the way too.

Get back to nature

A scientific study found that a brief stroll out in the countryside is all you might need to chase away any negative emotions.

Crowded beach at Dubrovnik Photo: Nurhadi Cahyono

So don your walking boots, or get changed into your workout gear (the endorphins released by exercise are also mood enhancers) and embrace the green space.

Avoid the pity party

If you constantly feel like a victim, that is how you will ultimately see yourself. And that isn’t helpful to accepting what has happened, and moving forward. Instead of going over and over it in your head and talking about it endlessly with anyone who will listen, stop. Try to understand it is over.

The sooner you can change your perspective and shift your outlook, the sooner you can start rewriting your story. And in the new story, put yourself in a different role, how about survivor?

Worrying is pointless

As Baz Luhrmann said: “ Worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum”. Worry, like guilt, is a pointless emotion, nothing good ever came from worrying. Yet it is an emotion we are saddled with. So if you can, when it feels like all hope is lost, and you’re struggling to get your head above water again, try and be pragmatic.

Keep a notebook with you, and write down what is eating away at you. This can be especially helpful when it’s 2am and your mind feels like it has gone into overdrive. Write your worry list: empty your head of ‘things you have to remember’ and review it in the cold light of day. I bet it won’t seem half as bad.

Do what you don’t want to do


  • Turn to drink and drugs to numb your pain.
  • Get back into bed and pull the covers over your head.


  • Turn on the lights and draw the curtains. Our serotonin levels plummet in the dark. So get into the light.
  • Go and have a shower and wash your hair. It’s amazing how feeling clean can positively affect your mindset.
  • Eat healthily. Don’t gorge on takeout, grease and fat. Feed your body clean, organic food. If you want it to heal, you need to take care of it.
  • Go outside and take a brisk walk.

Finally, don’t focus on what you had, or what you could have. Those are things you can’t control. Instead take stock of what you do have:

  • Do you have your health?
  • Friends and family who love and cherish you?
  • Do you have a roof over your head?
  • Do you have clothes on your back?

Try and be as present as you can and appreciate the little things, until you can raise your eyes again.

Aly Johnson

Aly Johnson

Aly Johnson is a freelance writer and can be found at She has a passion for lifestyle, food, health, fitness and business topics. Her writing has appeared in the Guardian newspaper and is routinely published on the Huffington Post.

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