How to Take Care of Yourself During a Crisis
Have you ever had something happen that totally knocked you off balance? An unexpected loss, or change that hit you a little too hard? Maybe it was losing someone close to you or going through something painful.
A crisis is often a turning point. You start to question if there is a higher purpose - it’s a test of faith. Your ability to cope with the crisis determines the quality of life you'll have after it’s over.
But when you're in the middle of it, you hold on for dear life. Forgetfulness, trouble focusing, and panic-attacks are common. Crisis can rock you to the core - especially when it's unexpected.
What qualifies as a crisis?
Death of a loved one, or pet
Break-up, divorce or separation
Serious health issues or illness
Accidents resulting in trauma or injury
Any type of abuse to self or loved ones
Victim of a crime
Mental health issues
The key to coping with any crisis is to find the gift or a lesson attached to that experience. At first, the emotions are overwhelming. It’s understandable, you may be in shock. It's only after the crisis subsides that you begin to put the pieces together.
For me losing my dad to cancer was my first real crisis. As a young adult, I had no perspective. I had joined a support group a few years before and that became my lifeline. It took about 18 months of intense grief but afterwards, I came out the other side stronger. Ironically, it was living out my worst fear that made me gain confidence. I knew I could get through anything after that.
People mean well, but research shows that after a month, family and friends assume that the crisis has past. But the person still suffering secretly struggles. Time passes for everyone but you. You pretend the pain isn't there and you stop talking about it.
Each crisis is a test of faith, endurance, patience and support. No one teaches how to get through a crisis but that's why I'm writing this for you.
Here are some important lessons learned from crisis.
1. Everything Stops - If You Let It
Pretending as if nothing happened comes at a price. During a crisis, your physical and emotional energy are the first to go. After an initial surge of adrenaline, you start to crash emotionally (and sometimes physically).
Suddenly, the simplest things take a lot out of you. This is especially true with grief. The emotions are so intense. It feels like you will NEVER be the same again. Often, people feel incredibly alone and tend to isolate. For more help click here to read The Painful Road of Grief.
Thinking that you won't survive the pain keeps you fighting against it. You might think that "if I start to cry I won't stop," but the more you fight the pain the bigger it gets.
Lesson: Slow everything down. Get back to basics. Enough sleep, healthy food, fresh air, healthy comforts like watching Netflix or reading your favorite book to avoid running on empty.
2. It's YOUR Turn to Get Support
If you're saying to yourself, "I can't bother anyone, they have their own lives" you’re wrong! The people who really care for you are waiting to help you.
By not allowing yourself to receive, you unknowingly sabotage the healing process. Instead of experiencing your feelings, you resist them. A crisis is always hardest when endured alone.
If you’re not comfortable asking for support, find healthy alternatives. Join a local Meetup group, try Al-Anon, a 12 step program for friends and families of addicts. Click here to read more on 12 Step groups. There are so many options out there.
Lesson: When you're in a crisis or significant pain, ask for help. Isolating makes it worse and contributes to both depression and addictive behaviors.
3. Have Your Feelings
You have to let yourself feel the feelings so that you can move past the pain.
Avoiding the pain takes a lot of energy. When you push those feelings down by getting busy or drinking too much more problems are created. Compulsive behaviors are the fastest way to avoid painful feelings. It may work in the moment but long-term it just postpones the pain and causes you to feel more isolated.
With the right support, enduring a crisis is more manageable. When you can have your feelings in the moment, they won't be on your back for the next several years. And then won't morph into addictive behavior!
I've seen this so much in my counseling practice. When feelings get denied, they create problems like anxiety, depression, health problems, or feeling numb and disconnected. Being able to handle your emotions directly will serve you in every area of your life. Work, family, friendships all improve when you are emotionally in tune with yourself.
Lesson: Do the "feeling" work now so you can avoid unhealthy behaviors and prolonged stress.
The Courage It Takes
The process of healing is the same for any crisis. Self-care is vital because your energy is low and you won't be at your best. This is not the time to make major changes. Personal energy needs to be conserved. Asking for help and getting extra support is always recommended.
Knowing what to expect during is a crisis makes the process less overwhelming. You don't have to sink into a deep depression or have panic attacks. You can tolerate the pain and come out the other side. I've done this more times than I can count, and I'm better for it and so can you.
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