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 really hard? Maybe it was losing someone close to you or experiencing something totally unexpected.
A crisis is often a turning point. You start to question if there’s a higher purpose and it feels like real a test of your faith. Your ability to cope with the crisis determines the quality of life you will have after it’s over.
But when you're in the middle of it, you hold on for dear life. Forgetfulness, trouble focusing, depression and panic-attacks are common. Crisis can rock you to the core - especially when it's unexpected and you don’t know what to do.
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 a crisis is finding the gift or a lesson attached to that experience. At first, the emotions are overwhelming. It’s understandable because you may be in shock. Everything slows down for awhile. 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 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 in your life mean well, but research shows that after a month, family and friends assume 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. Please don’t stop sharing your experience. Isolating makes it worse, never better.
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. You bounce around the stages of grief. There is denial, when you’re still in shock. Bargaining, when you’re trying to figure out what you could have done differently. You’ll also likely experience some depression, and anger.
It feels like you will NEVER be the same again. Often, people feel incredibly alone and tend to isolate. For more details on grief click here to read The Painful Road of Grief.
When you think you won't survive the pain, you keep fighting against it. You might think "if I start to cry I won't stop," but the more you resist the pain the longer it lasts.
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 support you.
By not allowing yourself to receive, you unknowingly sabotage the healing process. Instead of experiencing your feelings, you get stuck in 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 lots of 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. Let Your Feelings Out
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 being busy or drinking too much you create more problems. Compulsive behaviors are the fastest way to avoid painful feelings. It works in the moment but long-term it postpones the pain and causes you to feel more isolated.
With the right support, enduring a crisis is more manageable. When you can feel your feelings in the present 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 benefits 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 has to be a priority because your energy will be low and you won't be at your best. This is not the time to make major changes or take on new responsibilities. Personal energy needs to be conserved. Asking for help and getting extra support is always recommended. You deserve that!
Knowing what to expect during is a crisis makes the process less overwhelming. You don't have to sink into a deep depression or struggle with panic attacks. You can learn to tolerate the pain and come out the other side. I've done this more times than I can count, and I'm healthier because of it and so can you.
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