Coping with Crisis
By Kristen Sohlman, HBA, MACP (Candidate), RP
Having to cope with a crisis is bound to happen at some point in our lives. Sometimes a crisis can be very stressful like going through a separation with a partner, being diagnosed with a serious health issue, a death of a loved one, or being laid off of work. At other times, a crisis can be less stressful like there being lots of traffic, having to wait in a long line at a store checkout, or even making decisions about every day activities.
How do you handle a crisis? Do you crumble under the stress, get angry, overwhelmed, or do you thrive on crisis and jump into action making decisions that you later regret? The good news is there a few things that can help make the distress of a stressful situation more tolerable so that you can eventually address and resolve the situation.
Try using the acronym ACCEPTS:
Activities: When experiencing a crisis, it can be helpful to keep yourself busy and to keep your mind off of the stressful situation or the emotions that you are feeling. This can include engaging in a healthy activity like taking the dog for a walk, calling your supports, doing a chore, or sitting down to read a book. If you have reached the end of your activity, you can move on to another activity, and may find that a stressful day has become a more productive day.
Contributing: Another way to keep your mind off of a crisis or difficult situation until a resolution can take place is contribute to others. This could be a kind act for another person, helping someone else out with a task, or even surprising a friend or neighbour with a homemade gift or treat. You will feel good about yourself while being able to cope with stress.
Comparisons: Sometimes it can be helpful to consider a different perspective on things. While sometimes comparing yourself to others can be a negative thing if we are putting ourselves down in the process, on the other hand, it can be a positive thing when it helps to gain a new perspective in a way that does not add more stress or emotional pain to the situation. Consider others who may be in a similar situation as you or consider those that may be in a more difficult situation than you.
Emotions: How you feel is important! Sometimes acting in an opposite way to how you feel can help. For example, if you do not feel like leaving the house today that is okay, but by acting as if you were feeling alright to leave the house and in doing so by going for a walk, you may find that your mood follows you. You have the ability to invoke an emotion that is opposite to how you are feeling currently.
Push Away: Remember that when you are feeling overwhelmed and find yourself just not feeling up to dealing with a crisis, it is alright to give yourself permission to think about the problem later and give your mind a break for the time being. Distract yourself with healthy activities, engage in positive thinking, or try out a mindfulness or relaxation activity like deep breathing or yoga. Give yourself permission to come back to the difficult situation later so that you can relax in the present moment.
Thoughts: What are your thoughts telling you? Is your mind racing, are your thoughts negative, or is your mind just too full? It may be helpful to replace negative and anxious thoughts with healthy activities that occupy your mind. Try taking out a puzzle, doing a Sudoku, or go through the alphabet and name a food for each letter of the alphabet. These cognitive distractions can help you to not react to your negative thinking and emotions, and instead, can help you to achieve healthy emotional regulation.
Sensation: Uses all of your senses! You can self-soothe by using your six senses during times of stress and distress. Anything that appeals to your senses can help you cope with the present situation. Focus on what you can see in the room, perhaps a colour, or look through your favorite photos on your phone. Listen to the sounds around you, can you hear the birds outside? Or play your favorite song and turn up the volume. Have a small treat to engage your taste. You do not have to make a big meal, but maybe chew on a piece of gum or have a piece of fruit to eat. Touch things around you, notice what they feel like, consider how the pen feels on your hand, or rub a worry stone. What can you smell, is it pleasant or not, can you identify what you are smelling, or perhaps trying putting a favorite essential oil onto a cotton ball in a plastic bag and keep it on your person to use when needed. Finally, try your sixth sense, movement! Moving your body in a different way can help your emotional state, so take your dog for a walk and dance to your favorite song, as your mood just might follow.
Sunrise Residential Treatment Center. (2017). Accepts. YouTube. [Video file] Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pyI-a9BS-cU
Sunrise Residential Treatment Center. (2017). Self Sooth. YouTube. [Video file] Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uIANt2_A8A
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