This year has been very “eventful”. Our nation and the rest of the world have been jumping from one crisis to another, like we are changing train stations. We’ve experienced a global pandemic, dramatic changes to how we conduct our daily lives, economic uncertainty, and political and social turmoil. In the midst of this, on individual levels, people have had to deal with the loss of a loved one due to COVID-19 and other health issues, declining health, financial stress, unemployment, business problems, divorce, violent crime, or tragic accidents.
Out of the many definitions of Crisis, according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary, two stand out for me:
- An emotionally significant event or radical change of status in a person’s life.
- An unstable or crucial time or state of affairs in which a decisive change is impending
A word that stands out in both definitions is CHANGE! Crisis heralds change, and depending on how we respond, this change can be for the best or for the worst. How hard a crisis affects us is dependent on so many factors such as age, gender, personality, educational level, family connection, network of friends, emotional health, physical energy and spiritual maturity. For instance, you will notice that most older people who have survived major life-changing events seem to be more calm and have a hopeful perspective about the outcome instead of gloom and doom.
The first definition also describes crisis as being an EVENT. It is an unescapable life event that we will experience while on this side of heaven. And like every event, it has an end. While we may not know how long a crisis might last, we can rest in the assurance that “this too shall pass” and take actions that will become the future stories of how we survived.
Crisis, either due to a global emergency or a personal tragedy—or both— can take a heavy toll on your mood, health, and outlook. It can, undoubtedly, leave you feeling helpless and overwhelmed by grief, stress, anxiety or a mix of difficult, conflicting emotions. You may even feel that your life is totally out of control and you’re powerless to affect whatever may happen next.
Here are a few ways to live triumphantly through a crisis, regain a sense of control and bounce back when the storm finally passes:
- Focus on things you can control. In every crisis, there are things that we can control but because we’re at first thrown off balance and in a state of fight-or-flight, we’re unable to see. So take out some time, note down everything you can’t control, permit yourself to stop worrying about it and then move on to take action about the things you can control. e.g. If you just got laid off, you can’t control whether the ideal job appears on your newsfeed or whether an employer will grant you an interview. But you can control how much time and effort you put into searching for work or brushing up on your skills.
- Remind yourself of how you have overcome past crisis. This will help you see past the current crisis and fuel you with an extra dose of confidence that you’ll be able to pull through again. If you did it before, you can do it again right? Yeah!
- Do not isolate yourself. When crisis hits, there’s usually a knee-jerk response to keep to yourself and not share with friends or family because you don’t want to be a burden. Please do not succumb to this. Talk to someone. Sharing with others who care about your suffering or have been in a similar situation is healing. You might also want to contact a mental health professional. Be selective of whom you share with because some people will only fuel negative emotions, leaving you feeling even more stressed, anxious, or panicky. “Bad energy stay far away”! Thanks to technological advancement, even when we had to practice social distance to cut the spread of the virus, phone, video conference calls etc help us stay connected
- Practice Self-care. Living through a crisis can put you in a heightened state of stress which can lead to serious health problems, impact your immune and digestive systems, increase your risk of heart attack and stroke, and lead to burnout. Therefore, it is pertinent to be intentional about engaging in activities that will help us stay rejuvenated, refreshed and energized. While the circumstances may limit some of your usual healthy habits, there are still plenty of ways to care for yourself. e.g. If you usually go to the movies, pre-COVID, with your friends to de-stress, you can host a watch party online or on Netflix, you can exercise indoors using different household equipment as aids, you can take a few minutes to journal. These can help you step back from your situation and regain perspective. Since your body is under stress, don’t allow yourself to get worn out; get extra rest, eat properly and avoid alcohol and other drugs.
- Enjoy small daily pleasures. One thing about crisis is that they help you appreciate everything you have; and remind you that there is joy in the little things. Allow yourself to enjoy your favorite song that’s playing over the radio, the laughter of a loved one, the break of dawn, the scenery as you drive in the city etc.
- Prepare. One major way you can survive crisis is to be ready before it comes. We established earlier that crisis is an unescapable part of life – you could lose a job, a loved one, a natural disaster could hit, you could fall sick. Anything can happen. So during life’s “highs”, save, invest, have an insurance, write a will, be intentional about your mental and physical well-being. These will build your resilience to navigate life’s “lows” and come out like fine gold.
Surviving crisis can teach you important things about yourself and the world around you, strengthen your resolve, deepen your empathy, and in time, enable you to evolve and grow as a human being.
How do you want to come out of crisis? As beautifully refined gold or burnt straw?