Ways to cope in times of crisis

“Crisis can be a unique opportunity to change your path, to explore new opportunities, to help you become the person you were meant to be.”

If there’s one thing we know for sure about life, it’s this: crisis is inevitable.

Tragedies happen and impact us directly, like news of an illness or sudden death of a loved one. Other times, they happen elsewhere in the world and impact others but we still feel affected and traumatized by them.

When tragedy strikes, it’s common to get thrown off balance. One second our lives are completely normal, and the next they’re changed drastically.

Just like this pandemic we’re facing, we’re rarely prepared for a crisis and the shock leaves us feeling mentally and physically exhausted.

In these moments, it’s hard to believe we’ll ever find a sense of “normal” in our lives again.

But history and even present day examples shows us that it is possible to deal with a crisis in a way that helps us remain calm, and prevent our lives from falling apart.

It’s possible to cope through adversity, if we’re given the tools as to how.

In this post, I’m going to share with you six ways you can learn to cope while in crisis.

Identify your fears and anxiety triggers

Fear often becomes the dominating emotion when we face a crisis. Due to the unpredictable nature of what’s happening, and our lack of certainty as to which path our lives will take, we become scared and anxious.

We’ve seen this with this pandemic, anxiety levels have risen. People were panic shopping without a clear reason but just out of fear. It’s irrational and doesn’t help to make sensible choices.

If you feel yourself being more anxious because of the crisis you’re facing, identify what is making you scared.

You’ll realise that a lot of your fears are driven by negative thoughts  and fear of something you think might happen in the future, but nothing substantial.

Once you’ve identified what is giving you anxiety, you can create plans in case your worst case scenario happens.

This is a positive and responsible reaction to fear and uncertainty, it’ll make you feel better to know that whatever happens, you’re prepared for it. It’ll also make it easier for you to process your feelings, and focus on remaining calm.

Create a coping strategy

Creating a healthy coping strategy is important, but there isn’t one strategy that’ll work for everyone. It’s up to you to decide what works for you and your life at this moment.

When tragedies happen, many people turn towards unhealthy coping mechanisms, like substance abuse.

This a reaction to fear, anxiety and uncertainty. It’s easier to numb yourself from reality when it seems too painful to face, but in the long term the consequences of unhealthy coping habits are detrimental.

One thing that is important to know, is that you don’t have to force your life back into what it used to be. Things are different now, and that’s okay. Instead of trying and failing to practise old habits, build new ones that conform to your lifestyle now.

Since many people are forced to stay at home due to the virus, we’ve seen that it’s better to adapt to what life is now rather than force it to become what it used to be. This doesn’t work and will only slow down your growth.

Practise self- care

Practising self care can mean different things to different people. What I mean here is for you to practise habits as part of your coping strategy, that’ll help you through the crisis.

For some people, this can mean ensuring that they eat their three meals a day, for others, it’s getting enough sleep or having an exercise routine.

Remember that you have a mind and body to preserve, looking after yourself will help you feel like you have some control over the situation you’re in.

A good self-care exercise is to practise gratitude. In tough times, gratitude is the last thing on our minds. But it’s something psychology has shown us increases happiness and helps our psychological health.

You can keep a gratitude journal where everyday, you write down three to five things you’re grateful for. This can be as simple as receiving a smile from a stranger or having a nice cup of coffee in the mornings.

Reach out to mentors for help

A mentor can be a friend, parent, anyone you trust and who gives you good advice.

Since it’s easy to get carried away with fear and anxiety when facing tragedy, it’s useful to get a mentor’s advice on how to stay calm and grounded.

If you feel alone in your situation and have no one to seek advice from, I’d like to direct towards my coaching programs which you can find here http://lifecoachingwithnarriman.co.za/love-and-relationships/when things seem bleak to us, mentors help to make sense of our troubles and guide us towards making good decisions.

Asking for help isn’t a weakness, it’s one of the best decisions you can make especially during times of crisis.

Be careful about the content you consume on social media

Social media can be a place for good or evil depending on how you use it. Since corona virus has broken out, I’m sure you’ve seen examples of this.

Some people have used social media to cause fear and anxiety, others have used it to be of use to their community and help in whatever way they can.

Be careful with the kind of content you consume online because it can have a negative effect on your mental health. It can cause you to have fears and worries you hadn’t thought about before.

If you’re affected by a tragedy you’ve seen affect others, like news of a school shooting, social media can deepen your trauma.

Your mind is particularly sensitive during a time of crisis, make sure you only invite useful information that will benefit and not hurt you.

Focus on what you have control over

One of the hardest things about a crisis is feeling as though you’ve lost  control.

A way to cope with tragedy is to focus on what you do have control over, such as your reaction to crisis, and the decisions you can make to now steer your life into the right direction.

With this pandemic, we have little control over what is happening outside, we cannot suddenly make it disappear.

What we do have control over, is making positive decisions that’ll help those around us, like staying home. We have control over protecting ourselves by practising what doctors recommend.

We may not be able to see our loved ones as we wish, but we’re fortunate to have technology that can make us see and talk to them.

We have control over giving back to less fortunate communities right now, and helping medical professionals by doing what they advise.

The same is true for any other kind of crisis. You can’t control what’s happening, and as we know, tragedy will strike in life. But you can control your response, your choices and decisions.

This will make it easier for you to practise acceptance of a situation and help you cope with it.

Final thoughts

Again, it’s challenging to be optimistic when facing a tragedy, it’s hard to believe things will get better. But they can and they will as long as you’re patient with yourself, and give yourself time to learn and heal.

Just to recap, here are six ways you can make it easier to cope with tragedy:

Identify your fears and what is making you anxious.
Create a healthy coping strategy.
Practise self-care.
Reach out to mentors for help.
Be careful about the content you consume on social media.
Focus on what you have control over.