THE SMARTEST THINGS TO DO IN A CRISIS
Now that you’re aware of the mistakes that can slow down or even prolong a crisis, it’s time to think about what you actually need to do during your current catastrophe. Here’s what you should be focusing on…
ACCEPT WHAT YOU CANNOT CHANGE
It is easy during a crisis to spend all of your time bemoaning what you want to be different. For example, my mom has been diagnosed with metastatic stage 4 lung cancer – her 5th time with a cancer diagnosis. I didn’t know until just as Covid-19 was making it's appearance and it was decided it was best I didn't visit for fear that I might be a carrier of coronavirus or something else. It would be easy at this point to spend my time regretting all the time I've missed together since I live 3000 miles away and to be quite honest, sometimes I do, but it does me no good.
And, what happened next? My younger brother, was also diagnosed with metastatic stage 4 lung cancer. My head swirled.
Certainly, it's normal to experience regret and pain during a crisis. However, it is important that you and I don't get hung up on what we cannot change. Doing this will sap our time and your energy. It'll keep us from moving forward and handling the situation more effectively.
Don’t focus on what you cannot change. Instead, accept what has happened and acknowledge the fact that it’s a painful time in your life.
LOOK FOR WHAT YOU CAN CHANGE
Ask yourself what you can change. Going back to the previous example, I cannot change the cancer diagnoses.
But maybe I can make more time to call and text. Send pictures. Talk to them about our plans to move back east to be with all of them while there's still time to spend with them. Working on getting the house ready to sell and talking to mom about it makes her happy and it does me, too.
And, the most important thing I can do is pray. And, I'm doubling down on prayer these days. I have mom and my brother on sooo many prayer lists. It's not the least I can do. It's the greatest and best I can do.
DETERMINE WHAT'S MOST IMPORTANT
Sit down and ask yourself, “What matters most right now?” Is it being there for a loved one? Is it keeping your bills paid? Is it just slowing down to listen to your body?
For example, when an aging parent has been diagnosed with a serious illness, like cancer, you may decide that most important priority right now is being there for your loved one. You may end up taking time off work to support them. Or maybe like me, because of the national crisis, I can't because they're at high risk.
You might determine that during a financial crisis, the most important thing is keeping your bills paid. So, you may take money out of savings, or look for an extra job to take on until you get through this difficult season.
COME UP WITH AN ACTION PLAN
While creating an action plan, it can be helpful to do so with a supportive friend or family member. This is because in the middle of a crisis, it’s natural to be overwhelmed.
You may also discover that there's simply more than you can do, and that's completely normal. Don't let yourself get overwhelmed by a lengthy action plan. You can always break it down into individual steps.
When I was wrongfully terminated from my federal job at the VA for my whistleblower activities I had 10 days to rebut the termination. I quite literally had a stack of evidence that must have been 4-6 inches thick to their 3 pieces of paper that was evidence against me. I tried and tried to write the rebuttal, but I just couldn't do it and I think I'm a good writer. I was simply too close to the situation. I called my attorney and he got me right in. He reviewed everything with me.
DELEGATE THE ACTION
Be willing to delegate parts of your action plan. Years ago when mom was dealing with cancer #2, I knew dad was exhausted. I alternated every other month in Oregon with a month in PA to give him a break. I took over mom's care so he could just take a break.
Don’t feel guilty about letting others step up, and don't be afraid of being the one to step up if someone else is in crisis. Often, those around you are eager to help but they don’t know how. They don’t want to make things worse by jumping in where they’re not needed so they do nothing. But when you hand out assignments, it gives those that love you the opportunity to be a blessing. KC, my attorney, handled everything for my case. He wrote an amazing rebuttal, among other things that lawyers do, and eventually he won my case for me. He took on more than he bargained though because he really was an extension of my therapist. I can truly say I love that man.
HOW TO PRACTICE SELF-CARE DURING A CRISIS
You wouldn’t take your cellphone with you on a long trip if the battery wasn’t charged. In fact, if the battery were at one percent, you would immediately grab your charger cord and try to plug in your cell phone.
If you don't charge your cell phone when it's at one percent, then eventually the battery will die and you won’t have your phone when you need it. This is the same concept that applies to self-care.
When you don’t take care of yourself, your battery will drain and hit that one percent. If you continue to ignore the warning signs that you need care and nurturing, then eventually your batteries (in this case, your brain and your body) will shut down due to overwhelm and exhaustion.
My favorite analogy though, is the airplane. If you've ever flown and paid attention to the flight attendants, you're instructed that if cabin pressure is lost, to put on your mask first before helping those around you, including your children. Why? You could faint from lack of oxygen while trying to help one of your children or an elderly parent and then no one has a mask – and everyone dies.
That’s why self-care is so important. It's the equivalent of recharging your battery or putting on your oxygen mask so you can continue to perform at your best. So, let’s examine a few ways that you could practice self-care during a crisis…
MOVE YOUR BODY DAILY
Even if it's just a quick walk around the neighborhood, try to get a little bit of sunshine and some exercise in your day. You may be in a situation where you cannot move. For example, you’re facing a health crisis and you're bedridden right now, still look for what you can do.
There are videos online of chair exercises and bed exercises designed specifically for those with limited mobility. Even if all you can do is wiggle your toes, move your body every day. It releases endorphins which can boost positive feelings and make it easier for you to remember that you’ll get through this.
SELECT THE HEALTHIEST CHOICE
You may not always have access to the best foods, and you may not have the time or resources to prepare healthy meals. In these moments, it’s best to focus on making the healthiest choice possible.
For example, you are in front of a vending machine, and you haven't been able to eat all day. You know you need to select something from the vending machine.
You have a choice between a sugar filled pastry or a protein bar. Obviously, neither of these options are ideal. But what you want to do in this situation is look for the healthiest selection in the moment. In this case, that might be that protein bar and a bottled water. Try to do the best you can where you are with what you have.
GET PLENTY OF SLEEP
During a crisis, it's natural to experience sleep disruptions. However, there are things you can do to improve your sleep, such as going to bed at the same time each evening and waking up in the same time each morning.
You may find it helpful to adjust your sleeping environment. For most people sleeping in a dark, cool room gives them a feeling of rest and refreshment when they wake. I also like to diffuse lavender at night. Be careful not to diffuse an oil that has energizing effects.
It can also be wise to practice meditation, yoga, or another form of gentle breath work before bed. When you do these things, you may discover it’s easier to quiet your busy brain and fall asleep. I fall asleep praying. I never seem to get to, “Amen.”
If you find you're getting too much sleep, having an incredible time falling asleep or staying asleep or isolating in the bedroom, it could be a sign that you're heading into a depressive episode. Contact your doctor right away.
You may need to get help from supportive friends, family and community members to accomplish some of these tasks. For example, if you're going through a crisis and you're having trouble sleeping, you might have a friend take your kids out of the house for a couple hours each week.
You can use this time to nap and catch up a little bit on some of your sleep that you're missing. You could also ask family members or your church to prepare healthy foods for you. When they do this, you can open the fridge and grab a meal rather than having to take the time to prepare it yourself.
Scott's dad died unexpectedly. He was only 63. Scott and his brother, Chris found him on the floor by the front door close to the alarm panel with the telephone nearby as if he was trying to dial 911 or hit the panic button.
They were in shock. Scott was named the executor of the estate and yet he could barely eat, sleep, or talk without breaking down crying.
I did most everything – arranging the funeral, writing the obituary, making arrangements for military honors, getting all of our children home, paying his debts (I made a list of checks we needed from the account and Scott would get them). I didn't shed a tear for weeks. It wasn't until the day of the funeral, after the funeral to be exact, when everyone was back at our home for the reception, that Scott found me on our bed bawling my eyes out. I did what I had to do when I had to do it. Now it was over and I could let it all out.
Friends helped where they could. Our adult children helped where they could. However ultimately I was the one making the plan and delegating and making sure everything was going off without a hitch.
BE YOUR OWN BEST FRIEND
During a crisis, you need to take care of yourself as much as possible. Don't let your battery hit one percent. Don't let your oxygen mask fall off. You’ll feel miserable. You’ll put your health at risk, and you won’t be able to handle the crisis as effectively as you could. So, make your own needs a priority even in the middle of this stressful time. Eat, sleep, move your body, take time for yourself – read, walk, meditate, pray, watch a movie, participate in a hobby. Do what will make you feel good and make you feel energized.
AFFIRMATIONS TO HELP YOU THROUGH A CRISIS
During a crisis, using affirmations can be helpful. They can remind you of your strength, and they can keep you focused on the positive in the middle of all the chaos. I write them on the bathroom mirror with a dry erase marker.
At first, if you're not used to saying or journaling affirmations, it may feel weird to use them. However, research has shown that affirmations are helpful in surviving and thriving during a crisis. So, here are a few affirmations you may want to start with…
Affirmation #1: I Make Decisions from a Place of Wisdom
When it comes to a crisis, you may have a lot of information coming at you. It's not uncommon during a crisis to experience information overload. But this affirmation reminds you that you can still make decisions from a place of wisdom.
Affirmation #2: I Accept Responsibility for What I Can Change
This affirmation is empowering because it allows you to take responsibility only for what you can change. That's exactly what you want to be focused while you’re dealing with this catastrophe.
Affirmation #3: I Trust Myself and Value My Wisdom
It’s normal to have a lot of people telling you different things when you’re in crisis mode. You may be talking with family members, friends, medical team members, or coworkers as you seek advice. Now, there’s certainly something to be said for getting input from outside voices so that you aren't blindly making decisions. At the end of the day, you are the one that has to live with those decisions. So, remind yourself that what you need is already within you. Remember the itty bitty icky committee.
Affirmation #4: I Know This Is Working for My Good
What you lack in this current moment is perspective. You can’t see all the good that’s coming as a result of your circumstances. It’s important to acknowledge that what you are going through will one day be used for your good. It doesn't mean the situation is good, but you're learning and growing.
Affirmation #5: I Am Patient with Myself
During a crisis, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that you need to treat yourself with care and love. Be kind and forgiving toward your own spirit in these moments.
Affirmation #6: I Embrace New Paths to My Destination
This affirmation is all about acknowledging that sometimes life forces us on a detour. We wanted to go in one direction, but because of circumstances, or God's plan, we are headed down a different path.
With this affirmation, you're acknowledging that the path has changed, but your destination is still the same, or better, You’ll still end up exactly where you're supposed to be according to God.
THIS IS NOT THE END
When you encounter a crisis, it’s natural to feel like the world has been shaken. It's natural to feel as if everything is crumbling. It's natural to feel like life will never be the same again.
However, in this moment, it's absolutely vital that you remember one simple thing: this is not the end of your story. Your story will continue long after this moment. You are strong, smart, brave and you will get through today. Write those on your mirror, too. Because, no, this is not the end of your story.
Catch up on the series: