Thoughts for coping in a crisis

1). Come into the present. Recognise that anxiety is the body's fear response which activates the threat systems of the brain. Instead of allowing the fear cycle to escalate, practice interrupting this cycle with soothing. The best way to do this is by breathing properly. You cannot panic and breathe deeply at the same time so begin to bring your conscious attention to your breathing and allow yourself to begin to take bigger and bigger breaths. Practice breathing in for a count of five, then hold for a count of five, then breathe out for a count of five, then hold for a count of five, then repeat. Allow your body to become heavier and your breathing deeper. 

2). Movement is also key. Whenever we are overwhelmed our bodies can become immobilised and tense. It is important to get moving. Just tossing an apple from one hand to the other is a simple way to do this. Standing up, moving around, doing a superhero pose, doing a plank or a few push ups all can help to reduce the levels of circulating stress hormones. 

3). Activate the senses. A great way to come in to the present and to interrupt the stream of fearful thoughts flooding through our minds is to focus on using our senses. What can you see? How many orange objects can you find? How many circular objects can you see? What can you hear in this moment? How many different sounds can you distinguish? Do you have a favourite smell that is strongly associated with a pleasant memory and can you buy essential oil, soap or hand cream that reminds you of this memory? We can touch different surfaces, smooth and cold, soft, rough, crinkly or textured. We can eat or prepare food that we can enjoy the taste of. 

The aim is to focus the attention in the here-and-now and on the body. It is the brain that can become dysregulated while feeling threatened, and grounding the body in the here-and-now can allow the space for the mind to calm. 

4). Find balance in thinking. Whenever you find your mind overwhelmed by negative thoughts, try to balance these with helpful, positive and useful thoughts and memories when things turned out well or you coped well. 

 

5). Let go of what you cannot control. Understand that accepting uncertainty will help. Focus on what you can do to help yourself cope now. 

6). Become self compassionate. If you were your own best friend, what would you do? Self compassion is about taking responsibility for your own happiness and understanding that you are a being of value and worth and allowing yourself to care for yourself. 

7). Name the feelings. It helps if you can say what you feel. 'I feel bad' isn't too helpful, 'I feel anxious about my job/child/parner/mental health' allows you to begin to see where the problem is and what you can do. 

8). It's ok to Be Happy and Have Fun, in spite of what is happening all around. Don't wait to be happy when....

 

9). Those things that make you happy? Do them now and don't wait. 

10). Express gratitude for what you do have and who you are. 

11). Find a purpose even in the short term. Connect with what you find meaningful. Find enjoyable ways to spend your time. 

12). Invest time in relationships that lift your spirits, that make you smile, that make you feel safe even if these relationships are now online or it is the relationship you have with yourself. 

© 2019 by Meredith El-Jawhari, PhD.