Five tools for crisis times
Have you ever been blinded sided by a trial? You know, the kind that catches you so off guard that you face-plant in the dust? Perhaps you’re like me and the trial consumes every facet of your life leaving behind ash and rubble. You face-plant alright. Only it is in barely cooled ash and rubble.
The trials that involve face planting in the rubble take much longer to recover from. They redefine roles. Out of them you must rebuild your identity in several areas. Those hardships are tough for sure. I have lived through them. Yes, more than one.
Heartache, whether expected or unexpected, has similar results. Specifically, there is a predictable pattern displayed in the life of the recipient. Moreover, there are helpful solutions and coping skills. In today’s article I will share a few insights about those patterns and solutions. Perhaps these tools for crisis times will help you too.
Trials don’t have to define us. Instead, they refine us.
Trials may define us for a season. Specifically, we can’t stop talking or thinking about it. It consumes much of our time. Yet properly embraced, they actually refine us. We become a better version of ourselves. In the end, we have appreciation for the presence of that heartache because of the growth manifested in our lives.
Most trials predictably create a level of emotional upheaval. Simply, you might feel like you are coming apart at the seams. You may replay the events over and over again in your head. Self-doubt also shows up. This is all normal and expected.
In the last year, my family suffered serious anguish both expected and unexpected.
My father-in-law, a true hero in the faith, became terminally ill. We expected this trial. He was 82, after all. Still the anguish of saying goodbye to our beloved father and grandfather remained painful. We knew it was coming. And, we tapped into resources to cope with the loss. I will share some of how we are coping later in this article.
Seven months later, my cousin Earl, was found dead in his home. He was like a brother to me.
Three short weeks later, his brother, my cousin John collapsed and died in his home. These were unexpected trials for sure. There have been assorted trials in between dealing with this grief and loss that were equally taxing. However, watching these trials hit our family, I have noticed a pattern that accompanies the trial. Similarly, there are patterns to dealing with the pain.
Evaluate your coping skills?
Resolving anguish depends on the coping skills of the individual. One analogy I used as a counselor is the tool box analogy. We all have tool boxes filled with tools to assist us in crisis times. We get tools for crisis times from a variety of places. Some come from our family of origin, from our friends and support network, and especially our faith. We also gain tools with experience as we overcome hardship.
When to get outside help?
Some toolboxes do not have enough or the right tools to help with the upheaval. Furthermore, some use the wrong tools for the job. For example, using alcohol to regulate emotions or numb the pain is like taking a glass vase out of the tool box and using it as a hammer. The vase will shatter and cut the one using it. In the end, the task remains incomplete. The nail is not hammered in. In the mental health profession, we call this emotional dysregulation.
Everyone has overreacted at some point in their life to stress. So, how do you know if you need more help?
First, understand emotional dysregulation occurs when the extreme reaction becomes the norm. For instance, if a person overreacts to stress 80-90 percent of the time over a long period of time, there might be a need for outside intervention. It will impact work performance, quality of life, relationships, and more. The need for intervention increases if the individual is isolated with no support system. Mental health professionals use assessment tools to help determine if more intervention is necessary. These tools help counselors get background information, identify strengths and weaknesses of the person in duress.
Second, please know not every overreaction qualifies as a mental health disorder. There are normal reactions to abnormal circumstances. It is important to know the difference between the two. If the negative response lasts for a prolonged period, it might be time to get help.
Third, there are tools you can use for self-evaluation. You can also get feedback about your ability to cope from those in your immediate inner circle. However, one word of caution. It is important to surround yourself with supportive and honest people who understand human suffering. Establish boundaries against judgemental or critical people. There are some who may observe a raw humanity reaction and criticize you for it.
In the movie, “I Still Believe” Jeremy Camp’s wife responded with raw humanity to her cancer diagnosis. You can watch that scene here. She was 21 years old at the time of her death. Melissa slammed a pickle jar against the counter and threw a glass shattering it. Her husband intuitively knew to say nothing. He simply cleaned up the glass. He didn’t condemn or judge her. It was a beautiful scene displaying the Gospel. God, in compassion and mercy, redeems the messes we make. It is important to make sure you have compassion and mercy in your support system. Alternatively, if you are assisting in a crisis, make sure you are offer support. Restrain your judgement.
God understands our anguish. Compassionate people will reflect grace during those vulnerable moments. Even in those moments alone where raw humanity flows out in a rage, know God understands anguish. If a friend or support person gives unhelpful advice or is judgemental, set boundaries with them. Setting boundaries is healthy and life sustaining.
Finally, there are some good coping skills to have in a first aid kit for those crisis moments. This works best if you understand that heartache is a part of life. Expect it. Prepare for it. Most importantly practice using the tools before the crisis hits.
To use CPR, individuals must take a class and practice those skills. It prepares them for a crisis moment. Similarly, it makes sense to exercise our coping skills muscles on a daily basis to prepare us for inevitable challenges.
Tool number one: Reframe your attitude about the crisis.
Suffering is not pleasant. However, heartache may be a gift rather than a curse. Reframing the meaning of the experience helps reduce the agony. It helps us grow and develop as a person.
When tragedy strikes, when conflicts surface. It is easy to wonder why. What did I do wrong? True, we may make choices that lead to a negative outcome. However some trials happen because we are doing things right.
I remain convinced that we endure trials because God needs well conditioned soldiers to advance the Gospel. That is, as we endure hardship discovering treasures. For example, we may witness God’s comfort in our heartache through a friend, a scripture or a song that calms the soul. As a result, we can speak first hand of hope to a suffering world around us. Trials are a normal part of life.
Tool number two: Build a support system and access it in crisis times.
Isolation breeds depression. Again make sure your support network is free of judgemental people. Having a support system is necessary to walk through darkness.
Tool Number three: Listen to inspiring music.
During some of the darkest times of my life, I turned up the music at full volume and sang loudly.
As a woman of faith, I use Christian hymns during heartache. One of my favorites during the recent deaths and current struggles is called “Be Still My Soul”. The lyrics affirm that God controls the wind and waves of this life. His voice calmed the storm while he was here on earth. He has the power to calm the storm after its refining work is complete. Tool Number Four: Maintain a steady diet of prayer and meditation
Being grounded in the word of God prior to trials helps keep our focus on the eternal purpose in the hardship. It is best to have a daily bible study in place before the crisis happens. I
Tool Number Five: Use humor to elevate your mood.
Often, I used dry bar comedy to get a chuckle. It is clean uplifting comedy found on YouTube. You can find Dry Bar Comedy here.
There are many more tools you can add to your tool box to assist you through heartache. These are a few of the ones I use on a regular basis.
Do you have a tried and true tools for crisis times? I would love to hear from you. What works? What doesn’t?
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No matter how dark a season may be, there is always sunshine after a storm.