Anna Yam, Ph.D.
How To Self-Care In A Crisis
Updated: Feb 15, 2020
You’re in a crisis and the pressure is piling up. Your mind is racing, going over the jumbled tangle of things that need to be done, by you, now.
You might find yourself feeling this way when facing a disruption in your life. Maybe you got pushed out of your job, your house has flooded, your boss changed your schedule so now there is no-one to pickup the kids from daycare, or your parent was diagnosed with a serious illness.
During times like these, we have an instinct to panic and abandon self-care practices in favor of focusing on the problem at hand. You might say to yourself, “My needs don’t matter right now, what matters is getting through this crisis.”
Yep, we all do this. We are biologically wired to drop everything and run, fight, or freeze in a crisis.
The reality is, you don’t know how long this crisis will last and you will need all your energy to handle it. Here’s how you can self-care, when there is no “extra” time.
When in crisis mode, your emotions will hijack your brain. This can be in “panic mode” or “problem-solving mode,” either way you’re not fully in control of you. To regain control, stop and label all the emotions and sensations you are feeling.
It goes like this:
“I am noticing a burning in my chest,
“I am noticing a pit in my stomach,
“I am noticing the thought that I can’t cope with this.”
This might seem a bit “extra” but it’s an incredibly powerful way to give yourself perspective, and room to act effectively, with purpose.
Release The Stress Energy
In a crisis, your body will kick into overdrive with energy production. Remember, we are designed to MOVE when we are afraid (or freeze, that one for another time). Regular activities, including problem-solving, do use up energy, but not enough.
When you feel agitated from anxiety or worry, do something very active and physical.
This can be jumping jacks, mountain climbers, stairs, hills, or sprints. Avoid activities that would cause injury, so no lifting 500lbs from scratch. Do what your level of physical ability permits. Singing also works.
The energy that you release from your body with movement and activity won’t stick around to interfere with sleep and become fuel for more anxiety. You have enough to deal with.
If you have access to support, use it. This can be from friends, family, co-workers, doctors, therapists, or online groups.
That said, I often see people in crisis that are reluctant to ask for help and reluctant to accept help when it’s offered. As a culture, we often associate support with weakness and failure. We don’t want to put others out. The truth is, we are a very social species and have evolved to cooperate. Crisis is when we truly show up for one another.
Allow others to come to your aid and be clear and explicit about what you need.
If you need someone to bring you meals, tell them so. If you need them to be quiet and listen, tell them so. People want to help, they want to know how, and they often won’t guess correctly. Let them support you during your time of need and give them guidance on how to do it.
If you are facing a crisis, having the support of a trained clinician can be tremendously helpful. At Bloom Psychology, we offer support as well as practical, problem-focused resources for crisis management. A crisis event, such as a divorce, a move, or a change in health status, is the right time to have extra help. To learn more, book a free consultation with Dr. Yam, here.