With a global pandemic continuing to determine most areas of our lives and experiencing how the climate crisis is impacting more and more people all around the world, one could easily despair. Sometimes it is “only” the everyday troubles or usual life events which can precipitate a personal crisis. You might get the feeling that challenging circumstances have been unfairly posed on to you, the unbearable situation might never end and you wonder who are you to even assume you can do anything about it. Maybe you wish to just go into hibernation and wait for the whole thing to just be over.
Hopelessness and helplessness let us easily feel paralyzed. But what will change if you decide to just stand still and endure the crisis passively until “it goes away”? Probably not much. If at all waiting gets too exhausting over time and you will feel increasingly tired. So how can we cope with the small and big crises which life will throw in our way? Here are some ideas to make the best of it and regain hope and agency.
Acknowledging that crises are difficult
A crisis can cause a lot of different uncomfortable emotions. You can feel angry, anxious, sad, overwhelmed, perplexed, confused, tired etc. Acknowledge that feeling this way is feeling the right way in face of a challenging time. It is only human. It can be relieving to allow yourself feeling these emotions and to stop expecting to feel ok during hard times. Additionally trying to understand what is happening and why this situation feels a certain way to you helps making sense of the crisis. This doesn’t mean one needs to be thankful for it, but if you understand what is going on, it becomes easier to figure out our needs. Then we can think about how to care for them.
Considering a broader context
Everything ends at some point. Whether it is managing a huge workload at your job or handling the end of a relationship. Every phase in your life, even the ones you may think will never get better, will end at one point. It can be difficult to gain this perspective while you are right in the middle of a crisis, but if you remind yourself from time to time that all you are experiencing now will surely be over some time. This can give you the opportunity to put the crisis into context. You possibly had bad phases in your life before, but they all ended and you got out of them. It can also be helpful to try to imagine how in 5, 10 or 20 years you would look back on this time in your life and if and how it still affects you. Most of the times it will lose its scare.
Doing what you can do
If you feel overwhelmed by a crisis with a lot of different demands, you can quickly get to the conclusion: “I can’t do it”. Maybe it is true. Maybe you cannot do it, because it is simply too much to do it all at once and by yourself. But there may also be some things you can do, even if they seem small. Be realistic about what it is you can do. If you worry about climate change it won’t be realistic to expect that you could resolve this crisis by yourself, but you could change your own habits to live a more sustainable life. Maybe you even become a role model and inspire other people. When you start to do the things you can do in times of crisis, you will gain agency and over time even overcome what once seemed a challenge too difficult to begin with.
Stop trying to change what is unchangeable
As you will find things you can change about your challenging situation, you will possibly also come across circumstances which you can’t change. Here you need to be realistic, too. Everybody is limited and there may be situations or people in our life which you cannot impact. If you keep on trying to change what you can not you will use energy without getting results and become increasingly frustrated. It can be disappointing to acknowledge that you cannot control everything, that is affecting your situation, but if you let go of this idea, you are left with more energy for the things you can control. You may not prevent a partner from leaving you, but you can choose to take care of yourself the best you can, so that you can deal with the separation.
Recognising what is good
Almost nothing in life is only black or white, meaning even in times of crisis there will remain some good aspects. Ask yourself: when does the burden of the crisis not feel as heavy? What are you still able to enjoy? What are you thankful for? You may find it helpful to write this down for example in a journal. If you just take 5 minutes each evening to write what has been positive about your day, it can already shift your mind into a more positive and optimistic direction. And a good mood helps us to muster the energy and courage we need to tackle a difficult task.
Relying on well-proven skills
Similarly you can remember what skills and resources helped you in the past when you faced a crisis. Usually what was helpful in the past can help you in your current situation, too. Reminding yourself that you have been able to solve and overcome difficult situations before raises your confidence. If you have done it before, who says you can’t do it again. Facing a crisis surely is tough, but a challenging situation gives us the opportunity to grow and learn more about ourselves. We can come out of it as a stronger and more resourceful person. Of course you will need to take your time and practice. Sometimes you will fail, too. But keep in mind if you don’t try at all then there will be certainly no chance to change anything. If you pay attention to your own needs and feelings and make realistic plans, then you can find a way of coping with the challenges you face and the crisis might become less scary.