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How Do You Cope in a Crisis?



There are times when we may feel world-weary, overwhelmed and jaded. Something has gone wrong, or perhaps yet another crisis has occurred in our lives. It may be as a result of one specific incident, life has thrown us a curved ball. Or there may have been a sequence of disasters and now the final straw, something seemingly minor has landed and our resilience has folded.

How is it that some people seem able to take crises and testing times in their stride, whilst others really struggle to cope?

- There are people whose mindset always seems to anticipate setbacks and disaster. They can seem overly enthusiastic about catastrophizing situations, looking at the potential for rejection and misfortune with their 'what if' or shocked 'that could have happened' attitude. They speculate about things that haven't happened, the 'what if he'd fallen and broken his arm', or 'what if she'd let your secret out of the bag?' This mindset predisposes them to negativity, panic and a desire to be over-cautious, even though caution's not always the most helpful or effective approach.

- Having a more relaxed approach to life can mean that if something bad does happen or a situation doesn't work out as planned it doesn't have to spell crisis and failure. In fact, people who have a more positive, receptive approach to life and the difficulties they encounter are often more upbeat and not as easily deterred. They usually have a positive outlook and see beyond any immediate problems to find alternative ways of resolving things.

Setbacks, viewed from a different perspective, can reveal interesting options and may in part result in important lessons, insights and new opportunities. But we have to be receptive to the signs. When something doesn't work out as we'd hoped it may be that another unexpected door can be opened. I've certainly found that some of my 'great' ideas that crashed ultimately resulted in outcomes that I'd never have anticipated at the outset. But there had to be a preparedness to discuss and negotiate in order to reach that resolution.

- Remove 'I should, I ought, I must' from your mindset. The pressure of other people's hopes, expectations and disappointment can turn a setback into a crisis and seriously affect your ability to think clearly and move forward. Think through what's right for you, be clear about your own talents, abilities and interests and remember that successful people often work long hours and deal with setbacks because they are motivated and enthusiastic about their goal. Working to someone's agenda rarely carries the same passion.

- Crises can provide the people in your life with the previously unconsidered opportunity to step up and demonstrate their potential. Family, friends and perhaps even business colleagues may offer a valuable supply of strength, understanding and support when crises happen or things go wrong. Be big enough to share the load with them, they're your 'team'. Do them the courtesy of letting them in on your struggles and be prepared to accept their help when they are there for you. They often appreciate being included, and may be able to suggest some great ideas!

- Breaking down a crisis into 'bite-sized' chunks can be a useful approach. Then you can discover that it's unlikely that every aspect will be equally troublesome. By taking a step back from an 'insurmountable' problem it's often possible to scrutinize the various parts that combine to make it so serious and list each specific, individual element.

I find that there are often five 'chunks' to a serious problem. Chunk one, what you can deal with now; two, the part you need to do some work on before having to pass it on to someone else for their input; three, what's already in hand and being dealt with, four; what is finished with and can immediately be passed over to others; five, what you can do nothing about. Let go of what you can do nothing about and determine the best order to start dealing with the other matters that you can influence.

When you apply this calmer approach you may discover that you're less overwhelmed than you initially thought. This enables you to then start resolving parts of your crisis, reduce its intensity and so regain some semblance of control.

- In any crisis situation it's important to look after yourself too. Be committed to regular sleep times, eat as well as you can, stay clear of drowning your sorrows in booze, sugar binges or worse. Turn off your technology each evening and allow yourself some quiet time, as well as time for fun, friends and exercise.

Be genuinely interested in other people and what is going on in the outside world, away from yourself and your situation. These healthy distractions can stop you from becoming too self-absorbed and introspective and so become better able to cope in a crisis.

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