When we talk about crisis, what do we mean?
In the therapeutic space, crisis is one of those words that covers a range of circumstances. Anything from a minor inconvenience all the way to a devastating, life-threatening situation.
If a situation you find yourself in is causing a crisis response, there are some simple but effective things you can do to bring yourself back to the present. When we are experiencing a crisis, our body can go into fight, flight, or freeze. We lose command over our body and get stuck in a highly triggered space that makes it difficult to perceive reality and respond to what is right in front of us.
The key is calming the body, and each of these things can make that possible.
Note that these recommendations aren’t for the types of crises like a car crash. I’m speaking more for crises like mid-life crises, divorce, loss of a loved one, or loss of a job. You could use these strategies to help yourself recover after a car crash, but not necessarily in the immediate moment.
1. Get Counseling
My first piece of advice is for anybody: get counseling.
It’s much harder to integrate new ways of thinking if you never get any practice. Therapy is not just for moments of crisis, it can offer us new perspectives and tools. It’s a safe place where we can put those things into practice before a crisis ever happens.
I’ll share more on this below.
2. Get Outside
Another way to regulate your nervous system is with nature.
Spending time outside and getting sunshine has many benefits, not the least of which is vitamin D. One benefit of vitamin D is its neuroprotective properties that support the brain.
So you could sit in the sun for a collective 30 minutes a day and already be a step ahead. But if you want to add a simple step that can boost the effects of nature, take off your shoes and walk barefoot on the earth. This is called earthing, or grounding, and it has to do with all of the electricity powering our brains and bodies. Grounding is a proven way to shift the charge, calm the nervous system and return you to your body.
3. Get Moving
This may feel counterintuitive at first because we are trying to calm the body down, but the next big thing is exercise.
What happens when that charge in our body needs to move and be expressed? It can cause us to be somewhat erratic, or act in a manic fashion. Exercise, which can be any number of physical activities that raise your heart rate, is usually thought about strictly in terms of what it can do for a person’s physique.
Exercise offers our muscles some kind of resistance that in turn makes them stronger. But besides the endorphins and other beneficial chemicals released when we exercise, it acts as resistance for our minds as well. Regularly focusing on something difficult but possible, like a challenging exercise regimen, strengthens our minds and bodies for when a crisis arises.
4. Get Nutrition
Another variable that can affect us when we’re in crisis is what we’re consuming. A lot of people experience a loss of appetite when they are particularly upset, while others still might find comfort in food. Either way, we want to do what we can to reduce the things that might further compromise our nervous system.
In my opinion one of the best things you can do is limit or cut out your alcohol intake. I say this because if you are in a compromised emotional state, the depressive effects of alcohol will more than likely make that worse. Do what you can to nourish yourself with nutritious foods when you’re able.
5. Get Calm
Speaking from my own experience, the most effective practice I implemented into my life was meditation.
There is a lot of mystery around meditation and the way it’s discussed, which can make it feel inaccessible or too hard. In reality it’s very simple: you are teaching your body the habit of presence and balance.
All you need to do to put this into practice is sit still and breathe. I recommend people start with fifteen minute sessions, and I tell them to focus on the sound of their breath going in and out.
You don’t need to be an expert, or meditate for hours on end for it to be effective. Like all of the other tips here, the benefits increase exponentially when we are practicing them regularly, but we don’t need to overcomplicate it.
The goal is to learn how to calm the body with your mind, and meditation is one of the best ways to do that.
6. Get Company
Lastly, I want to stress the importance of community and companionship.
Granted, when we are in crisis, our emotional needs may be beyond the scope of a friend or family member. If you are in crisis, that would be a good time to seek professional help, because your wellbeing is important.
But what about when we aren’t in crisis?
Human health declines when we are in isolation and feel alone. If we can nurture our relationships in times of wellness, we can rely on them in times of distress. Like exercise and nature, the benefits of relationships extend far beyond the obvious.
And like exercise and nature, the benefits are hormonal/chemical in nature. We evolved to live in groups. Meaning our brains and bodies run more optimally when we are in community than they do when we believe we have to function completely alone.
I can’t stress enough the benefit of having a therapist or counselor, and always recommend people try it out whether they have a pressing reason or not.
But I think it’s important to realize that there are things we can do to take care of ourselves that don’t require entire lifestyle changes.
And we can make small shifts in our lives that make it easier to regulate our emotions and recover from the blows of life. It’s about calming the body, but I think in the process you realize that you have more choice than you think.
You aren’t entirely at the mercy of your emotions, and even in the moments when they are driving the car, you are better equipped to pause before reacting. Which sounds small, but it can make all the difference.
Get Help Navigating a Crisis
It’s more than possible to navigate a crisis on your own… but the work is much easier when you have support.
I’d love to support you whether you’re navigating a crisis or not. Contact me here to get started.