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Stress Management In Times of Crisis

When in Crisis, Stress Management Is Vital

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Updated October 26, 2012

Stress Management In Times of Crisis

Meditation, self care, journaling, and other stress management techniques can be very effective for stress management during times of crisis.

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When we face everyday stressors or even chronic stress, our approach to stress management is different than how we approach crisis stress management. More specifically, everyday stress management is in some ways similar and in other ways different from when we face a major challenge or crisis. We may use similar strategies with everyday stress or crisis-level stress, for example seeking social support or taking a mental break. However, we may be much more intense or focused when facing crisis stress management--rather than talking about our day with a good friend, for example, we may lean on our friends for moral support as well as for practical support with things like cooking meals, help with children, or even sometimes financial assistance. We may seek help from a professional, such as a therapist or coach. We may find a support group. Seeking social support is a strategy for relieving stress that ranges from mild to major, but the level of social support we require can also range from mild to major.

In this way, when we face a crisis, we can use stress management techniques that we already employ in our lives, but in new ways that can help us relieve the greater levels of stress that we may face in a crisis. Here are some suggestions for crisis stress management that include stress management strategies you may already be using, but with a shift.

Social Support

As I mentioned above, when you're having a bad day, you may call a friend for a little venting or support. When you're dealing with the chronic stress of a frustrating job, you may have a group of friends you can talk to about it, or you may seek out support for managing job stress.

When you're facing a bigger crisis, you may take steps for finding greater support and more significant change: friends may bring meals so you don't have to worry about cooking for a while, or they may offer to help in other ways if you just say the word; this is why relationships can be so helpful in times of crisis.

Meditation and Mental Breaks

Eliminating the stress you're experiencing might not always be possible, especially when you're in the throes of a crisis. However, you can give yourself breaks from the stress through meditation and through simply giving yourself mental 'time-out's. Meditation can be helpful not only because it allows you to stop experiencing the thoughts that keep your stress response triggered, but because it allows your body to slow down and relax, and can bring on the relaxation response, which counteracts chronic stress. Long-term meditation can make you less reactive to stress, but in times of crisis, even 5-minute meditations can have a beneficial effect.

Self Care

When experiencing a crisis, stress management can fall by the wayside, and so can self care. However, when we're tired, hungry (or sustained by a poor diet), and sedentary, we can also be more reactive to stress. That's why taking care of our own basic physical needs during a crisis is so important for stress management. In times of everyday stress, it's good to treat your body well; during a crisis, it's essential to focus on healthy eating, getting at least some exercise, and getting quality sleep.

Journaling

Writing about your feelings of stress can be a good way to release them. Writing about things you can do to affect your situation can help you maintain feelings of hope and greater control in a crisis. Writing about three things for which you can feel grateful at the end of each day can help you stay optimistic, maintain gratitude, and relieve stress during a crisis. Crisis stress management can mean utilizing these specific focused techniques while journaling.

Maintain a Positive Attitude

Often what we focus on can make the difference between feeling overwhelmed and successfully managing stress during a crisis. One way to stay positive is through cognitive restructuring--actively cultivating a mindset that focuses on the positive and downplays the negative. During a crisis, finding meaning may be especially valuable, but many types of discipline in thoughts can help.

Prayer and Meditation

Many people find strength in their spirituality, especially during times of crisis. The support of a spiritual community, as well as the strength of spiritual teachings, can be a great source of comfort and stress relief. If you hold spiritual beliefs, don't forget the beneficial effects of prayer as a form of crisis stress management.

Pare Down Your Schedule

When coping with a crisis, it's important to maintain your energy and reserves. That usually means cutting out activities that drain you, aren't enjoyable or are unnecessary. When in crisis mode, we may have to cut deeper into the schedule, with the understanding that we can always add activities back later. Keep only those activities that are absolutely necessary, or that help you to cope. It can be difficult to know what parts of your schedule to sacrifice, but this article on priorities can help.

Professional Help

If you find yourself unable to cope effectively in a crisis, it's important to seek professional help when necessary. If you're not sure, talk to your doctor. Don't forget to take care of yourself by reaching out for resources when necessary.

For more stress management help, subscribe to our free weekly newsletter and explore our other ongoing stress reduction tools.

Sources: Davidson, Richard, et. al. Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 2003.

Ullrich, Philip M., M.A.; Lutgendorf, Susan K., Ph.D. Journaling About Stressful Events: Effects of Cognitive Processing and Emotional Expression. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, Vol. 24, No. 3, 2002.

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