Navigating Crisis – by Kind Communication

KindCommunication.orgRe-posted From:

You’ve lost your job.  The car has died.  You’re swamped at work and that’s keeping you from your friends and family.  A loved one has been diagnosed with a terminal disease, or maybe you’ve been diagnosed with a serious disease.  A loved one dies.  You’re not happy with where you are in life, and you have no idea what next steps to take.

These are all crisis.  They are moments in life where it is easy to give in to emotional overwhelm, to succumb to stress, and to lose connection with the joy in life.  The world takes on a darker tinge, you have less energy, and a sharp decline in being interested in things you once loved.  There can be feelings of panic, hopelessness, despair, sadness, depression, terror, and the list goes on.

What are we supposed to do with those moments in life?

I want to offer some guidelines on how to try to make it through these moments with as much of your sanity as possible.  But before I do, I need to give a disclaimer.  These moments of greatest distress are extremely difficult and they are full of suffering.  No one makes it through these moments unscathed, and no one makes it through them perfectly.  Let me repeat that:  no one makes it through them perfectly.  Think of the person you most admire, the person you think is most put together.  Even that person has engaged in self-destructive or unhealthy behaviors during crisis.  It just happens.  So let’s take the pressure off, and just confess that while we cannot do it perfectly we can be mindful of what is healthier and guide our behavior in that direction.

First of all, allow yourself to grieve.  With almost any crisis there is some sort of loss.  Even if it isn’t a physical loss like of a friend or a job you loved, there is the emotional and psychological loss of security, stability, freedom, etc.  And whenever we’ve lost something important to us we need to grieve it.  So allow yourself to emote.  That may involve tears, but it also might involve expressing anger by going into the woods and destroying large sticks, or writing out all those hateful and resentful thoughts that just keep replaying in your head.  It may involve expressing fear by shaking and trembling as you think about what may come next.  Whatever the emotions are and however you express them is fine, but the key is to express them.  Using drugs (including alcohol and caffeine), TV, Netflix, hiding under the covers, or moping around the house is not expressing your emotions.

Second, give yourself breaks.  Breathe.  Take a walk.  Sure, watch a 30 minute show, or a single movie.  Find moments to take a break from your emotions and from the reality of your life.  To just wallow in one’s emotions is not good, and to just stare at the crisis just leads to overwhelm.  This is when having spiritual practices like meditation or yoga can be the most helpful.  But even just taking a relaxed walk, going for a jog, or popping in a movie or watching a show can be extremely helpful.  Find moments to just take a break.  The key is to not use these “breaks” as perpetual “escapes”.

Finally, ask for help.  You cannot do it alone, and you shouldn’t have to be alone in this pain.  Ask for help.  Seek out close friends or family that you can confide in and feel comfortable being vulnerable and authentic with.  Seek out a counselor or therapist.  Don’t try to be “tough” and “strong” and “go it alone”.  That is a recipe for disaster; following that path leads to breakdowns, burn outs, and self-destructive behavior.

So my brief guidelines for navigating a crisis: allow yourself to grieve, give yourself breaks, and ask for help.  There is a lot more guidance and nuance to this of course.  It’s a crisis; it is going to be messy.  So forgive yourself when you go off the rails, and gently bring yourself back to healthier practices. is a project by a close friend of Wiki World Order, Alex Leach. WWO fully supports the study, practice, and teaching of non-violent communication as one of the core solutions which already exists.