Boosting your resilience in a crisis
October 3rd, 2023
Torben Bergland, MD
A crisis is not a nightmare we wake up from. It’s a reality we wake up to. It reminds us that we never know what the next moment will bring. It reminds us that we are fragile beings. It represents a threat to someone or something important to us; maybe even to our very existence. A crisis triggers anxiety, pain, and distress. How do we manage our thoughts and feelings in difficult times, so we can get through, and maybe even come out of it stronger? Here are six ways:
It's a crisis. Face it.
Minimizing or maximizing it is not helpful. There's a danger in making it smaller than it is, but nothing is gained either by blowing it out of proportion. Let it be what it is; not more, not less, according to the limits of our knowledge and understanding.
Take one step at a time. There's no turning back and there's no running away. This is one step, and then another one, on an unknown path into an unknown future. Remember, though, that it's better to walk together. If one falls, the other can raise him up.
A crisis brings out the best and the worst in us. Expect to see some of both in yourself and others. Therefore, be patient, kind, and compassionate with yourself and others.
A crisis may be a turning point for better and for worse. Let's harvest as much good as possible from it.
It will be difficult. Accept it.
We cannot make it go away. This is where we are right now, and we need to do our best in the midst of it.
We cannot control this. But we can do our best and support others in doing their best. And, we are best equipped to do our best when we deal with reality as it is.
There may be negative outcomes. There may be losses. It may be stressful. It may take time. But there may also be positive outcomes.
You may suffer physically, mentally, relationally, socially, financially, existentially, and spiritually. There is no point in trying to persuade yourself and others that all is well. It's not. But we can find help and comfort in one another and in God. It's time to draw closer together.
It's a time for reflection. Work on it.
It's time for a time-out. We live in a world that is so rushed and high-paced that every second may be filled with something. Many are busy producing or consuming, one or the other, almost every waking moment. This leaves little time to think, to reflect, to meditate, to feel, to talk, to connect. We need to slow down. To allow spaces to open up, to pause, to question, to evaluate, to reconsider. Don't stuff open spaces with whatever is at hand. Allow reflection to enter. Am I living the life I want to live? What are the real values and priorities of my life? My words and wishes may be one thing, while my actions tell a different story. The test of truth is not what I say, but what I do. What is the truth about my life?
We may find our hearts and minds flooded by things totally unrelated to the crisis, yet triggered, activated, and stirred up because of it. Things from our past, our present, or our future. Things that may surprise us, things we did not know were there, or things that are bigger and stronger than we imagined. They may wash over us like waves. Or, we may ride them when they come. The latter may be the better. But a wave cannot be planned. You have to be ready for it when it comes and let the ride be as wild or mild as the wave that carries it.
Put first things first. Is it work? Is it health? Is it friends? Is it family? Is it God? Let your focus and your time reflect what matters most in your life.
What you do can make a difference. Do it.
Love more. Stay connected. For your own sake and for the sake of others. By caring for others, you yourself will be helped.
Talk better. Have good conversations every day with people who mean something to you. If you are alone, do it by phone or internet. If you are together with someone, set aside quality time for face-to-face and eye-to-eye conversations. And, remember, talk with God as your father, mother, friend, helper, and savior. Maybe it's time for some of those deeper conversations?
Maintain yourself and your surroundings. Wash your face, your hair, your body, your clothes, your dishes, your floors. Maintaining the exterior things will make you feel better on the inside.
Move more. If you can get outside, get outside every day and move for at least 30 minutes. If you cannot go outside, get up and walk every hour, and do some indoor exercise. If you lack inspiration for indoor exercise, there are plenty of guided workouts online and on apps.
Let the sun warm you. The sun not only brightens the sky, but it also brightens the mind. Enjoy some daylight every day if you can, even if the most you can do is sit by your window.
Eat well. Take time for it. Enjoy 2-3 meals a day, preferably together with someone. Don't snack continuously. Dust off those cookbooks and try out some new recipes. Eat plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, and other whole foods.
Sleep enough. Go to bed early enough to wake up refreshed in the morning. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Take a break from screens before bedtime. If you feel like napping, only do it once before late afternoon and no more than 30 minutes.
Laugh frequently. Humor is a good way to buffer pain and release tension. It is an adult way of being playful. Look for what may be funny and enjoy it with someone.
Cry when needed. Crying is also a good way to release tension and communicate to others that you are suffering. We don't blame babies for crying when they need someone to care and provide for them. We shouldn't blame adults either. Be compassionate with yourself and others whenever there are tears. Be compassionate always.
Don't binge. Don't binge on Netflix. Don't binge on work. Don't binge on news. Don't binge on social media. Don't binge on food. Don't binge on anger or frustrations. Just don't binge on what isn’t helpful and uplifting.
There's more to life than the crisis. See it.
Don't let the crisis hijack your entire life. There is so much more to life and to the world than the crisis. Be grateful for those things.
See others. Don't get totally absorbed by yourself and your own situation. There are many who are in need of an outstretched hand. Think about who in your circle of family, friends, colleagues, church, and community may need a hand. Reach out to someone every day.
Things could be worse. All is not lost even if some things are lost.
There is hope. Embrace it.
This too will pass.
As long as there is life, there is hope. And, as a follower of Christ, even in death there is hope. We may suffer, but we need not despair. We are not alone in this.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him (Rom 8:28 NIV).
But now, this is what the Lord says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine" (Isa 43:1 NIV).
For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord's (Rom 14:8 ESV).
I said; "don't binge", but there are actually some things you may binge on; "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal 5:22-23 NKJV). These are abundantly stockpiled in the heavenly warehouse, ready to be dispatched to whoever will receive them from the creator of all good things. "So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened" (Luke 11:9-10 NKJV).
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