We have all experienced it. Life is rolling along with ease and predictability. We are confident in our routine and our day to day interactions. We know who we are and know more or less what to expect. There is a sense of calm to our days despite sometimes being a little tired or a little irritated. Things aren’t perfect, but our lives are running well enough. Then out of the blue, something shifts. Something dramatic. Something that calls all of our attention straight to it until that something is all we can see. It’s the trip to the hospital in the middle of the night, it’s seeing a suggestive text from our partner to someone else. It’s the phone call no one want’s to get. It’s the fire raging down the hill.
Suddenly you, who always have things under control, feel very much out of control. You feel your breath catch and your heart pound. You feel desperation for a return to what is familiar, to before the temperature got turned up to 120 degrees, but you know that even after this passes you will be altered in some way. There is no going back.
The word crisis originally comes from the greek word krisis which translates to decision or determination. It is true that crisis does usually bring about the need for immediate action and decision as well as precision in order to get through it. What is also true, is that amidst the chaos, crisis follows a pretty predictable pattern.
The first phase of a crisis is the pre-crisis phase. This is the phase when the crisis hasn’t happened, but maybe there is a warning sign. In the case of a medical crisis, it could be you haven’t been feeling quite yourself and you are debating going to the doctor. You might not even think it is anything serious, and it might not be. What action, if any, that is taken at this stage might impact how the rest of a crisis might go. This is also the place where many people decide to stick their heads in the sand out of anxiety of something worse coming along. I hate to break it to you, but during this phase if there is a crisis, it is coming whether one decides to acknowledge it or not.
Stage two is the actual crisis. This is where the rubber meets to road so to speak. It is time to react swiftly and move into action as quickly as possible in order to move out of the acute crisis. This is essentially the time where one is trying to stop the bleeding. In all actuality, this stage is the shortest of all, but the most intense and can feel like a lifetime. A lot of information can be revealed during this time and that information must be dealt with. This is when decisions are made in order to salvage what parts of oneself or one’s life.
Then comes the clean up. Stage three is either a time to breathe a sigh of relief because you handled things well or fight your way through upheaval, stress, or loss. This period can last a long time and is often the time in which people seek out therapy and work to learn coping strategies. It is a time of reorganization and putting things into place to replace what was prior to the crisis. While this phase can last a while, it is also the time when finding meaning can occur as well as having metabolizing all of the emotional upheaval of the crisis recently endured.
Finally, in post crisis stage, the crisis has passed things have once again stabilized. Much has been learned about ourselves and there is now opportunity where there was once only challenge.
While it can be helpful to know what to expect during a crisis it is also important to lean on practical coping strategies in order to get through it. Keep it simple, focus on the body. Eating, hydrating, and resting when you can is enough to provide some grounding in the midst of great upheaval. If you can’t sleep, it’s okay to walk or engage in some other type of simple movement. Breathe. No need to get fancy with it. In times of crisis, back to the basics is best. Crisis will happen. It is part of life and after the dust has settled new opportunities can return. Life can have new and different meaning with time, patience, and courage.
“BLESSING THE BOATS” BY LUCILLE CLIFTON
may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
may you kiss
the wind then turn from it
certain that it will
love your back may you
open your eyes to water
water waving forever
and may you in your innocence
sail through this to that