During a crisis, there is a tendency to become stressed, anxious and depressed. Our coping skills become overused and we become overwhelmed. Daily living activities may seem more of a burden than a thoughtless routine. For people already suffering from mental illness, the onset of a crisis could send them into a downward spiral of devastation and despair. Also, stress can worsen many medical problems such as hypertension and diabetes. The more stressful thoughts you have, the less restful sleep you get and the more dis-eased your body and mind becomes. You may feel like echoing Fannie Lou Hamer, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired.” You may want to throw up your hands and holler. Or, you may think life is unbearable and you begin to entertain drastic solutions. You may even entertain the unfortunate idea of using a permanent solution to end a temporary problem. That’s right, temporary. Crisis events are temporary. Brothers and sisters, this crisis will end. And, the crisis aftermath will slowly but surely improve. History tells us that crises (wars, tornados, epidemics, etc.) have come and gone.
How you handle your crisis is the essential question. Do you spend your time and thoughts worrying or problem solving? Are you reactive or proactive? You are already equipped with the key survival tool: your thoughts. You have total control over your thoughts. Your thoughts control your emotions and feelings. And, your feelings dictate your actions and behaviors. This is a cycle of thoughts, emotions and behaviors. In graduate school, I read about a technique called rational emotive thinking. I have combined this technique with my faith and spiritual belief to manage various stressful situations in my life. I believe this technique will help you get through your crisis.
Use these helpful tips to manage your thoughts:
Avoid non-productive worrying such as “I should have” or “This should not be.” Instead, use low-intensity thoughts such as “I feel disappointed about this” or “I feel uneasy about this.” Low-intensity thoughts will improve your ability to problem solve and lessen the strain on your medical and mental health.
Talk about your feelings.
It is OK and normal to feel anxious in troubling times. However, guard against feeling overwhelmed or devastated. Talk to people who can help you get a rational, empowering outlook on life, such as a trusted friend or mental health professional.
Allow your children and elderly to share their fears.
Be supportive and calming.
Keep a set schedule.
Everyone feels safer when they know what to expect next.
Choose to affirm your power.
Your ancestors have instilled strong survival skills within you. The majority of African Americans are alive today because our ancestors survived the Middle Passage transport from Africa. You are the product of warriors, survivors. Own it. Each day, look yourself in the mirror and say “I am strong” or “I am a survivor” or “I am powerful beyond measure” or “I am blessed.” You chose the statement that speaks to your spirit and boldly recite it at the start of each.
Get the facts.
Seek information from reliable sources, not Facebook.
Think before you act or react.
Ask yourself if your thought is: True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary, Kind.
If you feel the need for professional help, please contact your medical care professional, mental health care professional, the suicide crisis line at 1-800-273-8255, or contact the Indiana Association of Black Psychologists for a referral at 317-643-2227 or email@example.com.
Dr. Carrie Dixon is a retired clinical psychologist, retired registered nurse and current chapter president of the Indiana Association of Black Psychologists.