Four Ways To Protect Your Mental Health During A Crisis

Life is full of uncertainties; one day, all is well, and the next day, calamity strikes. During our time on earth, everyone will experience a form of crisis. The oxford dictionary defines crisis as a time of intense difficulty, trouble, or danger. It could be the sudden loss of a job, the loss of a relationship or loved one, news of a terminal illness, or natural and made man disaster. It is important to protect your mental health during a crisis as it may determine if you bounce back after the crisis is over.

A crisis usually disrupts the normal functioning of an individual’s daily life. It brings with it heightened levels of anxiety and depression and a temporary loss of coping abilities. According to Dr. Norman Wright, crises are not always bad; they can bring opportunity as well as danger. It is the method an individual chooses to cope with the crisis that will determine if things will become better or worse than they were before the event.

Impact Of A Crisis On Our Mental Health

  • An increase in stress level- individuals, begin to experience symptoms of stress such as headaches, stomach ulcers, depression, irritability.
  • A sense of hopelessness- there is a loss of hope in things returning to normalcy. Many people give up and choose not to try again. Some people may resort to engaging in high-risk behaviors like abusing substances to numb the pain; others may give up on trying altogether.
  • A reduction in cognitive abilities- Because of the heightened emotional state, logical and critical thinking abilities reduces. Many people will not be able to perform at their optimal level, which may pose more problems (for example, poor performance at work may lead to a likely job loss) compounding the already existing crisis.
  • An increase in doubt- Many Christians facing a difficult situation may begin to doubt God’s love for them. “If God is real, why is this happening to me?” becomes the question that fills their mind and can result in more negative emotions. John the Baptist faced this struggle when he asked his disciples to inquire from Jesus if He was the “real deal’ or if they should look somewhere else.

Protect Yourself; Do These Things

Remember that crises happen to all humans

Recalling the fact that your present circumstance is not a novel one can help bring some perspective to the situation. It removes the desire to ask, “why me?” The Bible makes it clear that in this world, we will have trouble (John 16:33); Christians are not exempted from problems. The Bible is full of stories of men and women who experienced crises of various kinds. In times of distress, you can choose to dwell on the goodness of God and His promise that “when you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” (Isaiah 43:2, NIV).

Protect Your Mental Health By Watching Your Thoughts

Often, when things aren’t going well, we begin to imagine the worst-case scenario; our minds wander far into the future, predicting situations that may never occur. Our thoughts have a significant influence on our behavior, and dwelling on worst-case scenarios will only heighten our anxiety and increase our stress levels. According to Psychiatrists Beck and Burns, some thinking errors include:

  • Seeing things in extreme terms. For example, the coronavirus is going to kill everyone.
  • Assuming our feelings convey useful information, for example, “my fear of water means there is a good chance I will drown while trying to swim.”
  • Having a false sense of helplessness, for example, “I cannot continue living now that my spouse is dead.”
  • Overgeneralization, for example, “because my neighbor lost his job, I will lose mine.”

The key to controlling your thoughts is first becoming aware of them. To protect your mental health, you need to be aware of what is going on in your mind. When you begin to panic, or become anxious or fearful, pause and ask yourself, “why am I feeling this way? are my emotions the result of the crisis or my interpretation (thoughts) of the events?”
When you identify your thoughts, compare them with real facts. For example, when overwhelmed with the fear of dying from the coronavirus, ask yourself what evidence exists that supports your thoughts of dying. Based on the facts you have considered, identify the possible errors in your thinking, and come up with a better way of viewing the situation. Practice this new way of thinking, and with time, it will become your new normal.

Practice Gratitude

During a crisis, it is easy to become overwhelmed with the changes the crisis event may have brought to your life. Shifting focus from what isn’t working to what is (without denying the reality on ground), can help relieve feelings of anxiety and depression. Research shows that practicing gratitude is good for our physical and psychological health as it helps reduce stress and does away with negative emotions. The Bible tells us in Proverbs 17:22 that a cheerful heart is good medicine. So, no matter how bad the situation may be, give thanks, you will be surprised how much good it will do for you.

Help Other People In Need

When calamity strikes, our first reaction is to protect ourselves and loved ones. The temptation to shut out everyone else and focus inwards hits hard but offering a helping hand while in need of help yourself can provide psychological benefits. First, it makes you take your mind off your circumstance, providing some relief from the constant thoughts that may be afflicting you. Second, participating in acts of altruism enhances positive emotions. The Bible tells of Jesus, saddened by the death of His cousin John, and wanting to be alone still attended to a crowd seeking His attention; He healed the sick and performed the miracle of feeding five thousand men with five loaves of bread and two fish (Matthew 14:1321). You can never tell what things can happen when you chose to help others in your time of crisis.

The world is presently facing a crisis- the coronavirus. A lot of people have been hit hard with the loss of a loved one, loss of livelihood, canceled vacations and events, and the constant fear of the unknown. As we chart this new reality, let us work on protecting our mental health. When you take steps to protect your mental health, you are not just engaging in thinking positive thoughts; you are actively involved in monitoring what goes on in your mind and taking control of how it affects your behavior. As a people, we must acknowledge the facts about the disease and its effect on our lives, but we must focus on what we can do now and in the coming days and months. We must also remember that God is still God and has power over ALL circumstances. He will see us through these challenging times.
Protect your mental health; It is the least you can do when everything else is beyond your control