Crisis is an Opportunity for Change

Time for Change

In times of crisis, we often frantically search for ways to try to regain control of what is seemingly an unmanageable situation. We search for food, water, and other necessities (at the top of the list: toilet paper). We spend countless hours scouring social media and news outlets to get the latest update to be able to better predict danger. We plan for how we will manage illness or escape from deteriorating conditions; this might include buying weapons, stocking up on vitamin C, or calling a relative to seek shelter in a less affected area. We might even deny the reality of our current situation. But while understandable, these actions are all examples of our brain protecting us when things feel outside of our control.

Feeling powerless is frightening and can lead us to adopt cognitive distortions, which is when we can develop unhelpful ways of thinking that negatively impact how we see ourselves and the world. We might use over-generalizations, criticize ourselves by saying “I should have known, or seen this coming”, and even escalate our fears to the worst-case scenario. We might be accustomed to schedules and finding safety in planning our daily lives, but now have to readjust our routine for even small things like meal-planning. Who during this pandemic can’t relate to the challenge of not being able to predict what will be available to buy? Making a meal plan before shopping for groceries is nearly impossible right now. A once reliable thing such as the grocery store is now riddled with uncertainty and unpredictability.

What can we do right now to increase the certainties we have? How can we reduce anxiety and regain control of the things inside of our circle of influence? One thing we can do is adopt positive thoughts by maintaining a gratitude journal, or simply take time around the family dinner table to each share something that was special from the day’s events. Focusing on positive ways of thinking increases dopamine and serotonin, the neurotransmitters in our brain that decrease depression and increase joy.

We can also honor these feelings that aren’t very comfortable right now and label them. The University of Oregon has shared this excellent Feeling Wheel that you can use to identify and vocalize what you are experiencing emotionally. Support your loved ones and children in finding their emotional voice and processes through this challenging time. Stuffing down painful emotions can lead to adopting coping skills that are ultimately unhealthy, so it is important to reach out to those around us and recognize that we are living in an extraordinary time, having to accommodate to something we don’t have a playbook for. It’s hard, painful, and frightening at times. It’s okay to say that out loud.

Finally, we can take control by being intentional with our time. We can decrease our emotional distance from loved ones during social distancing by scheduling check-ins using FaceTime and other video chat apps. We can engage with those in our homes, trying new recipes, learning to bake bread from scratch, doing a house project that we’ve put off too long, or sitting down for a good old-fashion game of spades. We can fight the emotional battle of adversity by filling our bucket with good memories and developing a narrative of connection instead of isolation.

Good things can come from a crisis if you recognize it as an opportunity for change. A crisis challenges our adaptability. If you are struggling in this time and want to feel better about this moment and challenge some unhelpful ways you might be thinking about your current situation, we are here to help you. If you find yourself needing additional support at this time, call or email us to discuss how we can help you navigate this extraordinary time in our lives.

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Pamela Madsen, relationship healer

Pamela Madsen helps people who feel stuck in conflict and trauma,
freeing them to take back control of their lives and
engage in meaningful relationships again. 



4411 Suwanee Dam Road, Suite 450
Suwanee, GA 30024

hello@empowercounseling.net
770-283-8386

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