3 Things I’ve Learned When Dealing With Crises

Things have been going pear-shaped around here for a while now. I will spare you the litany of issues because it actually sounds made up! My husband jokes that we must have angered a gypsy or something.

But we’ve been rolling with it, mostly. And since this kind of thing is hardly unique to me, I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned through this episode and others like it.

‘Never waste a crisis’ ~Winston Churchill, attrib.

Since crises come along with fair regularity, I’ve learned to appreciate them.

For one thing, crises are clarifying. I, at least at this point, have no problem immediately reprioritizing, tightening my focus, and winnowing to the essentials. Pay attention to what you let drop easily. Perhaps you shouldn’t bother to pick it back up.

‘Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth’ ~Mike Tyson

Once you get used to the split-second culling of priorities, if you have a chance during a lull in the ‘festivities,’ try to think about taking care of the things that, should they go awry, will only exacerbate your stress.

These are usually maintenance tasks– getting at least light exercise, making sure the oil change is done on your car, checking to make sure the bills are getting paid. Most people will let these lapse when they are highly stressed, but I’ve learned that it actually reduces stress. Murphy’s law LOVES to strike during a crisis. Play good defense.

“We thought it was a rough patch, but it turned out to be our life.” ~cartoon, The New Yorker

Sometimes, (many times) I have had crises that went on and on and on. At a certain point, you just have to accept that those halcyon days you keep trying to return to are not your life. What you are going through right now — the constraints, the responsibilities, the burdens — are your life. And now you just need to let go of the ideas about what you’ll do when “things settle down” and thing about what you can do now, with what you’ve got.

This is the most difficult step, because it involves accepting that things are not as you want them to be, perhaps not how you deserve them to be. But they are. And this sucks. But what’s the alternative? Staying stuck, waiting for things to get better before you make your move? Risky.

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Crises are never convenient. And they’re never exactly fun. But it’s kind of like getting onstage. You can tell yourself “I’m so nervous” or you can say “I’m so excited!” For me, every crisis is a chance to get better at handling crises— the stress, the pain, the fear, the loss. You never know when The Big One will hit, and when it does, I want to at least have some practice.