Some Practical Steps for Getting Through a Life Crisis
1- Live in the moment
A life crisis might feel like a permanent condition – a painful and lost existence. Take one step at a time as you go through each day. Try not to focus on the past, which can’t be changed, and let the future unfold as it will. For now, stay in the present and get your bearings. When your world is in turmoil, it is normal to feel confused. Your old tools for survival may not work any longer, and it is time to explore new ways of dealing with everyday problems.
2- Find support in other people
It’s difficult to endure a crisis alone. Identify your crisis (divorce, grieving, financial loss, a medical issue, etc.) and find other people who have been through a similar crisis. Try not to isolate and work this through by yourself, although this might seem the most comfortable option. A therapist is trained to help you in a confidential and professional way. A support group of people who have been through a similar experience can understand and accept your feelings. Find a trusted mentor who can help guide you through this period of confusion with practical advice.
3- Draw on your full range of strengths
Try to find a good balance between the various components of your personality – your ability to think, your emotions, your intuition, and your spiritual self. You may feel more comfortable, perhaps, as a thinker – but understand that this is limiting. A person cannot usually think their way through a life crisis. You also need your ability to feel, and sometimes your gut feelings give you the best course of action. A crisis is a time of growth and adapting to new situations, and for this tremendous challenge you need to use your whole self.
4- Define your goals
You may feel that your life is in disarray, so it helps to give yourself some direction. Set up a series of goals that you can easily achieve. When they are achieved, you will sense a feeling of success. These goals will constantly change as you wend your way through the crisis. For example, Monday will be the day to go to the grocery store alone. Tuesday you’ll call a therapist. Wednesday you’ll go to the gym or take a mile-long walk. Later on your goals will be loftier – like going on a weekend trip with a new friend, arranging a party at your house, or starting a new job.
5- Take care of business
Your life may be in crisis, but it must go on nevertheless. Pay your bills on time. Go to the doctor and dentist. Do your laundry. Bathe every day. Take your dog for a walk daily. Keep your house clean. Water the plants. These activities give you structure and serve as a good counterbalance to the chaos that characterizes life crisis.
6- Nurture yourself
The world may seem cruel when you are in crisis. Find at least one thing that you really enjoy doing – and then do it. Give yourself some pleasurable activities. Take a walk. Enjoy the sunset. Do a jigsaw puzzle. Eat ice cream (but only as an occasional treat). While you engage in these activities, allow yourself to have pleasant thoughts. If negative thinking comes into the picture, observe that you’re getting negative, and let it go.
Baya Mebarek, Psy.D., LMFT
San Diego Couples and Family Therapy serves the surrounding areas of Sorrento Valley Road as La Jolla, UTC San Diego, Del Mar, Rancho Santa Fe, Rancho Bernardo, Rancho Penasquitos, Poway, University City and Escondido.