Life Notes: Dealing with Emotions after Crisis
by David Wheeler, Ph.D.

It was recently suggested that I write a Life Notes article about dealing with the difficult emotions that follow crises. I felt a bit overwhelmed in thinking of trying to address such a topic following such an extreme disaster and the personal crises so many are currently experiencing, especially in a brief article. Nevertheless, here are some brief ideas.

Some people feel that they must be “strong” and “hold it together.” However, most of us need to eventually “let it out” and experience whatever feelings we are having. Many people find that talking about a crisis and their thoughts and feelings gives them a sense of release and relief, especially if they find someone to really listen. This is often a major component of professional counseling. Another important task is to examine and challenge our own thoughts and the way we talk to ourselves in a crisis. We may be thinking, “My life is ruined; there is no reason to go on living … I have lost everything.”

Although this may FEEL very true to us at those times, we can’t see the whole picture and often find later that we were able to recover and to experience a rich and full life after crises. We need to challenge our thoughts and replace them with rational thoughts, such as “I am having the most difficult time of my life, but it will get better … I must keep on going and taking care of myself one day at a time.”

We may also benefit from envisioning the future after recovery. Imagine what it will be like in a future that is safe, pleasant, and comfortable. The pleasant imagery can help us to relax, as well as to engender hope.

We need to take care of our bodies as well as our emotions. Exercise and stretching can help our body reduce stress and release helpful chemicals into our brains that serve as natural mood enhancers.

Of course, digging deep into our spiritual faith can help sustain us and help us to grow. Pastoral counseling or professional counseling may be necessary for some people going through a crisis. Whether you are currently involved in a crisis or if you are stressed out from helping others, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

The Life Notes articles are written by staff of Louisiana Methodist Children’s Home and are published in The Ruston Daily Leader.

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