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Updated 05 July 2013

Crisis stations: 10 tips

Things suddenly spin out of control and you find yourself panicking. What should you do in a crisis?

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It is not a crisis if your jeans suddenly become tighter, you lose a hairclip, or your best friend spends ten minutes talking to someone else during break.

A crisis is when things suddenly and unexpectedly go out of control. The Webster dictionary speaks of “the point of time when an affair has reached its height, and must soon terminate or suffer a material change”.

Crises can be emotional or physical. And how you deal with them reveals a lot about who you are. Everyone has crises in their lives, even if it doesn’t look that way. Unexpected things can happen at any moment.

You’re walking to school and right in front of you, there’s a huge car accident. You come home and find out your father has left the family and moved in with someone else. You spent all weekend studying for the history exam and you get to school – and yes, it’s geography today. Or you get diagnosed with a serious illness. Or your girlfriend was seen at the movies with someone else.

Point is, in many ways, things are going to change from now on.

How you deal with these situations, can make a huge difference to what the outcome, or the destructive results of these crises can be. So what can you do to make that difference?

Assess the situation. This is sometimes difficult if you’re in a state of shock, but many people find that they can actually think quite clearly in a crisis situation. Assess what’s happened and consider your options – would it be safest to make a quick getaway, do you need to get hold of the fire extinguisher, jump into the pool and save the toddler, phone the emergency service, or lock yourself in somewhere safe? Your own safety is important, but wanting to help others is a natural instinct. Just don’t do anything really foolish – you don’t want the emergency services to have two drowning victims on their hands instead of one.

Minimise physical damage. Do everything in your power to make sure that physical harm is prevented. Get away from accident scenes (unless you can really help), don’t try and rush into a burning house to try and get your leather jacket, don’t get involved in fights or road rage incidents (as far as you can help it), and don’t resist muggers – you could get a knife in your ribs. Point is, when there is a crisis, many other things could go wrong. Be on the lookout.

Help where you can. Give help where it is needed. See what there is that you can do to assist in a crisis situation. The most helpful thing you can do, might be to make a call to the appropriate emergency service, or fetch someone who could be of assistance. Hovering around shouting and screaming is not going to be of any help. Rather make way for those who do know what to do.

Do a first aid course. This is a very constructive way of being helpful to others. Learn how to do CPR (cardio-pulmonary resuscitation) and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. You will also be taught how to stem bleeding from wounds and how to help people who are choking, among other things. You never know when this knowledge could come in handy. And next time one of your friends chokes on a hamburger, you won’t be hovering around shrieking – you’ll know what to do.

Don’t be part of the problem. Try and stay calm – if you are hysterical and all over the show, you could be making things worse. Yes, we all sometimes suffer from shock, but losing it in the heat of the crisis will never make it better. Breathe deeply, get some medical attention and, or remove yourself from the situation.

See things in perspective. When something happens, it always seems like a catastrophe – and sometimes it is. Things can happen in a flash that change your whole life. But then we also have a tendency to make things seem worse than they are. Failing an exam, not being invited to a party, fighting with your best friend – these are all grim and unpleasant, but in a couple of years you might not even remember these. Talk to a friend, have a good night’s sleep, go for a walk, watch a DVD – you might feel better.

Speak to the professionals. In a crisis, it is always best to speak to someone who is trained to deal with a situation like the one in which you find yourself. You wouldn’t ask your Gran for fashion advice, or go to the dentist if you have a foot problem. So, if you are depressed, speak to a counsellor who knows what to do in the situation. If you’re struggling with your studies, speak to the teachers concerned.

Call someone. That’s what home phones, public phones and cellphones are for. Call for help in a crisis situation – whether it is for an ambulance, the fire brigade, the security company or just a friend in an emotional crisis. Telephones have changed our lives – use them to your advantage.

Rely on friends and family. These are the people who support us through times of crisis. Talk to one of them and tell them how you feel. It will make you feel better. These people are also often very useful when we need to have our attention diverted from a problem, or hear a couple of home truths.

Be kind to yourself. If you’re going through a difficult time, you shouldn’t be very hard on yourself. Every person deals with stress differently – you’re not going to get 90% for your exam if your parents are busy getting divorced, or your boyfriend has just left you. Accept that life can be difficult, that it isn’t always your fault, and that this too shall pass.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated April 2010)

 
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