Updated 11 May 2015

Look after yourself in a crisis

A crisis can strike at any time and it can hit anyone. Here's how to look after yourself.


Even if your friends' lives look perfect, they're not. A crisis can strike at any time –and it can hit anyone. Even you.

The way your body tells you that it needs a rest from stress and tension, is to get ill.

It could be retrenchment, serious illness or death in the family, losing your house, having major financial problems, serious relationship problems, divorce or a crisis with the children. Sooner or later, all people have to deal with these things.

And what's more, have you noticed that the week you hear you're being retrenched, is also when you get food poisoning or your cat breaks its leg?

But there are things you can do to make sure that you don’t get sick on top of everything else. Generally, when you are in crisis mode, looking after yourself is often not a priority. But, if you do the following things, you should be all right:

Get to a doctor

Go and see your GP and get some vitamin supplements and something to calm you down and let you sleep, if you need it. One does not earn any extra points for needless suffering. Sleeping tablets and tranquillisers often only need to be taken for a few days to help you over the worst.

See a counsellor
Make that appointment – these people are there to help, not to judge you or make you feel like you're being placed under scrutiny. There are professionals who specialise in grief therapy, relationship counselling, parenting, financial counselling – in short, whatever it is that you need. Why go through this all by yourself when there is help available?

Remember, strong people go for help. If you can’t afford paying a counsellor, phone LifeLine for free telephone counselling. Their number is 0861 322 322.

Get sleep
You are so tired, but you are lying there tossing and turning. "Why did she say that?" "How am I going to pay for that?" "What will I do without her?" You need to replenish your strength and you are not going to be able to do that if you lie awake all night. Lying awake worrying is not doing anyone a favour, least of all yourself. If you are unable to fall asleep, or constantly wake up during the night, or if you wake up really early in the morning, you might need some medication to help you sleep for a short while. Remember, this is merely a short-term solution.

Eat properly
The majority of people stop eating properly during a crisis. They function on adrenaline, which does have a tendency to suppress the appetite. This is fine for a day or two, but remember that the body does need its replenishment on the long run.

Eat fresh fruit and vegetables (Try for five portions a day), have some protein and carbohydrates and remember to drink lots of water. This will help your immune system fight diseases that may be doing the rounds. Many people smoke or drink more than usual during times of crisis, and this places extra stress on the body. A vitamin supplement also can't hurt during this trying time in your life.

Get exercise
Even going for a walk will get your circulation going and reduce your stress levels. Exercise is often the last thing on your list of priorities when you're dealing with difficult situations, but it will do you the world of good.

Exercise also stimulates the release of the feel-good hormones, which could do wonders for your state of mind. A visit to the gym or the squash court may just leave you feeling energised and better able to cope with whatever crisis there is in your life.

Take time out for yourself
You need time to replenish yourself and cannot be there for others on a constant basis. Unplug the phone, have a bath and have an early night. If you get burnt out, you will be useless to others and become an added burden in the crisis situation, rather than contributing to a solution.

It is important that you lean on your support systems during difficult times. Phone people, see friends, confide in those you trust. Without friends we don’t get through difficult times easily.

Don’t feel bad if you avoid those people who add to your stress rather than relieving it during this time. While you're trying to organise a funeral or deal with a crisis at work, your best friend's tiff with her boyfriend will simply have to wait. Friends will understand.

Also remember that each person has a responsibility to look after themselves in a difficult time. You can be there for people, but you cannot take responsibility for their problems. Your responsibility lies with yourself.

- (Susan Erasmus)


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