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How to Stay Mentally Strong During a Crisis

From medical emergencies to financial crises, these strategies can help.

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At one time or another, you're bound to face a crisis. Your loved one might be diagnosed with a terminal condition. Your marriage might come to an end. You may find yourself in a dire financial situation.

The list could go on and on. No matter who you are, how much you earn, how rock-solid your life feels, crises are inevitable. But the way you respond to these crises is optional.

Staying strong during a crisis is key to getting through tough times. Here's how to stay mentally strong during a crisis:

1. Accept reality

When faced with bad news, it's easy to waste a lot of time thinking things like this can't be happening, or this shouldn't be happening to me. But this isn't the time to waste your vital resources worrying about fairness.

Accept the situation. That doesn't mean you have to agree with what's going on, but it does mean that you're willing to acknowledge reality. Only then can you take positive action.

2. Don't worry about building strength right now

Trying to build mental strength in the midst of a crisis is like lifting weights right before you try to pick up a heavy box. It's not the time to worry about strength building—it's time to put the strength you already have into action.

3. Seek support

Talk to your friends. Ask for help from a professional. Reach out to your loved ones. Whatever you do, make sure you that you ask questions, tell people what you need, and get the emotional support that could assist you.

4. Practice self-care

As difficult as it may be to eat and sleep, it's important to take care of your body when you're in the midst of a crisis. Go for a few short walks when you can, make healthy eating choices a priority even when you're pressed for time, and rest your body and your mind.

5. Ask yourself what advice you'd give to a friend

Sometimes, a crisis requires you to make tough decisions. And when you're feeling overwhelmed and really emotional, those tough choices may seem impossible to make—especially when you have to make them fast.

Whether you have to decide which medical procedure to try, or you need to find a new place to live, ask yourself what advice you'd give to a trusted friend. That helps take a lot of the emotion out of the equation, which can be key to making the best choice possible (even when you feel as though you're between a rock and a hard place).

6. Create a helpful mantra

Develop an affirmation, like "I've survived tough times before I will get through this too," and repeat it to yourself as needed. It can help drown out the negative thoughts that are bound to swirl in your mind, and it can keep you on track so you can move forward.

7. Prioritize what needs to get done

When you're in the middle of a crisis, you're going to likely need to give some things up so you can focus your energy on the task at hand. Create a to-do list that will help you prioritize what needs to get done. And write things down, as your memory is sure to fail at times when your stress level is high.

8. Find time to experience your emotions

While you don't want to suppress your emotions forever, there are also times you need to regulate your feelings so you can be productive. Crying in the doctor's office might get in the way of being able to ask the questions you need answers to. Similarly, allowing fear to take hold might prevent you from taking action.

At times, you may need to move forward quickly—with little time to really even think about how you're feeling. That's OK when you're in an acute crisis. But just make sure you set aside time later to let yourself experience painful feelings—it's a crucial part of healing emotional wounds.

9. Take small steps

A crisis can make you feel overwhelmed by all the things you need to change, accomplish, or solve. Break down those big tasks into small steps.

Whether you need to sort through a loved one's belongings after they've passed away, or you need to shed some serious weight to resolve a health crisis, identify something you can begin working on today.

10. Do something that helps you keep a sense of normalcy

When you're in the middle of a crisis, you might feel like the entire world is upside-down. Perhaps you spend all day every day sitting in the hospital at a loved one's side. Or maybe you're applying for jobs from the time you wake up until the time you fall asleep.

Doing one thing that helps you feel "normal" might help you stay mentally stronger. Watch your favorite show before you fall asleep. Go for a walk in the morning, like you always did before the crisis. Whatever it is, look for one shred of normalcy that you can continue even when life feels anything but normal.

Build Strength After the Crisis Is Over

Once the acute crisis is over, take time to unwind from the stress you endured. Whether that means planning a weekend hike in the mountains or scheduling an appointment with a therapist to help you move forward, take whatever steps are necessary to help you grow from your experience.

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