There are many things that can cause you to slip over the edge into crisis. Sudden, drastic changes in your life, such as the death of someone close, relationship dysfunction, employment challenges, isolation and personal injury can all be triggers.
Even, unexpected environmental challenges, like a natural disaster, can push you into experiencing a personal crisis.
Whatever the cause, the result is emotional overload and overwhelming feelings of helplessness. Depression, fearfulness, self-doubt and difficulties dealing with everyday life are common signs that you are in crisis.
The extent to which you experience these symptoms is down to the severity of your crisis and your ability to cope with personal difficulties.
Depression – Intense feelings of sadness experienced for long periods of time (weeks, months or years) that exist for no apparent reason.
Frustration – An upset or annoyed feeling caused by being unable to change or do something.
Anxiety – Unexpected feelings of intense fear that cause trembling, sweating and difficulties with breath.
Detachment – A flat, calm sensation even in highly emotional situations.
Unmotivated – Feelings of detachment and an absence of interest or enthusiasm for things.
Self-doubt – Nervous confusion coming from a lack of confidence in your self and your abilities.
Impatience – Restlessness caused by annoyance in things or the actions of others.
Boredom – A frustrated empty feeling stemming from a lack of gratifying stimulation.
Nostalgic – An immersive feeling of happiness mixed with sadness caused by sentimental yearning for what the past.
Grief – Intense feelings of sorrow caused by loss.
Persecution – Annoyance accompanied by a sense of oppression and harassment that causes prolonged sadness and isolation that can escalate to anger and resentment.
Irritability – Feeling agitated, upset, moody and easy to anger in stressful situations.
Surrender – An overwhelming feeling of powerlessness that results in giving up even before action is required.
Insomnia – Feeling tired, unrested, lethargic and grumpy due to an inability to fall asleep or stay sleeping.
Trapped – Claustrophobic, helpless feelings caused by a sense of restriction.
Imposter – Strong feelings of trepidation caused by an inability to affirm your accomplishments.
Avoidance – The desire to escape or keep away from restrictions and situations that cause stress.
Isolation – Loneliness, sadness and distress caused by a sense of not fitting in or not belonging.
Unfocused – Intense feelings of confusion and being disorganised accompanied by mental fatigue that makes decision-making difficult.
Paranoia – Intense feelings of fear and anxiety caused by overly exaggerated interpretations of things.
People in crisis are prone to headaches, joint pains, stomach ache, digestive upset and loss of appetite. It is also common for people in crisis to experience fatigue more often and have regular bouts of lethargy.
In a crisis your sense of pain is greater. The same neurotransmitters that send pain signals are triggered by depression and your mood.
A crisis is simply a time of intense difficulty or danger.
Once it was thought that you only have a crisis when you hit “mid-life”.
Today we know that a crisis can happen at any age to anyone for any reason.
Usually, a crisis happens when an individual can’t cope with something that is difficult or dangerous. What is difficult or dangerous is different for each person, making your crisis unique to you.
Having a crisis is often described as feeling like you’ve lost your sense of self and become someone that isn’t you.
As a crisis often takes a while to move beyond, it can be difficult to know when it is over.
One measure for telling when your crisis is over is your ability to laugh at the experience and accept yourself. Self-acceptance and your sense of satisfaction and happiness in life are key.
A crisis happens in stages. First there is an event that triggers the crisis.
Next is an internal processing of the event that causes stress and a sense of being unable to cope. This is followed by the emotional responses.
The emotional responses are what help us to recognise that something wrong is going on. There is no specific set of emotions that you’ll feel at the time, to know that a crisis is coming on.
An initial wave of emotions can range from numbness to euphoria. For example, a highly traumatic event can cause you to physically freeze or/and experience heightened sensory stimulation as your cognitive process floods with an overwhelm of input.
In some situations your resilience is good and what would harm others is something that you can easily deal with.
What brings on the crisis and the emotional response you have are unique to you.
It is common for people straight after a crisis triggering event to say things like –
In life we’re taught to “toughen the f*** up”, which most people decode to mean deal with it yourself.
Going through a crisis in isolation rarely gets people through it quickly or without a lot of collateral damage. In fact, psychologists now know that the best way to get through a crisis is to share it.
The old adage – “A problem shared is a problem halved” could have been written especially for this situation – being in crisis.
There are some conditions with that though…
There are still many people who think that having a crisis is a myth and it doesn’t exist. People who think this way will be of little help or support for the person having the crisis.
It is because of this attitude and naive understanding of the situation that people having a crisis will abandon their relationships with these people. Leading to the loss of friendships, partner separation and in extreme cases divorce.
Unhelpful cliches and careless things people can say –
Fortunately, there is Google and easy access to other forms of help if you find that the people in your life are unlikely to support you through what you are experiencing.
Even if you’ve got supportive people around you, informal help from family, friends and colleagues isn’t always enough. When you discover that you’re not responding to the help and support these people are giving you, it’s time to consider someone professional.
As a guide, consider seeking professional help if –
There is a recognized four phase process that people go through called the CullBerg’s model. The model describes at a high level where you might be in your journey to recovery.
The Shock Phase starts with a trigger, followed by internal processing of the event and finally the emotional response. This phase typically lasts for a few hours, but can extend into days for some.
The Healing and Processing Phase is typified by a slowing of mental processes. Less time is spent focused on the challenges and a gradual acceptance of the situation begins.
The Reaction Phase happens when your mental defences kick in. A torrent of emotions and thoughts cause confusion as your problem solving processes run through the event and scenarios over and over.
The Reorientation Phase is when the person can start to look outwards at the world again. Preoccupation with the event is released and while it may continue to be painful, moving on is possible.
There are lots of self-help books that have been published that purport to help you moving on. Most do a good job explaining how good you should be feeling, but few tell you how to achieve it.
Happiness is described by psychologists as an emotional state of well-being. A definition so broad that it can be used to describe any positive feeling.
In reality feeling happy and being happy are two different things. It is possible to feel happy for a moment but not be happy. For example, you can feel happy reminiscing about someone, whilst grieving for their passing.
When you’re going through a crisis, you want to be looking for and creating those fleeting moments of feeling happy as often as you can.
Pursuing a fantasy of flipping some switch that will instantly make you happy each and every moment will only drive you further into crisis. The switch doesn’t exist.
Finding happiness in a crisis comes by making small fleeting happy moments. Moments that add up over time to help lessen your preoccupation with your situation and have you moving on.
This eBook has been written to give people who are struggling with unhappiness and trying to move on through a crisis. It contains information about what you can DO to make happy moments, including –
Get Pursuing Happiness When You’ve Lost Your Sense of Self and Purpose for free.