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The types of crises and how to deal with them

1. Freeik
In terms of mental health, a crisis is the level of severity in which an individual reacts to a situation. Two people can experience the same event; one may not be affected at all, while the other is deeply affected. (Photo: Freepik)
Stress is an unavoidable aspect of human life. Many stresses are seemingly universal, including finances, education, and employment. Despite these stresses being common among most individuals, everyone handles them differently.اضافة اعلان

Unfortunately, if these stressors cannot be dealt with, they can accumulate and result in a crisis. Understanding what a crisis is and how it progresses can help us improve many aspects of our lives and overall well-being.

So what is a crisis?

In terms of mental health, a crisis is the level of severity in which an individual reacts to a situation. Two people can experience the same event; one may not be affected at all, while the other is deeply affected.

One of the best definitions of a crisis related to mental health is offered by James and Gilliland in their 2001 fourth edition publishing of Crisis Intervention Strategies. They stated that a crisis is “a perception or experience of an event or situation as an intolerable difficulty that exceeds the person’s current resources and coping mechanisms.”

In essence, a crisis is not the event itself but how a person reacting to the events is incapable of coping with the situation. This means that one person may experience an objectively more severe or traumatic event and be subjectively fine, while another person may experience a milder event and be subjectively devastated by it.

Types of crises

Crises can manifest in a variety of forms and range in severity. There is no cookie-cutter number on the different types of crises. However, three types are the most prevalent. It could be argued that various crises can be a subtype of these three forms and can often overlap.

The first type of crisis is a developmental crisis. A developmental crisis occurs due to the growth and changes experienced during periods of life. It is transitional in nature, and the individual is forced to question their social environment and sense of self, which can cause struggles in coping.
Crisis is “a perception or experience of an event or situation as an intolerable difficulty that exceeds the person’s current resources and coping mechanisms.”
One of the most common examples of a developmental crisis is the period near or after graduating from high school. The individual may experience great distress because up until that point, their entire life has been that of a student.

After graduating, they have to consider their future and what they will do. The stress from having to consider how they will integrate into society can be extremely overwhelming. This form of crisis is very prevalent to the point where it may even be a predictable part of the human life cycle. It has even been outlined in Erik Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development.

In Erikson’s view, he notes that these internal conflicts are centered on whether or not an individual can develop a specific psychological quality such as purpose.

The second type of crisis is an existential crisis. An existential crisis is similar to that of a developmental crisis.

Again, it is an inner conflict that questions the individual’s sense of purpose and role. However, in developmental crises, the concern is primarily on the individual’s role in society. In existential crises, the conflict is more spiritual and relates more to the individual’s role in the universe.

One common example of this is a midlife crisis occurring in a person’s 40s. This crisis comes from the realization that the individual’s life has been almost half spent, and they begin to feel that they have not done anything of importance with their life.

The third type of crisis is arguably the most common form of crisis, known as situational crisis.

Situational crises arise from sudden or unexpected events or trauma, such as accidents or natural disasters. There is no internal turmoil in this form of crisis that leads to conflict but instead extreme external stressors that can make it seemingly impossible to cope.

Situational crises do not need to be extreme in nature either. They can be seemingly mundane as losing a job or going through a divorce. These events create such a dramatic disruption in the individual’s life that they can cause severe distress.

The body follows the mind, the mind follows the body

There is a strong link between mental and physical distress. It is common for mental distress to manifest physically and vice versa. In short, the body follows the mind, and the mind follows the body.

Due to the cyclic nature of distress, lessening your physical response to stress can help reduce mental distress. Physically during periods of crisis, bodies can activate the fight or flight response, which can cause increased heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, and sweat.

Managing or mitigating these physical manifestations can cause mental distress to decrease significantly. One effective technique for this is utilizing deep breathing exercises.

Deep breathing exercises exist in excess, but they all share common principles. During high-stress situations, increased breathing rate results in rapid, shallow breathing. This can cause hyperventilation, which triggers the brain to stress even more, thus perpetuating the cycle.

Deep breathing works to deescalate the fight or flight response by two mechanisms. The first is by actively reversing the effects of hyperventilation by drawing in deep breaths, naturally causing your heart rate and other physical manifestations to lessen. Second, by actively focusing on breathing, the mind is distracted long enough to allow the body to return to normal.

Once calm is regained, it is important to confront feelings and thoughts. It may be tempting to ignore what caused the distress in the first place, but not addressing the issue can cause the situation to occur again.
A mindset change is the ultimate goal when dealing with a crisis.
This process is highly individualized and is person-to-person dependent. Some prefer to internalize their struggles and work through them independently, which is an adequate method of confronting feelings and thoughts. But, it may also be beneficial to write these thoughts down to help organize thoughts and have a reference to fall back on in case a crisis occurs in the future.

Others may prefer to talk their issues out with friends or a therapist. By discussing thoughts with others, it is easier to get advice from like-minded individuals on how to cope. Additionally, listening to others can help build perspective and empower individuals to confront their issues with a new mindset.

A mindset change is the ultimate goal when dealing with a crisis.

As different crises and hardships arise, the individual will be able to build ways to cope. Regardless of the type of crisis, the distress experienced comes from a sense of helplessness and lack of control. So, coming to terms with the realization that we cannot control every aspect of our lives is the mindset we need to achieve ultimately.

Instead of focusing on the things that are out of our control, focus on what we can control.

As you work to improve those aspects of your life, you will become more empowered and resilient.


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