Friday, May 8, 2009

Moving Through The Crisis

At a recent meeting of The Mental Health Professionals of Boca Raton, a group of local therapists brainstormed ideas on how we can best guide our clients through the current crisis. There was a lot of wisdom at that meeting and this is what we came up with.

We are currently living through financial, real estate and health crises. The stock market and banks are in upheaval, the real estate market is a disaster, unemployment is at an all time high, and in addition to the health care mess we are facing a possible pandemic. This is enough to push almost anyone over the edge.

Ann Toback Bair, LCSW, calls our current situation a “crisis of trust.” Sadly, there have been serious breaches of trust and many of us have lost faith in our leaders, our institutions, each other and, for some, our selves.

The financial crisis has triggered a lot of shame. Those who have lost their homes, their jobs, and their available credit often feel driven to point the finger of blame at their spouses, family members, and friends. Loss brings back childhood insecurities, leaving us with a diminished capacity and a tendency to act out negatively.

However, there are things you can do to avoid falling victim to the negativity. Strategies for getting though the current crisis fall into two categories - action strategies and attitude strategies.

Action Strategies

1. Create a concrete plan of action. List your personal resources and then conceptualize the strategies that you will utilize during the next month, 6 months and year ahead.

2. Become an activist. Get involved with something that is going to make a difference.

3. Commune. Connect with your neighbors and members of your community. Avoid isolation. Start or join a support group or a meet-up. Have a Bar-b-q – serve hot dogs, not steak. Make time for sharing breakfast. It’s critical to remember that you are not alone.

4. Meditate and breathe. When we are anxious we tend to hold our breath. Using a breathing meditation allows us to take in more oxygen. And, more oxygen allows us to think more clearly.

5. Stay busy. Find free activities. Take a walk. Visit the park or the beach.

6. Find more creative ways for finding the goods and services you need. Barter. Recycle. Negotiate. Create.

Attitude Strategies

1. Start the morning with a positive affirmation.

2. Focus on the ways that the glass of your life is half (or more) full.

3. Avoid comparing your insides to someone else’s outsides. For example, you know your 401K is in the toilet. Don’t assume that the same is not true for your neighbor or brother-in-law. When you think of yourself as the only victim you further feed the negative emotions.

4. See crisis as an opportunity to shift gears.

5. Accept those around you as they are. Focus instead on what can be changed in your and your attitudes.

6. Don’t dwell on your losses, mourn them and let them go.

A special thank you to the meeting participants: Ann Toback Bair, LCSW, Barbara Jacob, LMHC, Mark Levinsky, LMHC, Susan Ames, CLU, ChFC, Erica Goodstone, PhD, LMHC, Lisheyna Hurvitz, LMHC, Lillian Alper, LCSW, Susan Lander, MSW, Irv Nadler, PhD, Robin Goldstein, EdD, Beth Cutler, LMHC, CAP, and Julie Shuman, PsyD.