The Inconvenient Crisis

Supervising younger staff and interns has taught me that many of the things I do as a youthworker I’ve done for so long that I don’t even realize I’m doing them anymore. It’s not until I get asked a question about it that I realize… that thing that’s just automatic now, wasn’t that way 10 years ago. This week as I chatted with an intern about how easy it is to get swept away in the emotions of other people’s problems I had one of those moments. I thought it might be helpful to share with you…

The Inconvenient Crisis

People in crisis are inconvenient. They tend to show up at the end of a long week, on date night, in the middle of the night, on weekends or right before an important meeting. So how do you respond to a person in crisis when you don’t have the time or capacity to deal with it right now?

A counsellor once told me, “There is almost no crisis in a person’s life that cannot wait until tomorrow.” Just because a person is in crisis doesn’t mean we need to enter into their crisis at that exact moment. Even in the worst case scenarios (The ones you’re thinking “ya but what about ____?”), the most appropriate response is likely a 911 call, rather than putting on your super person cape and running out in the middle of the night to save the day.

This doesn’t mean you blow a person in crisis off but it does mean setting boundaries. You can show someone care, compassion and empathy without entering into the crisis. It might sound something like this, “I can see you are having a difficult time. Unfortunately, I have an important meeting I need to be at right now. Can we get together tomorrow? In the meantime let’s take a few minutes to do a stress coping exercise that may help you get through the rest of the day?” Often times the crisis will have passed or been resolved by the next day.

That’s the nature of a crisis—they end, often sooner than later. In the heat of the moment it feels like it will never get better and one tends to panic or self-medicate. They want to feel better, now! By immediately and constantly entering into a person’s crises we may actually become part of the problem. Through good boundaries we can teach people to better cope with their stress.

So you might be thinking, well, that’s great but I don’t know any good stress coping exercises, Derian! Actually, you probably do you just don’t realize that’s what they are. Some examples are:
prayer, mediation, exercise, listening to calming music, or playing with a pet. Here’s one I used yesterday with a young person. It’s called 5,4,3,2,1. It’s designed to help engage a person with their
senses. It can be quite effective. One person I know quit using drugs because this little technique worked so well for them.

Take a couple minutes to think about:
5 things you can See
     4 things you can Hear
          3 things you can Feel
               2 things you can Smell
                     1 thing you can Taste

 - Derian Julihn


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