breezeI know this might sound oxymoronic: If a crisis is sudden, how can we prepare?

There are ways to strengthen yourself and your relationships so that you (and they) will bear up better under the strain of a crisis.  Here are some ideas on how to increase your resilience.

I notice in my practice (and my life) that some people seem to weather storms better than others.  Some of that is due to factors outside of their control (for example, they’re constantly being inundated with stressful occurrences, so much that they can’t seem to get out from under them, or perhaps it’s about temperament, or severity of mental health diagnosis.)  But some of it is within our control.

1)  Shore up your resources.

Another way to say this is: Make sure you’re not constantly depleted.  If you’re frequently frazzled and running on empty, your life needs a makeover.

Think about what resources you have, and what changes are possible.  You might have to get creative (for example, maybe you start a childcare club so that sometimes you watch other people’s kids, and sometimes they watch yours, and that way you have more time to yourself.)  You might need to lean more heavily on your partner.

2)  Ask for help.

People who try to go it alone are often exhausted and overwhelmed.  Then when a crisis hits, they’ve got nothing left.

Practice relying on others.  I know “practice” might be an unusual word choice, but if you’re used to being self-sufficient to a fault, it will feel deeply unnatural to begin to ask others to help.  So you’ll have to practice until it comes easier.

Then, if something big does happen, you’ll already know how to reach out.

3)  Make sure your relationships are in good working order.

If you’ve been neglecting your relationship with your partner, thinking it can wait until life gets less hectic, you might want to rethink that strategy.  You want to be maximally connected to your partner on an emotional level so that if things get really hard, you’ll have a safe place to land.  Otherwise, you and your partner might end up at odds when what you really need is to be on the same team.

Ditto if you’ve been neglecting your friends.

4)  Use stress management tools regularly.

Breathe, have creative outlets, talk things out rather than bottling them up, know your limits and when you’re approaching them, exercise, meditate, do self-help workbooks in Dialectical Behavior Therapy or Cognitive Behavior Therapy, get enough sleep, hug and be hugged…

5)  Be self-aware, and make adjustments accordingly.

Your life needs to be organized around who you are and how you operate best.  If you’re living someone else’s life because you think you should, then struggles will ensue.  Being able to reflect on what’s working and what isn’t, to maximize what’s effective and let go of what isn’t–those are key skills.  They’ll serve you in a crisis, as well as day to day.

Image of woman available from Shutterstock.