Responding and Reacting in Times of Crisis
Balance feels so elusive these days, doesn’t it? Extreme things are happening worldwide and it’s changing rapidly. In Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI), we emphasize the importance of balancing nurture with structure. We understand that when we lean too much one way or another, we deprive our kids of critical opportunities. We seek balance in our own lives because we recognize that one extreme or another is unhelpful, exhausting, or even dangerous. Yet it’s often difficult to find the right balance, no matter how much we understand or even prescribe to the belief of its importance.
Acting on Instincts
In the past few weeks, we’ve witnessed friends, family, neighbors, co-workers react in a variety of ways – some which make sense to us, and many of which leave us scratching our head in wonder. While they appear illogical, their actions are instinctual. The responses are our God-given strategies to mitigate fear of harm. Threats to our personal safety – whether that is our health, feeding our family, or wiping our bottoms – cause our brains to respond in a fight, flight, or freeze response. The raid on the grocery store? Fight. Those that are ignoring all recommendations from local and federal officials? Flight. Or maybe fight. The anxiety attacks and inability to react? Freeze.
What balance is needed right now? A balance of alarm and calm, of concern and assurance, of self and others, fun and education, and so on. So how do we create a balance and override our instincts?
Be intentional. Balance doesn’t happen accidentally. We need to plan and make hard decisions if we want to find balance. Plan your meals (and alternatives if certain ingredients are unavailable) before you go to the store. Set an alarm on your phone for every 30 minutes and call a friend, step outside to your backyard, have a dance party with your kids, whatever you can do to give your mind and body a dose of stress relief.
Set limits. Do this for yourself. Okay, and the kids, but really – this is for YOU! Turn off whatever sources you are getting your news from at least 2 hours before bedtime. Throughout the day set limits too. Vow to check for updates for just 5 minutes in the morning, afternoon, and evening. If this means no social media, then plug the phone in to charge and turn off social media notifications. Working from home? Establish your work hours and tell your family what they are. With our constant electronic contact, it’s easy to work from the moment your eyes open until they close at night. You need a break – and your family needs you.
Fact or feeling? When you’re feeling worried, overwhelmed, scared, or anxious, stop, take a deep breath (or 3), and then ask yourself if the thoughts are based on facts or momentary feelings. Stressful situations bring about many different feelings and our stress response is driven by fear. This fear isn’t always warranted, however. Just as when we walk around the corner and are startled by a person we didn’t expect on the other side, our brain misreads cues all the time. Add in that emotions are contagious, meaning we naturally take on the emotional responses of those around us, and it’s no surprise that right now our fear response is triggered many times throughout the day.
During these unprecedented times, we are all learning how to do our best in unfamiliar territory. Finding balance is ultimately about constantly shifting our focus and energy between extremes. When you find yourself leaning too far one way, take a few deep breaths, re-focus, and keep moving forward.
If you need additional support, Christian Family Care is here to help. Contact us to see how our team of experts can support you and your family in this time.
Article written by Michelle Lunka, MS, LAMFT, TBRI Practitioner
Child & Family Therapist, Christian Family Care