Helping Family & Friends in Stressful Times: Like Now
Article by Nancy Crawford, Psy.D., on helping those around you during stressful times
Helping Family & Friends in Stressful Times:
Like now

Nancy Crawford, Psy.D.

Step #1:  Remember the “oxygen mask” principle

We all have heard it a thousand times – and mostly tune it out – the instructions from the cabin crew on flights “in the case of emergency, put your own mask on first before assisting children.”  The principle of the “oxygen mask” is true:  the best way we can help others, including our children, through times of crisis is making sure we are taking care of our own needs.

Step #2:  Think Resiliency, part I:  A healthy mind leads to a healthy body

There are three primary ways of thinking that can help keep us healthy:

a)  Self-efficacy:  Having confidence based on past experiences.

Because we have survived previous difficult times, we can have more confidence that we can also make it through this one. It can be helpful to review what God has already taken you through so far in your life.  To quote the John Newton hymn “Amazing Grace”:  through many dangers, toils, and snares I have already come.  Tis grace that brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.

The concept of self-efficacy can also be used with children, by telling stories of God’s faithfulness in the past, and by helping them identify scary things that they have already conquered.

b)  Optimism/hope

What is realistic optimism?  Is it having a belief that things will turn out ok?  Or is it something more?  The optimism we have as Christians is biblically based and echoes the following definition of hope:

“Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something has meaning no matter how it turns out.”  Vaclav Havel

c) Internal Locus of Control:  Identifying and controlling what you can control

In any crisis there is much that we cannot control and our tendency may be to throw up our hands and to stop trying to do what we can.  By identifying and controlling what you still can control (even if it is a small thing like getting your hair cut), you can raise your mood and in doing so increase your resilience.

This concept of Internal Locus of Control can also be taught to children by giving them opportunities to make decisions appropriate to their age.   They might be given the chance to make decisions where they normally don’t; for example, choosing the menu for dinner or choosing a game for the whole family to play.

Step #3:  Think Resiliency, part II:    A healthy body leads to a healthy mind

Be kind to your body so that your soul delights to live in it.  Teresa of Avila

Teresa of Avila, your mother, and your 8th grade physical education teacher were right.  All that you have been taught about eating right, getting adequate sleep, and exercising is more important than ever in a crisis.  Remember the “Oxygen Mask Principle” above – you need to take care of yourself, so that you can help take care of others.

Step #4:  We need each other

Jesus had his disciples, David had his mighty men, and Paul had Barnabas and Silas.   The Triune God created us for relationships.  In stressful times, we need the support of each other more than ever.

However, times of high stress usually bring out the more petty and irritable parts of ourselves and of those around us.  This is a time for increased bearing with and forgiving each other.  Col 3:12-14 is more relevant than ever.