How To Bounce Back From A Crisis And Be Better Than Ever
So, you've lost your job, or maybe you got dumped. Perhaps someone close to you has passed away. Either way, it's a form of "loss".
Life has a way of throwing curveballs at us at the most unexpected and inopportune times -- if there's ever a 'good time' for a crisis to occur, that is.
You may feel like you'll never go back to 'normal,' that life will never be the same. But you can and will get through it -- in fact, you might even be a better person afterwards.
The important thing to realise is that people respond to death, breakups and the like very differently.
"There is no ‘normal’ and expectations should not be imposed on yourself or others following any type of loss," Dr James Courtney, deputy director of the psychology clinic at Monash University, told 10 daily.
So don't force yourself to feel -- or not feel -- certain things. How you do react depends on several things including your past experience, vulnerability, life balance and just how attached you were to the thing (or person) you've lost, according to Dr Courtney.
Having said that there are some common signs that you or someone else is suffering after a big loss, Dr Courtney explained.
Feelings such as a sense of overwhelming loss, tiredness, lack of appetite, and vulnerability are typical.
Others might feel helpless, anxious or hopeless particularly when it comes to a job loss which brings with it a loss of financial security, status and daily structure.
Some people experience something called emotional lability where their reactions are extremely exaggerated -- they might cry or laugh uncontrollably even though they're not particularly sad or happy.
According to Dr Courtney, there are some people who are likely to feel a loss more strongly than others -- they are young people, older people, people of low socio-economic status, and those with existing mental health issues.
Getting through it
There are things we can do to help ourselves -- or others -- get through these hard times and no, it's not just a choice between ‘keep calm and carry on’ or melting down and having a big cry -- though there's nothing wrong with a big cry or emotional release, according to Dr Courtney.
He suggests seeking support from friends, family, peers or more formal avenues such as health professionals if required.
"Take things day-by-day at first, don’t hold big expectations or ‘rules’ for recovery," he told 10 daily.
There's no 'set time' for getting back on your feet and there's nothing you can do to magically speed up your recovery -- most people recover naturally over time, Dr Courtney explained.
Instead, focus on getting a good night's sleep -- this is very important in Dr Courtney's opinion. Eating regular, healthy meals and setting a daily schedule -- such as getting up and going to bed at same times each day -- can also be helpful.
Even though you might desperately want to stay home and curl into a ball, try to seek out social contact with friends and family -- but don’t feel that you need to talk about your loss all the time.
"Talk about other things in your life, and gradually take on a future-focused outlook," Dr Courtney said.
Oh -- and exercise. This could be as simple as a walk, he said -- why not ask someone else to come along?
Avoid things that Dr Courtney calls 'maladaptive strategies' such as drinking too much -- alcohol interferes with sleep and mood -- taking drugs and self-imposed isolation.
If you're on the other side and are helping someone through a crisis the key thing is to listen. Yes -- just listen.
"Don’t give in to the urge to offer advice but instead offer emotional support. You don’t have to do anything. Just be there," Dr Courtney told 10 daily.
Asking for help
You may want to consider seeking professional help if you find your symptoms are carrying on for more than a few weeks and are significantly interfering with your life.
If you're having thoughts of self-harm or harming others Dr Courtney suggests you seek help immediately.
Better than ever
It's hard to see the bigger picture when you're knee deep in grief and loss but according to Dr Courtney, the experience can help us learn, grow and even be better.
It can help us value the people in our lives who support us and our own inner strength. We learn to live alongside loss as opposed to the 'need to get over it' approach -- which is unhelpful, by the way.
We hone our coping mechanisms, acknowledge that sometimes we need to take a break and become more aware of when and how to seek help.
Most importantly we discover that the world does, in fact, go on, and that at the end of the day it's us who are in control of our own life and responses.
Feature image: Getty.
If you need help in a crisis, call Kids Helpline on 1800 55 1800 or Lifeline on 13 11 14. For further information about depression contact beyondblue on 1300 22 4636 or talk to your GP, local health professional or someone you trust.