Here are some specific ways to handle a crisis situation, whether personal, local or national.

 

Discerning

Beware of scapegoats and puffball simplistic solutions: they both pop up in many crises.

  • Realise that you and other are heated about this situation, and common sense may have flown out the window.  Start by calming yourself down: mindfulness methods can be helpful here.
  • Check if you or others are scapegoating, i.e. pinning all blame for a problem on a third party, in a sweeping generalisation.  If so, start to unpick the rhetoric and get back to facts.  Often, a fragment of truth about a small group gets massively inflated and applied to a larger one.
  • Most of us find uncertainty and complexity hard to handle, so we’re at risk of seizing on puffball solutions: meaning simplistic and fantasied ways out. Notice your tension, sympathise with yourself, and take a slower look around for viable responses.  Talk to a few people you trust; look at media or websites you respect.  And then don’t be afraid to put your views forward: they are likely to calm and clarify the debate.

 

Valuing

Bad news grabs our attention and pollutes our attitude to everything.  Keep choosing to pay close attention to all that’s still good, still working: from the flowers in your garden to a nice cup of tea.

  • A recent Guardian feature on handling bad news quoted Professor Davey, University of Sussex: “When you show people negative news stories…they grow more anxious, and rate their own personal problems as significantly more problematic.”  We’re all suffering bad news blight, so be aware of its pervasive effects.
  • Mindfulness methods can be a great antidote to this, bringing attention gently back to the physical here and now.  Noticing the taste of your food, the colour of the sky, and appreciating simple blessings.
  • Build on this by deliberately, repeatedly, valuing all that’s good in your own life, your local area, and beyond.  Several times a day if possible.  Much resilience research has shown how much this helps.
  • In crisis times, many people get subdued and grumpy.  You can mitigate this by appreciating and valuing anyone you’re in contact with.  Studies of the Second World War show how a crisis can actually deepen our relationships and our pleasure in the good things we still have.

 

Tolerating

Under tension, we are liable to blow up, lash out, or walk away angrily.  We’ve seen lots of this post Brexit.  Make a sustained, conscious effort to hear and respect others’ views, and to stay in dialogue even when you disagree with each other.

  • Over many years, I’ve noticed that people who are upset express themselves more and more forcefully until someone takes notice.  So you can often reduce tensions by such comments as “I can see that you’re really upset about this”: you don’t need to agree with them, but witnessing them respectfully usually helps a lot.
  • When someone is sounding off angrily, and you disagree with them, it’s tempting to lash out angrily too.  Our rational minds know that this destroys the scope for tolerance and cooperation.  When you feel upset, breathe deeply, try to relax and be mindful.  It’s possible to say that you feel angry and upset, without acting it out.
  • It seems that the rising stresses of life create more and more tensions and conflicts in everyday life: I see them on the road, between neighbours, in my local community, as well as in big politics.  If such tensions are getting to you, try to notice them, and raise your tolerance for your own stress and other peoples.

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