How to use a crisis for personal growth
The word crisis has probably taken on a whole new meaning for you in the last few months. The pandemic has affected each of us—worldwide—on so many levels. Not only is there the physical health aspect, but also the financial, mental, spiritual and emotional impact. This crisis has added the unfamiliar stressors of a pandemic and no matter what our specific prior situation was, we have been touched in one way or another.
Our lifestyles have been invaded and altered without notice. That’s what a crisis does—it unexpectedly pushes us out of our comfort zone. With virtual learning kicking off and continued closures, the “rhythm” we had possibly found, if any at all, may be in question again. More adjustments and worries arise as we attempt to do school from home while also working, caring for children, completing house chores, making time for celebrations, virtually attending church and sorting finances. There is so much to think about during this crisis middle phase that can be messy, uncomfortable, stressful and full of uncertainty.
Although we are going through this collectively, the way we respond during this middle phase is decisive and will look different for all of us. During this time, we determine if we either embrace or refuse to evolve in the midst of it all. Growth happens when we face changes that come our way, which happens constantly. It’s almost like growth is unavoidable. On the other hand, evolving changes us internally on a more complex level. It is an intentional journey that we choose to join or not. During this messy middle of the pandemic we get to decide if we remain the same or if we evolve.
And there are four key areas to consider when we are deciding what our stand will be:
1. Evaluate your mentality.
Thinking about how you have handled crises prior to the pandemic is a good point of reference. It is vital to be aware of our automatic responses in times of crisis. What has been your “go-to” mindset or “pandemic mentality” so far? The perspective we practice will determine the depth of our evolving process if we choose to go through it. We can spend our time thinking about and questioning others’ choices, safety guidelines or political views. We can compare our family dynamics to others or get lost in a scroll down negative media pages. But if we stay there, we will be missing out on a valuable opportunity to practice a healthier attitude. That attitude will provide space for a more complex experience that challenges us to examine the mentality we tend to engage in.
Let’s use this time to evaluate our old ways and mindset in front of adversity to be refined as needed. Maybe instead of having a mindset of feeling “stuck” you may choose to shift to a state of “gratitude” for having a roof to keep you safe during this time. This is not with the intention of minimizing or ignoring the difficulty of this time. It is instead a way to increase awareness of the influence that our mindset has to help us feel less overwhelmed in time of crisis. Negativity is contagious and we want to make sure we are able to recognize it and move away from it to prevent from getting us stuck in a mentality of defeat.
2. Give yourself permission to pause, think and process what you’re feeling.
The powerlessness, worry, exhaustion, frustration and grief can become debilitating and paralyzing—and we may have been avoiding it. I assure you that it’s completely valid and normal to have these feelings in times of crises. If you have days where you feel you’re in a really good place, motivated and energized, embrace it! If you have difficult days when you feel down, worried, numb and disoriented, embrace that as well. What makes the difference is giving ourselves permission to feel what we need to experience at a certain time.
During a crisis, different feelings come up and if we shut them down, we become emotionally flooded leading us to poor decision making and low self-control. Allowing ourselves to acknowledge, express and process our feelings will help us increase self-regulation during this middle pandemic phase. This is a time to practice grace and compassion toward ourselves, our family and others. Compassion is different from pity, which keeps us stuck. Grace and compassion come from a place of love, flexibility, respect and validation during difficult times.
Admit that this is a difficult time and having good and bad days is simply a trait of being human. Let’s aim for grace instead of perfection. If you are a parent or a caregiver, you may feel like you need to be strong and keep things afloat even if you are having a difficult time yourself. Please also remember that evolving on an emotional level leads a person, family or organization to be stronger—if we allow it.
3. Evaluate your resources.
In a time of crisis, we have an opportunity to build resiliency. However, achieving resilience depends on our willingness to focus on the resources we have instead of what may feel has been “taken away” from us. For many people the “known” resources and support system we are used to having are not currently accessible. We can identify if we have truly utilized all the resources we have had available right in front of us this whole time.
The Safer At Home orders and physical distancing have empowered people to find ways to connect, celebrate, help others and find strength. But what has prevented us from doing that in the past? What do we have in our hands and are we using it to its full potential? If we choose to evolve, it is necessary to go back to the basics and find effective ways to spend more quality time as a family, to serve, to receive and to refine our values and priorities.
Could it be that your identity and level of resiliency had depended too much on external resources? Have you been missing out on what’s right at home? This is an opportunity to refine our support system when what was reliable is removed. Resilience involves trying something to discover if it works, and if it works we keep it. If not, we try something else as many times as needed.
4. Live in the present instead of being consumed by worry about the future.
Thinking about the future is good, however, there is not much room right now for planning what our future will look like. So many things are out of our control, and we don’t know for how long. Thinking about the future is different than being consumed by excessive worry about all the possible scenarios. I encourage you to think about what can go right instead of what can go wrong. We have to focus on what we can do right now.
Hopefully, you’ve learned to embrace flexibility thus far. We can plan our day, but maybe not our week. When we adapt and accept our present reality, when things need to be modified, we lean toward the refining and evolving path instead of getting stuck. We get to decide how we respond to our current situation instead of trying to control it by worrying what the next week or the next year will bring. If you are a person who thrives in planning, living in the present may be difficult to navigate, but it can be exactly what you need to stop replicating what does not work, and choose to evolve when the future seems so uncertain.
It’s safe to say you’re wondering how much longer we will live in this tension and uncertainty. We don’t know the answer, but we have the ability to choose how we will come out of it when it is over. Stay focused and remember that there is no “right” or “wrong” way to go through a crisis, just “your” way—and evolving through it is up to you.
Whether we like it or not, our lives will not be the same when this is over. But take hope—a crisis is characterized by its temporary state. Even if this moment feels long, it will not last forever. Let’s make sure we go through this messy middle in a way that will allow long-lasting transformation instead of going back to our “normal” lives unchanged. We may have the urge to resist it, but we also have a choice to embrace it. And evolve.
- Have you felt fear during this coronavirus pandemic, or any crisis you might be experiencing? You’re not alone. The overarching response to this crisis is fear. And fear is a funny thing, as fear can also become an enemy in itself. So, how do we, as Christ-followers, maintain the right focus in uncertain days? Download this study, “God With Us,” and follow along to see what Scripture has to say.
- See how you can get involved in the Fight for Good with The Salvation Army.
- Did you know The Salvation Army served more than 23 million Americans last year fighting hunger, homelessness, substance abuse and more—all in a fight for good? Where can you help? Take our quiz to find your cause and learn how you can join in today.