Mental Health in Times of Crisis
During your program, you may find that there are times you feel depressed---out of sorts, like nothing will help. You may even feel anxious or in a panic. The tools below are meant to help you in times of crisis. They are designed to prompt you to get yourself into a better place. If these tools are practiced daily, they can help you to cope day-by-day and in times of greater need.
Tool #1: The Thoughts-Feelings-Behavior Chain
Your thoughts affect your feelings and your behavior. If you think you are useless, you’ll feel useless and likely act that way, too. In contrast, if you think you are worthwhile, you are more likely to feel and act worthwhile. It’s up to you to decide which part of the Thoughts, Feelings, Behavior Chain you feel is your weakest link. Then, use the other two links to help strengthen the weaker link. Most often, if you are able to change your thoughts, changes in your feelings and behaviors will follow
Tool #2: Affirmations
Affirmations are positive “I am” statements that help you re-think about yourself in a good way. “I” statements should speak to how you’d like to feel and be. Some examples are:
- “I am a worthwhile person. I deserve love and happiness.”
- “I am respectful of others. I deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.”
These statements help to change your thoughts about yourself. In turn, they can help to change your feelings and behaviors. In the space below, write your own “I” statement. Be careful to be realistic about what you expect.
“I am _____________________________.
I deserve _________________________________.”
Now, take a moment to practice it---and believe it! Practice your “I” statements a few times each day. You can say them in silence, in front of a mirror, or with a friend. Say them with confidence and conviction. Say them over and over.
Tool #3: Things to Do, People to Call
In times of crisis or when you are stressed, it is helpful to have a ready list of things to do and people to call for help. Take time now to list activities that soothe you and help you to relax. The things you list should be pleasant. Also, write down family members or friends that you can call in time of need. Think about who is most helpful to you.
Things That Help to Soothe and Relax Me
Who to Call and How to Reach Them
Keep this list handy. When you are stressed or in crisis, use the list to calm yourself and ease your worries. Find something to do that helps you regain a sense of calm. Then go and do it!
For some people, taking a walk or watching a funny movie is enough to distract them and get them back on track. Others call friends and talk through their crisis. Whatever your approach, plan ahead for it and, when in need, practice it.
Remember: I always have options. This too shall pass.
Tool #4: HALT
It’s also important to know whether your distress relates to a physical need. Are you Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or simply Tired? All of these factors change the way we think, feel, and behave. In times of stress, take a moment to think about what you should do if you have one of these needs.
Eat something healthy. Enjoy a comfort food. Anticipate your hunger. Plan for meals and snacks.
Talk with a trustworthy friend. Take a walk. Exercise. Clean your house. Write in a journal. Try creative therapy. Take a warm bath. Vent to yourself. Scream if you feel like it. Pray. Forgive. Accept.
Contact a friend or loved one who supports you and cares for you. Write a letter. Cuddle with your pet. Enjoy a good book or movie. Look through photo books and reminisce. Plan to visit a dear friend soon. Build a better support system, as you are able.
Sleep. Take a nap or rest on the couch. Take time out. Cancel whatever you can. Do little or no activity---veg out! Light some candles and drink chamomile tea. Build rest and sleep into your schedule.
Tool # 5: Calming Quotes
Recall a soothing poem or quote and ponder it. Here is a favorite.
The Serenity Prayer
God grant me the SERENITY to accept the things I cannot change,
COURAGE to change the things I can, and
WISDOM to know the difference.
Tool #6: A Checklist for Getting Through the Day to Day
When you are depressed or feeling blue, it is good to think about things to do for yourself. What helps one person may be quite different from what helps the next person. Here is a checklist of ideas from which you can pick and choose.
Food & Drink
Eat well. A well nourished body helps to keep a healthy mind.
- Try to alternate food you like (junk food) with food that is good for you.
- Eat both nourishing and refreshing things.
- Notice if eating or drinking certain things changes how you feel.
- Avoid sugar, caffeine, chocolate, nicotine, and fats.
- Abstain from alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant and can make you feel worse.
- Make yourself a fancy dinner. Invite someone over to join you.
- Remember to eat, when needed.
Exercise & Activity
When you’re having trouble concentrating or remembering things, it is good to be more active.
- Go outside and look at the sky. Look at the clouds during the day, the stars and moon at night.
- If it’s a sunny day, close your eyes for a moment and let the sunlight warm your eyelids.
- Get some exercise while you’re out (with your doctor’s approval).
- Pull some weeds. Dig in the dirt. Plant something that you’d like to watch grow.
- Play sports.
- Go for a long walk or a bike ride.
- Dance either alone in your home or while out with a friend.
- Clean your house, garage, or yard.
- Get up and get going! You may feel like staying in bed and not going out. This can make you feel even more hopeless and helpless.
- After eight hours of sleep, get up and take care of yourself.
- Don’t do too much, especially at first.
Take time to take it easy. Find things that help you to relax.
- Listen to your favorite songs. Choose ones that are uplifting and positive to you.
- Sing or “make a joyful noise.” If you’re self-conscious, sing in the shower or in the car. Sing soothing oldies or lullabies.
- Relax in a warm, soapy tub.
- Play around on the computer.
- Watch a comedy or a funny video. Let yourself laugh freely.
- Buy yourself a present.
- Do something unexpectedly nice for yourself or for someone else.
- Buy or pick some flowers. Relax and look at them.
- Get a cat or pet. Cats are clean, warm, furry, and huggable.
Reading & Writing
Writing things down helps to keep the misery from running around and around in circles.
- Keep a journal.
- Write morning pages – usually 3 pages of your first thoughts of the day.
- Keep a list of goals. Do one task at a time. Celebrate your accomplishments.
- Read all you can – books, magazines, newspapers, the comics.
- Go to the library or bookstore for books on humor, fiction, spirituality, depression, morality, and biographies of others who struggled with depression and thrived.
- Read self-help books on depression.
Sleep & Rest
Your body needs about 8 hours of sleep per day.
- Sleep, rest or take a nap, when needed.
Being With Others
If you might be a danger to yourself, don’t be alone. Find people. If that is not practical, call them on the phone.
- If there is no one that you feel you can call, suicide hotlines can be helpful to provide the support you need.
- Volunteer. Put your focus on others for awhile. Help someone in need.
- Give someone a hug. Get a hug.
- Spend time playing with a child.
- Figure out if it’s better to be alone or with others, then enter that space.
- Pick a small easy task – like sweeping the floor – and let it be a meditation.
- If you are not able to meditate, read a comforting book out loud.
- Pray or connect with your spiritual higher being for comfort and strength.
Keeping a Balance
Feeling better takes time. Don’t overdo it or get upset if your mood does not greatly improve right away.
- Be patient with yourself. Don’t set difficult goals or take on too much until your depression has lifted.
- Break large tasks into many smaller ones. Set priorities. Do what you can, as you can.
- Pick something to do that is small and you know you can do.
- Do not expect too much from yourself. Expecting too much and trying to be perfect can only lead to feelings of failure.
- If you’re anxious and avoiding something, try to get some support to face it.
- Don’t get upset if your mood does not greatly improve right away.
- Don’t make any major life decisions like quitting a job or getting divorced while you are depressed. You are not seeing yourself, the world, or the future in an objective way.
- Be gentle with yourself. Depression can make you have negative thoughts. These thoughts are not a rational way to think of things. Do not accept them as being true.
Knowing Your Treatments
Depression often requires antidepressants and/or psychotherapy. Though they are helpful, both take time.
- If you are on medication, be sure to take it as directed.
- Know about side effects and watch for them.
- Do not change or stop taking these drugs without first talking to your doctor or therapist.
- If you need a cold remedy, read the label carefully. Many of them contain alcohol.
- Attend appointments. Skipping them because you feel “too bad” is likely not a good idea.
- Learn about treatments on your own. Don’t rely on your mental health care provider to know it all.
- Seek second opinions if your needs are not being met.
Playing It Safe
Safety is always number one. Feeling that nothing can help is part of the illness. So find help. Play it safe!
- If you are thinking about suicide, be sure to tell someone. Call your health care provider. Ask for help.
- Promise yourself that you will not harm yourself in any way until thoroughly talking out your thoughts with your mental health care provider.
Getting Better Day By Day
Take time for yourself. Practice these tasks daily.
- Work through the Tools #1-6.
- Exercise 30 minutes a day.
- Enjoy a pleasurable activity.
- Take care of yourself.
The Spanish version of this Health Facts for You is #7210.
The information provided should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
Last Updated: 08/28/2013
Copyright © 07/31/2013 University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5299
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