Marcia O’Boyle, FEI EAP Services Center Manager

Experiencing a crisis is a difficult thing.

There are unlimited types and levels of crisis, and there are unlimited levels and types of human reactions to crises. There is often a lot of good advice around the idea of “self-care”; likewise, there are also many ways for people to take care of themselves.

Self-care is defined by Thomas Beauchamp and James Childress as “providing adequate attention to one’s own physical and psychological wellness” and is considered by the American Psychological Association as an ethical imperative for those who work in traumatic or high-
stress environments.

So, what does self-care look like? For some people, it may mean as much comfort as possible: Wearing comfy clothes, ordering a pizza (and maybe some ice cream or chocolate), soaking in a warm tub or taking a hot shower, temporarily avoiding anything stressful.

Other people find it helpful to get together with a trusted friend or family member and talk. It can be very therapeutic to have someone who listens while you tell your story of crisis or trauma, especially if they are able to just listen and not interrupt with questions or suggestions.

Some individuals – but not all – like a hug, although they should be the ones to decide to request or accept such an offer. Others still find keeping other stressors at bay most important, including washing dirty dishes, cleaning off a desk, crossing things off the to-do list.

Creative expression and/or recreation can be helpful. Coloring is very popular.

Across the board, basic health is crucial. Eating nutritious meals at regular intervals, sleeping at a regular time and for regular hours, exercising as usual. This includes avoiding alcohol or other substances that may interfere with quality of sleep, mood or the ability to respond clearly.

Finally, manners may not be something that comes immediately to mind, but the use of manners is a way of keeping order and restoring normalcy. During and even after a crisis, there can be a tendency or a need to take shortcuts for expedience: “Stand over there,” “Give me the wrench,” “Call 911.” Of course in many crises, it does not make sense to choose manners over expedience. In situations where it is possible to do so, however, using good manners signals respect for and awareness of the humanity of another person. “Please” and “Thank you,” “May I” and holding the door for someone are small things that contain important messages. Use of simple manners communicates that we are in this together.

With that in mind, thank you for reading. Please comment below with some of the self-help tools and exercises you use when addressing crisis or trauma in your work and life.