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For teens: How to survive a crisis without making things worse (Part 1)

Guest writer: Jesse Weller, M.A.

Have you ever found yourself feeling like the world is about to end? Maybe you just had a fight with someone you really care about. Maybe you experienced that feeling or urge to cut or harm yourself because you felt like there is no other choice? Perhaps, you have felt you are about to do something that you will regret. Maybe you have experienced that feeling of wanting to scream as loud as you can because it feel like no one understands.

Fortunately, whatever crisis you are facing, there is something that you can do about it without making things worse in the moment. This is an important concept to remember when you are faced with a crisis because you will have a moment of choice on how to respond in those moments that will ultimately set a chain of consequences for you in the short and long-term. Here is a specific action you can do when dealing with a crisis: develop an action plan.

  1. Notice the exact moment that you feel yourself moving into crisis mode, take a deep breath, and prepare yourself to take action in a healthy and effective way. cues? 
  2. Reach out to someone who you trust or care about by phone, text, social media, etc. (Prepare for the event that if the friend or person you really need is not available at the moment, have someone else in mind,) Even if that person does not make you feel as good instantly, it is at least somebody until you are able to reach the person you really want to talk to.
  3. If the situation is something private or something that you don’t want to share with friends or family, try calling your local crisis hotline. Trained professionals who really care about people who are in pain are there to listen and help, nonjudgmentally: Alameda County Crisis Hotline: 1-800-309-2131 & National Suicide Talk Line: 800-273-TALK.
  4. Create a playlist on your phone or ipod of at least 5-10 songs that make you feel better. It does not have to be nature sounds if you are not into that—any song that you feel “gets you” and makes you feel better. 
  5. Try journaling, making a song, or privately blog about your crisis—you can always throw it away or delete it once you “get it out.” Even if you are not artistic—it is helpful to get something on paper or on a word document because it allows for you to process through the situation without denying your feelings. Also, making a song about the feeling you have about hitting someone—is way more effective than actually hitting someone.
  6. Watch your favorite movie or if you have access, try finding a new TV show series that you never watched and start from season 1. You can try watching a few episodes until you feel calm. Maybe a new show can become part of your self-care to relax or just to have “you” time.
  7. Write out what the problem(s) are on a post-it or sheet of paper. Read the problem to yourself 2-3 times, crumple it up, and throw it away in the garbage. As you throw “the problem away”—remind yourself that you are going to let it be for as long as you can.
  8. Join a blog or online support group that interests you and contribute something.
  9. Create a visual pinboard of images that are comforting to you like pictures of pet, inspiring musicians, places you visited, etc. 

These are just a few ideas on what to include in your action plan. What is important to know is to do what works for you in the most effective way. I strongly invite you to create your own action plan because it is possible to survive a crisis without making it worse.

Next post will focus on how to deal with intense emotions when dealing with a crisis.

________________________________________________________________Content of this post is based on Distress Tolerance Skills from Dialectical Behavior Therapy. 

Jesse Weller, M.A. earned his Master Degree in Clinical Psychology from the Wright Institute and undergraduate degree in Personality Psychology from Saint Mary’s College of California.