Learning to Cope with Catastrophe

As adults we have probably all had to cope with what life throws at us, anything from minor disappointments to complete catastrophes.

The problem is we have no choice BUT to cope. The decision is in some ways just how much we will allow it to demolish us.

Obviously, the range of what we might see as a catastrophe varies and what happens to people can range from things that are simply a bit more than an inconvenience to life threatening or life altering events.We might even view the same event slightly differently but let’s just agree that many of us have had to, or will have to, cope with catastrophes.

Acknowledge the Reality

Whatever the nature of the catastrophe the first important thing to do is to acknowledge that it has happened. When the loss is great this can take time, denial is a part of the process of grieving for example, but in order to move forward acceptance of the situation however dire that is, is the first step.

Acknowledging reality is not concentrating on the downsides or accepting the worst-case scenario it is rationally taking stock of the actual situation.

Accept Support

Most of us have people who love and care about us and when catastrophe hits that is the time to let them support us. Don’t have a stiff upper lip mentality and think that accepting support or even asking for it is a sign of weakness. It is not. Humans are social beings and when the chips are down, we need to give ourselves permission to let ourselves be supported. The nature of the support may vary, it can be practical, emotional or both.Our instinct may be to say ‘thanks but no thanks’ and assume we can do on our own but often that doesn’t work. Soak up that support it will help, and the likelihood is that you have had times when you have gladly supported other people that you care about.

Get inspired

Whatever has happened the chances are it has happened to some other people too. Maybe people you know personally, or maybe people you will have to research. As humans we can learn from each other but also feel supported by knowing that others have survived whatever it is we are going through. It is worth devoting time to seek out others either in person, sometimes there may even be a support group for folk experiencing what you are going through, or perhaps reading about people in similar circumstances and finding out how they overcame the adversity.

Be Kind to Yourself

There can be a tendency in all sorts of situations, and especially in any kind of struggle to ‘beat ourselves up’. We can start telling how selves how we should do better, cope better, or not find it such a struggle, we might even tell ourselves that we are weak. But firstly, none of that helps and secondly it simply isn’t true. The answer to that is simply to stop. Every time a thought that runs you down or belittles or criticises you comes into your head simply get rid of it and replace it with a more positive thought like, ‘I’m doing the best I can’. Struggle is ok in fact it is often after very hard experience that we learn and grow. Some experiences are not of our making and we didn’t deserve them, but we must cope with them. Try to think what you would you say to a friend in your situation? We often find it much easier to be kind to others.

Look After Yourself

In many ways this is another aspect of being kind to yourself and it is vitally important all the time but especially when we are going through tough times. But when we are coping with loss or disappointment, injury, illness, financial hardship or any other type of catastrophe that is the very time we often stop taking care of ourselves, So, make sure you get enough sleep, some good food, some exercise and spend time doing some things that make you like.

Be Grateful

This is perhaps the hardest thing to do, but it can be the most powerful. In circumstances that are dire it is hard to make ourselves focus on the positive. One way to do that is to find something, however small to be grateful for – imagine you are visiting a relative in hospital, not much to be grateful for but maybe someone has given you a cup of tea and a comfy chair! It can seem trite but when we make ourselves find something to be grateful for it can give us strength. There are very few situations where there is nothing to be grateful for, even they are small things and the catastrophe is BIG.


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