Crisis Management

Word for the day: liminal

Color for the day: deep teal

So, the theme for this year seems to be crisis management. Homesteading seems to be a study in it, too. Last night could have killed all of the little peppers and tomatoes and other post-frost plants we just got in the gardens. We covered the most vulnerable, but there was no way to cover all of it. Much of life is out of our direct control, only most of the time we can fool ourselves into thinking that we are in control. There are times, like the time the whole world is in right now, that strip away that illusion of control like ripping off the bandage. This leaves us all feeling vulnerable and out of sorts. While we can’t control all the chaos around us, we can control–to some extent– the ways in which we react.

It’s easy to give in to the idea of helplessness when we feel out-of-control, but we are seldom actually helpless. A wise woman said recently that taking ownership of our actions is the single most important thing we can do to better our lives. That’s a paraphrase, but you get the idea. Taking ownership of how we act – or react – in any given situation stops the victim mentality in its tracks. This is not to say that victims don’t exist, they do. In most situations however, there is something–if only a tiny thing–that we can do to better our situation or ourselves.

During the Covid-19 crisis that tiny thing might be just staying home as much as possible. When the coffee pot explodes, it might be cleaning up the mess with a sense of humor instead of freaking out and cussing. (Don’t ask how I know…) The point is that we can each make things better or worse by choosing how we respond to the crisis at hand.

This is how we build resiliency in ourselves and our lives.

Think about how the last crisis you were in turned out. You lived through it, right? Or you wouldn’t be here. SO, you will likely live through the next one too. Now think about how you reacted to the last crisis. Panic? Possibly, but what about after the initial panic? Did those actions help the situation? Did they help you or someone else feel better about the situation? Yes? Great! You’re on the right track, just do more of the same. No? It may be time to take a closer look at how you respond to crises. Large or small, crises are all the same in that we get to choose how we react.

When we are faced with crises, our body throws out powerful hormones, like adrenaline that make us make a decision. Fight or flight. This is the basic instinct of most animal species’ when they feel threatened. As human beings, however, we can use these big brains of ours to slow that reaction and act with purpose. (Enormous disclaimer here: I am not a psychiatric professional, and this does not speak to people who are dealing with disturbances like PTSD and others.) Most of us can choose not to allow the panic to claim our reason. If we can do that, the range of reactive possibilities open wide. We can choose to do something besides making it worse. We might soothe or help others. We might laugh at the absurdity of the situation. We might decide to do something about it.

Generally, as creative professionals we make art about it. YouTubers vlog about it, painters and photographers capture the essence of it, and writers write about it in blog posts, in books, in journals and poems and stories of all shapes and sizes. Okay, okay. The coffepot did explode, and once the initial panic ripped me out of bed, Hubby and I made jokes about it while we cleaned up the mess. Incidentally, I found out that it is possible to literally leap out of bed. I just thought that was a descriptive term. After that, there was a Facebook post, and now here I am, relaying the outrageousness of my Monday morning for your amusement.

It could have easily gone much differently. Hubby might have been upset by the coffeepot exploding. I might have been mad about waking up to an explosion, and think that the entire day was ruined because I got woke up early and had to help clean the kitchen. (For the record, the lid to the percolator can fly up to three feet in any direction in crazy situations like this.) Instead, we just spent the morning cracking jokes and pondering how something like that happens.

The contrast between the way I personally react to things now and the way I used to react is really what led to this post. You see, I used to be that person that let a single incident set the tone for the day. Over the last several years I have learned that we don’t have to. Omens and portents aside, we get to decide our days, and I choose better and better. Even when things don’t go the way I want, I can make the best of it. I can try. Now, when something makes me afraid, even a little, I research it. I dig down into the information available until I can make the most informed decision I can about how to deal with it. This takes time, and in the interim, I am becoming calmer and more focused.

I used to be unable to enter a room if I knew there was a spider in it. It didn’t matter what kind. Now, I can save some little spider lives by taking them outside and releasing them. I still can’t bring myself to touch them, but it’s progress. (The baddies are still dead if they’re in my house, though. I’m not that cool with them.)

So, my first rule of crisis management is assessment.

The second rule is understanding the issue. (Without blaming.)

The third is understanding what resources are available to help the siruation.

The  fourth is choose the correct course of action. That is, how to react to the available information in a way that will lessen the impact of the crisis for yourself or others. If these look familiar, it’s because I learned a lot of this when I worked as a security guard, nurse’s aide, and summer camp nutritionist. I learned a lot of it through time and living, from my father who was Army, and my husband, who was a Marine. You can use these as guidelines, if nothing else, to help build resilience in your own life, and on the homestead.


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