You lose your job, your partner falls in love with someone else, a lifelong dream is shattered or a loved one dies – and suddenly you can’t go any further. You’re on a tightrope, trying to gain you balance. Emotional stress can trigger mental crises. Nobody is immune from that. There are some measures and psychological aids that can support you in a crisis. In this article I give tips on what you and the people around you can do to get through difficult times better. In addition, I illuminate advisory, psychotherapeutic outpatient support offers.

A crisis is a subjective state of excessive demands

A crisis is a subjective state of excessive demands. Our usual strategies are no longer sufficient to cope with the situation. If you are faced with a particularly stressful event unexpectedly, it can lead to a kind of system overload. You’re getting out of whack inside. The perception can vary: like physical pain, it can hurt inside, or it can feel empty and numb. The normal demands of everyday life suddenly seem almost impossible to cope with.

The reaction to an incident is not the same for everyone. Some can cope with a loss better than others or get over a certain hurt more easily. There is generally no such thing as one level of stress or certain triggering situation and the typical emotional reaction to it.

In a crisis, it depends on the right tool in your mental toolkit

While there are some factors that have an overall impact that I will come to later and that we can directly influence. But ultimately, when a crisis arises, it is essential whether you have the right ‘tool’ in the inner toolbox for exactly this problem situation. How you are equipped is very individual and has to do with your history and your development. Man * woman can therefore be well equipped and well positioned in many areas of life and then decompensate at a certain point and get into a crisis.

Crises, even without a visible cause

Even in connection with an already existing mental disorder, a critical deterioration can occur without serious external cause, for example in the context of a depressive episode or a personality disorder. Or a longer process of deterioration, such as burnout, which virtually describes a certain path, can end in a depressive crisis.

The reason for the crisis can then be described graphically as water in a rain barrel; the occasion is the extra amount or the drop that makes the barrel overflow. If the bin is already full to the brim or generally small, a small drop is enough.

Whether it occurs suddenly or slowly and insidiously: Basically, it has an impact on how we are emotionally and socially positioned, how well we can cope with a crisis. Our past and how we have learned to be able to trust ourselves, how we deal with our feelings, as well as whether there is a social network that provides support. All of that has an impact. If an emotional overload has occurred, there are a few measures that can help you:

What helps in a crisis:

1. Brief planning

The most important thing is to first acknowledge that you are in a state of emergency. Don’t expect yourself to continue functioning as you normally would. That means lowering the demands on yourself. This makes planning much shorter. Depending on how stressed you are, the only thing that matters now is how you can get through the day or the next hour – what do you need at this moment, what is helpful now?

The big questions of your life will not be answered now and the solution of big problems will also be postponed for the time being.

2. A safe environment

It is important, when you are emotionally troubled, to create a safe, calm and clear situation outside. Meeting physical needs, such as eating and drinking, is also important. ‘Safe’ also means knowing what is happening, when and for how long. Shortly after an emotional shock, people who speak to you should be calm, friendly, clear and easy to understand in a very specific way about the next steps.

3 . Talking helps! Paint too!

Talk about your feelings! Just ask your friends to listen to you first without offering any solutions. (If you think now, ‘But I have no one to talk to’, come to that later in the text.) Expressing your feelings in a creative way is also helpful! Writing down, painting or singing / making music. We often feel powerless in this situation. By expressing ourselves creatively, we come into the creating position.

4. Connect with your strengths

In a crisis situation we feel overwhelmed and helpless. This can lead to a loss of awareness of our strengths. But they are still there!

Take another look: It won’t be the first difficult situation you have to deal with, will it? How was that back then, how did you manage to get through it? What was a good decision back then? What helped By remembering your strengths and making yourself aware of them, you connect with your skills and resources.

5. Rituals and structure

In turbulent times, everything that stays the same is good. If the relationship breaks up, there can be support that the job is safe, there is the weekly appointment at the sports club or the drawing course continues. If there is little structure, create one now! Even small rituals and routines in everyday life, and if it’s just one series on a certain day or a regular telephone appointment with a friend, give your subconscious security.

6. Activate resources

If the inner resources, i.e. what is effective for your well-being, are just not sufficient, it is best to bring in additional ones from the outside. Friends or family who provide short-term support, who take on specific tasks, accompany them or are simply there. It is best to arrange very specific help with a fixed place and time.

Integrated Therapy like counselling and psychotherapy

If nobody is around or you have the impression that your friends cannot help you, it definitely makes sense to seek professional support. That can only be the family doctor at first.

If you want to see a counsellor, the months of waiting for a therapy place can be a big problem. Should you therefore decide to go to a psychological psychotherapist as a self-payer, it is important to clarify your concern. Usually, in the first sessions in addition to your symptoms to collect findings, more precisely about your life story, with depth psychologists and analysts starting with very early childhood.

In a crisis, however, this procedure does not apply to your situation. A crisis intervention or supportive therapy is helpful. So the focus in the here and now. (More on this later)

You have to weigh up whether a visit to a psychotherapeutic consultation, counsellor or integrated therapy makes sense in your crisis.

What you can expect from the therapeutic consultation in a crisis situation

The therapists have 45 minute time slots to help clients. During this time, you have more tasks than a purely supportive conversation. Above all, they need to wrk with you to understand your crisis and offer the best solutions to help.

A crisis is not a disease

A crisis is not in itself a disease. However, a high stress situation can very well be the trigger for a mental illness. That is why I think, whether sick or not, that support is absolutely useful when the workload is great. Early help helps prevent the development of a mental disorder.

Integrated Therapy offers quick help, specialising in crises, with and without diagnosis, for example with relationship problems, lovesickness and separation pain. First of all, we focus on the current situation.

Crisis intervention – a special focus

In a crisis, you need specially oriented (therapeutic) support. In the technical language this is called crisis intervention. This is then no conventional psychotherapy but a so-called supportive therapy.

‘A therapeutic crisis intervention is understood to be a short-term, intensive treatment that begins quickly in the event of a crisis and during which the current conflict or the immediate trigger, such as a traumatic experience, is discussed.’ (Wikipedia)

A supportive form of therapy is about supporting the client. This means that the conversation helps you to cope with a situation or a conflict in the here and now. The key words are security, orientation and relief.

The aim is to keep the negative health effects of a crisis as low as possible. It is not decisive how bad an experience is assessed from the outside, but how serious the client experiences it. You should be taken seriously as in your individual experience and the concrete support in the development and implementation of immediate goals should be in the foreground.

Therapeutic support in the here and now

In integrated therapy, when dealing with deeper topics, it is usually accepted that the argument can feel uncomfortable and stressful even at that moment. During the healing process, it is not uncommon for the client to feel worse at first. During crisis intervention, revealing and additionally burdensome procedures are to be avoided.

Therapy or counselling essentially focuses on the here and now. An empathic (sensitive), appreciative attitude is of great importance. In addition to the concrete mitigation of the most urgent difficulties, for example through problem-solving strategies or the transfer of information, relief by activating existing resources (the “individual strengths and strengths”), as already mentioned, is also an essential component here. Crisis interventions are often very effective in providing immediate relief.

Suicidal Thoughts – Deep Crisis

At the latest when a crisis triggers suicidal thoughts, professional help should be sought immediately. Get in touch with any number of organisations who offer 24/7 free support to help you. These can be found on the resources page.

If things are so bad that you are thinking of ending your life, reach out to one of the support organisations immediately. You can look for longer term help once those thoughts are initially under control. Please do not wait.

Off to the doctor

Anyone who makes an appointment with a psychiatrist in a crisis should keep in mind that the latter will not infrequently offer drug treatment, because that is what psychiatrists, as medical professionals, can do above all. They are mainly concerned with brain chemistry. This also means that a psychiatrist does not necessarily have a therapeutic training (some do) and does not always have to be particularly empathetic in contact.

If you have psychotic or manic symptoms, you should always consult a psychiatrist! If you do not have an acute suicidality or a serious psychological disorder, the short-term, supportive therapeutic conversation is the most suitable help.

Take good care of yourself!

As you can see, a crisis is not a crisis – it varies greatly from person to person and situation to situation. A great deal of suffering does not have to mean ‘being sick’.

Either way, don’t hesitate to seek support. It is always a situation that is accompanied by excessive demands or suffering. The experience that you take good care of yourself and do something to be helped is good for your confidence. If you then have the positive experience of being understood and held, a bad situation can turn into a good one.

I don’t have to repeat the hackneyed saying that crises are opportunities. But a crisis usually leads you to do something differently and to realign yourself.

It can help to see times of crisis as times of change.

If you have thoughts of suicide: If you are thinking of suicide, talk about it! In the first place, vague, general thoughts about one’s own death are nothing unusual and are not automatically dangerous. If your thoughts have specific intentions and plans, it’s time to get professional help right away! Experts can assess whether and how dangerous your condition is and help you. Either way, being able to talk about your suicidal thoughts takes a lot of strain off you. If someone says they want to kill themselves, that must always be taken seriously! You yourself, but also relatives, can call for immediate help.