Crisis Resilience Skills – Mindful Happiness
Below I will list various interventions that have proven effective in reducing the level of personal crisis. The sources for many of these skills came from Burns (1980), Ellis (1995), Seligman (1988), Linehan (1993, 2015)), Hayes (2018), and Thich Nhat Hanh (various publications). The skills noted are for immediate application in crisis and/or post-crisis practice. Due to space limitations, I will not explain details; rather I will list skills with minimum directions. If interested in improving your clinical capacities to deal with crises, you can look up the details on your own. It is a growth process. It is always a good idea to have a clear and practical crisis response plan.
- Move to cognition as soon as possible – get out of body reactions and take over the thought process related to the situation. Practice Tara Brach’s RAIN skills (recognize, accept, investigate, and relate to non-self), complete a pros and cons grid (good and not-so-good things about staying the same versus making small changes – CT, MI, CBT). Also distant or distract yourself quickly. Distraction is not to be used in physically dangerous situations.
- Practice mindfulness core skills. Begin relaxation breath with deep, slow breathing (polyvagal impediments may exist especially if poorly treated trauma is a reality), use positive imagery, meditate, do yoga, pray, pay attention to non-crisis variables, and live within the realities impermanence.
- Practice self-soothing. Remember or engage in positive images, sounds, touch, smells, and tastes. Carry your favorite self-calming scent with you. Rub your hands hard and long until hot, then place them on your face and absorb the healing warmth.
- DBT-like skills are highly effective. Use “wide-mind” skills. Try ACCEPTS. Engage in alternative activities, contribute to others, compare downwardly with others, engage in opposite emotion, push away unhelpful thoughts and move away from the situation, engage in productive thinking about what to do now without emotional dysregulation, and improve your sensations. Although not part of DBT, you may wish to practice progressing counting (distractive); say to yourself or outloud consecutive numbers and imagine them in your mind’s eye. Continue to count until the emotional reactivity has reduced.
- Practice mindful movement. Do yoga, tai chi, qi gong in more vigorous modes until you notice that your body has experienced a reduction in emotional reactivity. Regular meditation practice is, perhaps, your best option here. Do vigorous exercise.
- Do your best to reduce a “victim” self-image. Work on fear-based reactions and combat hopelessness and helplessness tendencies. Use your older, experienced self’s wisdom.
- If in therapy, be certain to process the crisis experience. If your therapist is competent, she/he will include such skills development as part of your treatment.
- Hope this quick review has been helpful to you.
Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
From the Eleanor R. Liebman Center for Secular Meditation in Monkton, Vermont and the Home of The Monkton Sangha
Author of Mindful Happiness