There is no ‘answer’ to a crisis, just as there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to manage the pain, distress or chaos that may ensue. But in moments of extreme distress, it might be helpful to take a moment to identify what it is that you’re feeling right now – are you terrified, overwhelmed, exhausted, despairing, lost, hopeless?
Identifying what it is that you’re feeling might give you some clues as to what you, or other people, can do to help. Are you frightened and in need of somewhere safe to be? Are you overwhelmed by panic or anxiety, and need to feel calm? Are you in need of some rest, to cry or scream, or a hug from someone you trust?
You might find it supportive to focus only on how to get through the next few minutes, hours or days, rather than looking too far ahead or trying to make bigger plans. You might try focusing on some of small things, such as:
- Breathing slowly and deeply to bring down your heart rate if you’re experiencing panic
- Practicing mindfulness, by focussing all of your attention on your breathing or a specific part of your body, or by picking an object in your environment and being attentive to how it looks, feels, smells, sounds or how it might taste
- Hugging yourself, wrapping up in a duvet or blanket, or holding a hot water bottle
- Punching a boxing bag, running on the spot or something physical that doesn’t give you room to think
- Eating or drinking something you find soothing or comforting
- Walking around the room, or round the block
- Looking at soothing pictures or photographs
- Watching or listening to something you enjoy
- Writing or speaking aloud how you’re feeling, or using mantras or affirmations
Taking small steps like these may not have much of an effect on what your voices are saying, or on the challenges you might be facing in life, but they may halt things from feeling more and more out of your control, chip away at some of the immediate overwhelm and distress or create a bit of space to explore in more detail other means of coping – from the shorter to longer term.
You can find more details about different coping strategies, and ideas from voice-hearers living with difficult experiences, in our section on Coping with Voices.