Close scrutiny will show that most "crisis situations" are opportunities to either advance, or stay where you are. -Maxwell Maltz
Dealing with a crisis situation is a shocking, overwhelming event. Death, natural disaster or sudden illness of a family member can shift you into a new level of fear and disbelief. This is beyond coping with everyday stress. How do you handle a crisis situation?
Over 25 years ago, I experienced a natural disaster. Twenty seven tornadoes touched down in Ohio and western Pennsylvania that day. I had just returned home from college and was preparing for my internships in another state. I had plane tickets to leave the next day for Wisconsin. My parents, brother and his family were at home. The energy was ominous outside and it was so silent you could hear a pin drop. The sky was a strange tint of green. It was obvious that we were in the path of the storm.
Our home was hand-built by my father and family over 30 years before the tornadoes. The homestead was surrounded by towering maple and pine trees. It was built like a brick fortress and I never imagined a disaster could hit us. Nothing could possibly happen, or so I thought.
A few minutes later I was at the sink washing dishes. My sister-in-law and nephew were with me in the kitchen. I looked up and a tornado was just across the street. All that was important was my family. I screamed to mom, dad and my brother but I didn’t know if they even heard me. I was able to take cover in the basement against a cement wall, praying that my family was safe. Two F-3 tornadoes hit the house. I huddled down, closed my eyes and listened to the roar of the storm passing over the house. What seemed like an eternity was over in a few seconds. I wept, not knowing if my family was alive, other than my nephew and sister-in-law who made it safely to the basement, too. A moment later my father opened the basement door and said, “Are you OK?” My family lived through this horrific event. It was the very trees that my father planted 30 years before that saved our home and our lives.
I ran up the stairs and hugged my father. An overwhelming feeling of gratitude filled my body. My fear was just minutes before that I would never hug my father or family again.
We stood in shock at the wreckage the storm left behind. Our home sustained little damage but many of the trees that saved our lived were gone. Later that night, we sat in the basement as more storms hit our home. We connected, supported each other and were filled with thankfulness that we were alive.
The next day friends and family rallied around us and the clean up was underway. I wanted to stay and help but my mother was firm about me leaving for my internship. “You have to go, Lisa. You have worked too hard to not finish school.” As I flew to Wisconsin, I left behind strong family and friends who banded together in time of need.
Years later I look at that fateful day with different eyes. What was a complicated, nearly devastating situation was calmed by simple stress relief methods. Support from family, neighbors and natural disaster teams kept us moving forward. And we had the greatest gifts of all gratitude, love and each other.
For over 25 years in the health care profession, Lisa Birnesser has studied stress relief techniques and have helped hundreds of people reduce stress in their lives. Lisa specializes in stress management coaching by helping people do what matters most every day.