3 Tips To Find Opportunities In Any Crisis You Come Across, From A Clinical Psychologist

mbg Founder & Co-CEO By Jason Wachob
mbg Founder & Co-CEO
Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth.
Shefali Tsabary, Ph.D.

It's safe to say 2020 has left many feeling fearful, burnt out, and anxious. And when a crisis comes along—be it financial hardship, health decline, or election stress—it can be difficult to take a moment to sort through your mental tool kit. Oftentimes, with chaos comes a paralyzing notion of what do I do now? 

To help you navigate those scary thoughts, we turned to clinical psychologist and New York Times bestselling author Shefali Tsabary, Ph.D., on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast. Ahead, she offers her best tips to deal with crises you come across—no matter how large and looming they may seem in the moment:  

1. Recognize where you have a choice.

"In every moment, era, or crisis, we have a choice," says Tsabary. "No matter how bad it is, how transformative this experience is, how shocking it is, we have a choice in how we navigate this." 

What is this choice, you ask? Well, Tsabary explains you have the choice to walk down a "path of lack, scarcity, pessimism, and dishevelment" or the path of "abundance, transformation, resilience, grit, and courage." It sounds like a no-brainer, but Tsabary notes that you actually make this choice every single day, whether you know it or not. However, pre-crisis, when life was perhaps easygoing, you were under the impression that you didn't have to make this choice. 

"We go through our routines, and our organizations and things fall into place," Tsabary says. As a result, you may forget that you actually make this choice every single day, until a crisis practically smacks you in the face with it. "So any crisis—a divorce, job loss, financial dishevelment, health—wakes us up to this choice." The question becomes: Which path are you going to take? 

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2. Remember, discomfort often leads to resilience.

Now, it may sound a bit doom-and-gloom, but Tsabary notes that discomfort is actually essential for making that first choice we mentioned above. "I know that if there's enough pain, we will reach for the light," she says. Meaning, humans typically reach for resilience when they're hurting—albeit subconsciously. It's a bit brutal, but "that's the momentum that we need," says Tsabary. "And I believe if we're blessed enough to feel pain, we are resilient enough to make a change." 

The ticket? Think of discomfort as an opportunity to find new, creative ways to cope with those negative emotions. To evade those feelings, you may surprise yourself with your grit.  

3. Lean into interconnectivity and humility.

"When we are reminded of how impermanent we are, immediately we become humble and realize that we need each other," says Tsabary.

There are a couple of ways to remind yourself of impermanence, according to Tsabary. First up: meditation. "Meditation is to understand that life is only lived in the present moment," she says. "And when we embrace that, we embrace both impermanence and interconnectivity at the same time." Check out these three easy guided meditations to help you get started.

Second, Tsabary recommends connecting with nature—like, really connecting with the world around you and understanding that we, as human beings, are of the environment. "We've gotten so far from understanding our intrinsic nature," she explains. "We are no more, and no less, than the bacteria, the virus, the fungi, the deer, and the worm."

When you pare back your understanding to this basic level, you can become attuned to the present moment and recognize that humans—just like every other animal on this Earth—are resilient enough to withstand whatever's thrown their way. 

The takeaway. 

Dealing with crises can be scary, no doubt. But according to Tsabary, dialing your emotions down to the basics can help you see beyond the crisis you're dealing with. Of course, that's not to say you'll feel immediately carefree once you take these three steps—but if those anxious feelings start to bubble up and you don't know where to turn, try zooming out with Tsabary's tips.

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