Three Ways to Keep Going Through a Crisis: A Conversation with Crisis Intervention Coach John Robertson

So many of you are working tirelessly behind the scenes through this pandemic. You are the unsung heroes that we don’t think to put up posters for on our front lawns or to post messages out on Facebook. You are the middle managers and HR leaders and procurement specialists and analysts. You are the people that enable frontline professionals to do their jobs by having the support and resources they need.

Our oversight to say thanks is duly noted. We appreciate you, even if we don’t say it enough.

More than that, I want you to ask you, how are you doing right now? What do you do when you are not feeling resourceful or resilient yet so many depend on you?

I had a conversation with Crisis Intervention Coach John Robertson for this very reason. What do the people who are used to providing support and guidance do when they need support themselves? How do you manage that sense of not being able to take a break for fear of letting essential services colleagues down? Who do they talk to when you need to decompress? 

Here’s what John has learned from working for 30 years in the field of crisis intervention:

1. Dump the Critic

You’ve heard it before, you’ll hear it again; we are our own worst critic. In fact, when things reach a boiling point, John has noticed that’s often when we are hardest on ourselves. How can we be resourceful for others when we don’t even have a healthy perspective about our contributions, strengths, and abilities?

Our internal dialogue directly impacts our reaction in a crisis. Given that this pandemic appears to be long-lasting, is impacting us personally and professionally, and that is touching every aspect of our world, we can’t “turn it off”. It is every newsfeed and conversation and post. Add that to a negative inner narrative, it makes an already challenging situation even harder to put into perspective. To be reactionary is normal, however, as John points out, it’s not healthy for an extended period of time.

2. Plug-In

We often get the advice that we need to unplug (easier said and done, right?) John actually sees it a little differently. Sometimes in an effort to unplug from news and technology, we go one step too far and unplug from each other. Over his career, John has seen that the individuals and teams who have managed through a crisis most effectively are actually the ones who lean on and lean into each other as well as other supports around them. 

And if you’re separated from those you love and care about, you have to be even more creative about it how to plug into other people.

On the flip side, those with children and even a spouse at home trying to learn and work from home, you feel torn about needing your own space to get your work done, but you know you need them to get through this difficult time. I know I’ve had more coaching calls in the last month with people’s babies and kids and cats and dogs along for the ride than the 10 years that proceeded this socially distanced time. In order to want to plug into those in your house, carve out “space” for yourself; physician space, mental space, emotional space. To plug into others, we can’t be overwhelming either. Define what structure works best for you. All the rules we can safely throw out the window about so-called “work-life balance”. The key is getting enough time with others and the right kind of connection that you feel supported and connected.

3. Sweat, Flush and Fill

Health gurus around the world are always professing to us how important it is to exercise and have a regular cardio regime. John reminds us that a brain on high alert needs it too. Exercise helps to combat the cortisol – your stress chemical in all too much abundance right now – and the more you sweat, the more your brain likes it. 

Similarly, we need to flush out with water. Lots of it. It may be tempting when we’re so close to the coffee pot to caffeinate or grab your favourite soft drink from the fridge or up the volume of caffeine because you’re feeling run down. I know my hack is to make the water bottle the closest thing within reach and to have a back-up water refill container equally close. I build in a bathroom break between calls too so I’m not deterred from hydrating.

As for fill, well, I filled myself with a lot of carbs when the pandemic first it; my coping, among other things, is baking for my family. And they don’t complain! However, we’ve really upped our healthy food prep and therefore consumption over the last few weeks. (In fact, I’ve included some of my favourite healthy recipes below). Sure, snacks, treats and comfort food can help get us through. As I keep reminding my teenagers, our body’s primary food group cannot be found in the snack aisle if we want to have a good mood, energy and focus!

Stay well my friends, and here are our favourite healthy recipes (you will notice a lot of vegetarian recipes as my daughter has cut out the meat!)

  1. Minestrone Soup
  2. Vegan Chilli
  3. Dover Sole
  4. Roasted Cauliflower & Chickpea (put over quinoa)
  5. Lentil Curry Coconut Milk Soup
  6. Whole Wheat Pizza Dough (sub low sodium chicken bacon for pepperoni)
  7. Bean Salad
  8. Risotto (only six here to chose from!)

To connect with John, you can reach him at [email protected]

Stay safe everyone.

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– Mother Teresa

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