times, scribes were devotees of the Word. They were the
bridges between worlds, charged with the sacred task of
painstakingly transcribing the Mysteries into a form
that could be referenced by holy men and women. Many
centuries later, our modern journals give us unlimited
access to the Mysteries of our souls. Through this
column, I hope to offer ways that we can approach our
own lives with the love and devotion of the scribes of
Coping Strategies for Times of Crisis
heard the news today, O boy....
As of September 11, 2001, we have been
plunged into a crisis that no one can fully comprehend.
Our paradigms have shifted, boundaries have vanished,
and we are not prepared. In the words of the poet
Adrienne Rich, "the maps they gave us/ were out of
date by years." There are no "right"
answers, no magic potions, no formulas or recipes. But
here are some common-sense suggestions for managing
these difficult times.
1. Accept your emotions. Whatever
you are feeling, it is a normal and natural response.
There are four basic feeling groups: Mad, sad, glad and
scared. These basic groups provide the ingredients for
many dozens of feelings. You might experience any
number of different, and possibly conflicting,
emotions, which may shift quickly and without warning.
All of this, unfortunately, is to be expected and may
continue for many weeks or months. It is crucially
important to be able to tell the difference between feeling
an emotion such as profound depression or white-hot rage
and acting on an emotion, such as harming
yourself or someone/something else.
2. Take a break from news coverage.
The repetitive images and continual verbal analysis and
speculation are imbedding themselves into our psyches,
overstimulating our adrenal glands, and overloading our
mental and psychological capacities to process. Give
yourself a break from the news, or at least be selective
in your intake.
3. Find your tribe.
Community is vitally important at a time like this.
Humans are tribal people. Find your tribe, whether that
is family, friends, church, school or classes,
workplace, support group, volunteer activities, e-mail
listservs, neighborhood, one good friend. Have at least
one source of support that reliably gives you contact
with caring, accepting human beings.
4. Tell your story. We
need to talk about this, to discharge the tension, to
move it out of our bodies, to witness and be witnessed.
5. Relentless self-care is mandatory.
It is not possible for all of us to take time out from
our own individual lives. We must continue going to
school, going to work, feeding our children, driving
carpool, and living our lives against a ghastly backdrop
of grief, fear and uncertainty. It is essential
that we practice relentless self-care. Get enough sleep;
if you can’t sleep, at least try to rest peacefully.
Eat in a way that feeds and fuels your body. Get some
exercise. Do whatever comforts and sustains you: Hot
baths, hikes, time with friends, time alone, hobbies,
movies, weekends away. Some people (extraverts) get
their batteries recharged by being with other people.
Others (introverts) recharge their batteries by being
alone. Know what fuels you, and do that relentlessly.
6. Take care of your body.
Move tension and accumulated feelings and toxins out of
your body. Sweating, elimination and bodywork are three
good ways. Exercise, saunas or steam rooms, massage,
yoga, eating simple foods simply prepared, drinking lots
of water, and breathing will help.
7. Beauty heals.
"Let the beauty that you love be what you do,"
says the 14th century mystic poet Rumi. If
you love the outdoors, be in nature. If you love art, go
to the art museum or get out your paints. If you love
music, surround yourself with the most beautiful music
you can find. If you love flowers, buy or plant them for
yourself. Surround yourself with beauty.
8. Eat a poem.
Our US Poet Laureate, Billy Collins, says that comfort
can be found in just about any poem. Find a poem that
speaks to you of hope or grief or courage, and chew it
up. Read it over and over. Read it out loud. Think about
it. Let it deepen in you. Let certain lines digest in
you until you find yourself thinking of them in odd
times throughout your day. Let this poem live inside you
and guide you to your own True North. For poems to
inspire you, check out the Poem of the Month at www.journaltherapy.com
or the poems at www.poetrytherapy.org.
Whatever your religious or spiritual persuasion
(including not being sure if you have one), examine
whether you essentially believe in a benevolent power
that is beyond your personal self. It matters less what
you call it than that you feel it as a positive presence
for good. Prayer, like so much else, is a highly
individualized expression that may or may not involve
the formal rituals of bowed head, silence, closed eyes,
composed speech. For many people, turning to prayer is
one antidote to feeling helpless. If you already have a
spiritual practice, now is the time to deepen and extend
10. Be kind.
Go out of your way to extend kindness in small, everyday
ways. Make space for the car in front of you to change
lanes. Smile at the grocery store clerk. Thank a fireman
or policeman for the work they do. Extend friendship and
support to a stranger. The brilliant poet Maya Angelou
said of the many deaths, "We must not see this as
6,000 lives lost. We must see this as one precious life
lost, and we must see that 6,000 times." We can
each witness each individual death by performing 6,000
acts of kindness. Love is the one sure antidote to
hatred, the one sure path to healing. Perform at least
one conscious act of kindness every single day.
11. Write a journal.
It is well documented that writing your thoughts and
feelings during times of trauma and distress is a
healing, nurturing, effective means of release. Be sure
to date your entries, and stop if you begin to feel
overwhelmed. There are no rules; you don’t need to
write a certain number of pages, or for a certain length
of time. Even five or ten minutes every now and then is
helpful. If you don’t know where to start, begin with
the story you are living in that moment. "Right now
I feel…." or "Today I am…" will get
you going. Then simply follow your pen, and trust it
will lead you into and through the story your life wants
to tell just then. If you feel distracted and scattered,
as so many of us do, try heading your page, "What's
the most important thing to do?"
12. Reclaim mastery and joy.
Seek and find the ways in your one life where you can
reclaim your healthy power and authority. Find the
people, places and things that help you feel joyful. We
cannot avoid or deny the awfulness of September's
events. We can and must, however, find the courage to go
on about our lives on parallel tracks of grief and joy,
apprehension and mastery, war and peace.
If you cannot bear this alone, and
particularly if you struggled with depression or anxiety
even before the crisis, do not hesitate to ask for
professional help from a psychotherapist or mental
Kathleen Adams. All Rights Reserved
Kathleen Adams LPC, RPT is a
Registered Poetry/Journal Therapist and Director of The
Center for Journal Therapy in Lakewood, Colorado. She is
one of the leading voices on the power of writing to
heal and is the author of four books, including Journal
to the Self and The Write Way to Wellness.
Her upcoming seminars include the annual 5-day women’s
writing retreat in Colorado July 8-13, and a one-day
Journal to the Self workshop in Denver in late July. She
would love your feedback on this column; please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
or stop by her website, www.journaltherapy.com.
Kathleen's Past "Scribing the Soul" Columns:
2001 "Journal of a Synchronicity"
2001 "Rituals for Soulful Writing"
Baker’s Dozen Ways to Journal Your Dreams"
2001 "Journals to Go"
2001 "Healing Words, Healing Touch: Jihan's Letters"
2001 "Love Letters"
the Authentic Self"
2000 "Riding the Inky Wave"
2000 "The Good News"
2000 "Soul Food: Exploring Affirmations in
2000 "Diary of a Headache"
2000 "Making Up the Truth"
2000 "Pockets of Joy"
2000 "Five Ways to Scribe Your Intuition"
Kathleen's Feature Article on Dream Journals:
in the Dark: Cracking the Soul's Code Through Dream