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How We React to a Crisis

James E. Van Horn

When a crisis hits, we can never be certain how we will act. Even worse, we often don't realize how we are reacting. We often have uneven feelings, or feelings that scare us.

* Most people find it very hard to sort out what is happening inside their bodies and heads.

* Feelings of despair, panic, anger and guilt often show up and affect how we act and treat others. Crying is very common and so are the feelings of "I'm loosing it" or "I'm coming apart at the seams" or "I'm not sure I'm going to make it."

* There are changes that we notice in our bodies--fatigue, disturbed sleep patterns, weight gain or loss, frequent headaches, backaches, digestive system upset even unexplained perspiration.

* Getting along with other people is always a chore when a person is undergoing a crisis. Sometimes we become overly dependent on another, overly protective of others, easily hurt by another, blame others, or loose our patience. Some people even get a real burst of energy and volunteer for everything.

* What happens during a crisis sometimes has long-lasting effects on our life, either physically, emotionally or socially. We may say something in anger to a friend, hurt his feelings and find that we have lost a
friend.

Families too react in different ways. Some break apart, others just barely make it or grow stronger.

Families that make it and grow stronger are usually families who have taken steps ahead of time to develop strengths. They are open and honest and possess good communication skills. They routinely share time together and do things as a family. Each of the members care about all the others and each is proud to be part of the family. Generally, these families when faced with a disaster, crisis or emergency see an opportunity to become stronger--they see a challenge instead of an event that may level them.

J. Van Horn, Assoc. Prof.-Family Sociology Extension Specialist
Ag. Economics and Rural Sociology, Penn State