Mental Health in Times of Crisis
During your program, you may find that
there are times you feel depressed---out of
sorts, like nothing will help. You may even
feel anxious or in a panic. The tools below
are meant to help you in times of crisis.
They are a help for prompting you to get
yourself into a better place. If these tools are
practiced daily, they can help you to cope
day-by-day and in times of greater need.
Tool #1: The Thoughts-Feelings-Behavior
Your thoughts affect your feelings and your
behavior. If you think you are useless,
you’ll feel useless and likely act that way,
too. In contrast, if you think you are
worthwhile, you are more likely to feel and
act worthwhile. It’s up to you to decide
which part of the Thoughts, Feelings,
Behavior Chain you feel is your weakest
link. Then, use the other two links to help
strengthen the weaker link. Most often, if
you are able to change your thoughts,
changes in your feelings and behaviors will
Tool #2: Affirmations
Affirmations are positive “I am” statements
that help you re-think about yourself in a
good way. “I” statements should speak to
how you’d like to feel and be. Some
“I am a worthwhile person. I deserve love
“I am respectful of others. I deserve to be
treated with respect and dignity.”
These statements help to change your
thoughts about yourself. In turn, they can
help to change your feelings and behaviors.
In the space below, write your own “I”
statement. Be careful to be realistic about
what you expect.
“I am _____________________________.
Now, take a moment to practice it---and
believe it! Practice your “I” statements a
few times each day. You can say them in
silence, in front of a mirror, or with a friend.
Say them with confidence and conviction.
Say them over and over.
Tool #3: Things to Do, People to Call
In times of crisis or when you are stressed, it
is helpful to have a ready list of things to do
and people to call for help. Take time now
to list activities that soothe you and help you
to relax. The things you list should be
pleasant. Also, write down family members
or friends that you can call in time of need.
Think about who is most helpful to you.
Things That Help to Soothe and Relax Me
Who to Call and How to Reach Them
Keep this list handy. When you are stressed or
in crisis, use the list to calm yourself and ease
your worries. Find something to do that helps
you regain a sense of calm. Then go and do it!
For some people, taking a walk or watching a
funny movie is enough to distract them and
get them back on track. Others call friends
and talk through their crisis. Whatever your
approach, plan ahead for it and, when in need,
Remember: I always have options. This too
Tool #4: HALT
It’s also important to know whether your
distress relates to a physical need. Are you
Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or simply Tired?
All of these factors change the way we think,
feel, and behave. In times of stress, take a
moment to think about what you should do
if you have one of these needs.
Eat something healthy. Enjoy a comfort food. Anticipate your hunger.
Plan for meals and snacks.
Talk with a trustworthy friend. Take a walk. Exercise. Clean your house.
Write in a journal. Try creative therapy. Take a warm bath. Vent to
yourself. Scream if you feel like it. Pray. Forgive. Accept.
Contact a friend or loved one who supports you and cares for you. Write a
letter. Cuddle with your pet. Enjoy a good book or movie. Look through
photo books and reminisce. Plan to visit a dear friend soon. Build a better
support system, as you are able.
Sleep. Take a nap or rest on the couch. Take time out. Cancel whatever
you can. Do little or no activity---veg out! Light some candles and drink
chamomile tea. Build rest and sleep into your schedule.
Tool # 5: Calming Quotes
Recall a soothing poem or quote and ponder it.
Tool #6: A Checklist for Getting Through
the Day to Day
When you are depressed or feeling blue, it is
good to think about things to do for yourself.
What helps one person may be quite different
from what helps the next person. Here is a
checklist of ideas from which you can pick
Food & Drink
ξ Eat well. A well nourished body helps
to keep a healthy mind.
ξ Try to alternate food you like (junk
food) with food that is good for you.
ξ Eat both nourishing and refreshing
ξ Notice if eating or drinking certain
things changes how you feel.
ξ Avoid sugar, caffeine, chocolate,
nicotine, and fats.
ξ Abstain from alcohol. Alcohol is a
depressant and can make you feel
ξ Make yourself a fancy dinner. Invite
someone over to join you.
ξ Remember to eat, when needed.
Exercise & Activity
When you’re having trouble concentrating or
remembering things, it is good to be more
ξ Go outside and look at the sky. Look
at the clouds during the day, the stars
and moon at night.
ξ If it’s a sunny day, close your eyes
for a moment and let the sunlight
warm your eyelids.
ξ Get some exercise while you’re out
(with your doctor’s approval).
ξ Pull some weeds. Dig in the dirt.
Plant something that you’d like to
ξ Play sports.
ξ Go for a long walk or a bike ride.
ξ Dance either alone in your home or
while out with a friend.
ξ Clean your house, garage, or yard.
ξ Get up and get going! You may feel
like staying in bed and not going out.
This can make you feel even more
hopeless and helpless.
ξ After eight hours of sleep, get up and
take care of yourself.
ξ Don’t do too much, especially at
Take time to take it easy. Find things that help
you to relax.
ξ Listen to your favorite songs. Choose
ones that are uplifting and positive to
ξ Sing or “make a joyful noise.” If
you’re self-conscious, sing in the
shower or in the car. Sing soothing
oldies or lullabies.
ξ Relax in a warm, soapy tub.
ξ Play around on the computer.
ξ Watch a comedy or a funny video. Let
yourself laugh freely.
ξ Buy yourself a present.
ξ Do something unexpectedly nice for
yourself or for someone else.
ξ Buy or pick some flowers. Relax and
look at them.
ξ Get a cat or pet. Cats are clean, warm,
furry, and huggable.
Reading & Writing
Writing things down helps to keep the misery
from running around and around in circles.
ξ Keep a journal.
ξ Write morning pages – usually 3 pages
of your first thoughts of the day.
ξ Keep a list of goals. Do one task at a
time. Celebrate your
ξ Read all you can – books, magazines,
newspapers, the comics.
ξ Go to the library or bookstore for
books on humor, fiction, spirituality,
depression, morality, and biographies
of others who struggled with
depression and thrived.
ξ Read self-help books on depression.
Sleep & Rest
Your body needs about 8 hours of sleep per
ξ Sleep, rest or take a nap, when needed.
Being With Others
If you might be a danger to yourself, don’t
be alone. Find people. If that is not
practical, call them on the phone.
ξ If there is no one that you feel you
can call, suicide hotlines can be
helpful to provide the support you
ξ Volunteer. Put your focus on others
for awhile. Help someone in need.
ξ Give someone a hug. Get a hug.
ξ Spend time playing with a child.
ξ Figure out if it’s better to be alone or
with others, then enter that space.
ξ Pick a small easy task – like
sweeping the floor – and let it be a
meditation. Purposefully concentrate
on the present moment. Try not to
judge your thoughts.
ξ If you are not able to meditate, read a
comforting book out loud.
ξ Pray or connect with your spiritual
higher being for comfort and
Keeping a Balance
Feeling better takes time. Don’t overdo it or
get upset if your mood does not greatly
improve right away.
ξ Be patient with yourself. Don’t set
difficult goals or take on too much
until your depression has lifted.
ξ Break large tasks into many smaller
ones. Set priorities. Do what you
can, as you can.
ξ Pick something to do that is small
and you know you can do.
ξ Do not expect too much from
yourself. Expecting too much and
trying to be perfect can only lead to
feelings of failure.
ξ If you’re anxious and avoiding
something, try to get some support to
ξ Don’t get upset if your mood does
not greatly improve right away.
ξ Don’t make any major life decisions
like quitting a job or getting divorced
while you are depressed. You are not
seeing yourself, the world, or the
future in an objective way.
ξ Be gentle with yourself. Depression
can make you have negative thoughts.
These thoughts are not a rational way
to think of things. Do not accept them
as being true.
Knowing Your Treatments
Depression often requires antidepressants
and/or psychotherapy. Though they are
helpful, both take time.
ξ If you are on medicine, be sure to take
it as directed.
ξ Know about side effects and watch for
ξ Do not change or stop taking these
drugs without first talking to your
doctor or therapist.
ξ If you need a cold remedy, read the
label with care. Many of them contain
ξ Attend appointments. Skipping them
because you feel “too bad” is likely not
a good idea.
ξ Learn about treatments on your own.
Don’t rely on your mental health
care provider to know it all.
ξ Seek second opinions if your needs
are not being met.
Playing It Safe
Safety is always number one. Feeling that
nothing can help is part of the illness. So
find help. Play it safe!
ξ If you are thinking about suicide, be
sure to tell someone. Call your
health care provider, or go to an
emergency room. Ask for help.
ξ Promise yourself that you will not
harm yourself in any way until
thoroughly talking out your thoughts
with your mental health care
Getting Better Day By Day
Take time for yourself. Practice these tasks
ξ Work through the Tools #1-6.
ξ Exercise 30 minutes a day.
ξ Enjoy a pleasurable activity.
ξ Take care of yourself.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 10/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5299