How to cope with the crisis?

How do you survive a crisis?

What is a crisis? A crisis is a period of what is known as a turning point, when problems arise that cannot be handled in the old ways. A crisis is always followed by a period of lysis – a period of stability.

As we know, the wisdom of many generations is anchored in culture, language, and tradition. In Japanese, the word crisis consists of two characters. The first one means “a problem, the loss of something important,” and the second one means “new opportunities. It is the same in life – a crisis period begins when new conditions appear in a person’s life. These conditions are difficult because they are not familiar to us, they are a completely new experience, one that we have never encountered before. But this does not mean that no one has ever encountered anything like this in their life.

Case study. A young married couple contacted the psychological emergency phone number. The woman explained that her husband had lost interest in her and that he had also accumulated some problems with her. After only a year, family life had become boring and meaningless. They used to walk a lot together, they preferred going to the movies, the theater, discos. But the former joint interests are no longer relevant (bored), and they have not yet found new, fascinating for both of them. As a result, they practically stopped spending time together. This depressed both of them, but they were able to make up their minds and honestly admit to themselves that changes in their relationship to each other have taken place.

All human life is about constantly going through periods of crisis and calm periods. All crises mankind usually goes through cyclically, a crisis is followed by a calm period when new knowledge and skills are enough to cope with difficulties. Then, new problems appear, and everything repeats again.

People are born, grow up, grow old and die with the same problems for many thousands of years. Only those who are able to adapt to the changed conditions will be able to overcome the crisis. Let us remember that humanity as a species has survived only because it has been able to adapt to changing climatic conditions. In northern countries our ancestors did not walk naked, as people from southern countries did, but warmed themselves by the fire by wrapping themselves in warm skins. The ability to change our behavior in accordance with the conditions that life puts forward at the moment is the adequate way to solve the problem and, therefore, to overcome the crisis.

For example, let us recall the history of human growth and development. Each stage in our lives is associated with the passing of a critical period. First, the human being is born into the world and experiences his first crisis. It consists in the fact that the child, who is used to being in the warmth and constancy of the environment of the mother’s womb, is transferred to the cold outside environment. In the womb, nutrition is provided by the umbilical cord, and the temperature is sufficient and stable. At birth, the baby is exposed to very different conditions: bright light after intrauterine darkness, hard diapers and doctors’ hands after soft placenta, forced feeding by mouth after feeding through the umbilical cord. Evidence that the baby is going through a crisis at this point are also objective signs that can be observed: loss in weight of the newborn, physiological jaundice, etc. But after a few days, the baby begins to gain weight again, and the jaundice passes by itself. Nature has given the baby the innate ability to adapt to new complex conditions.

Then comes the crisis of the end of the first year of life, so when the child’s bone apparatus (skeleton) strengthens, he learns to walk, and when his brain areas mature, he begins to speak the first words. Previous crawling skills are no longer needed, and to reach the desired object the child has to learn to keep his or her body straight.

Further on, the child gradually learns to act better with objects (toys, household appliances) and no longer needs an adult as an intermediary. This is also a crisis period, because parents used to give the child some things, direct his actions, and now he knows how to do it himself. This is the crisis of the age of three, it is also called the “I myself” period.

As we can see, the psychological meaning of each crisis is that the person learns to change his or her behavior to one that is adequate and corresponds to the new changed conditions and the needs of the child. So that he adapts to live in a new way, adequately evaluating his new role, fulfilling new responsibilities, developing new qualities so that it helps him in his future life.

The only tragedy is that we humans, unlike animals, have learned to feel in the process of evolution. We remember something good that we had in our previous lives, and it doesn’t give us peace. Clients often ask what to do if the memories do not give rest, and the things around us are constantly reminding of the past.

Case study. A man of 30 years turned to the phone emergency psychological help with a request: the new girlfriend categorically demands to forget the old relationship and stop communicating with his ex-wife. How not to spoil relations with the new, but also to remain friends with the old?

We can not forget everything that happened to us before – it is impossible to do. We can remember all the good things, because we have the right to do so. To behave adequately means not forgetting the former (all the good and bad) and to live on, to draw conclusions from the mistakes made before, and to try not to make them.

Psychological defense mechanisms help us to cope with a crisis. There are many of them (rationalization, projection, displacement, substitution, compensation, moralization, etc.), but there are only two biological mechanisms that help mankind to cope with danger. They have always been used, since ancient times, and are still used today: escape and struggle. The source of danger can be anything: an object, a bad habit, another person.

Escape can be called problem avoidance, when a person prefers not to contact the source of danger, carefully forgets about it, erases it from his life, changes the subject of conversation, and, of course, literally, simply runs away from it. For example, a person loves his work, but does not love his colleague, with whom he has to sit in the same office next to him every day. Avoidance is the fact that all the time he makes up reasons to see him as little as possible, for example, he leaves the office, lingers in the smoking room, or even gets sick more often.

Struggle is the opposite model of behavior, when a person takes an active active position and begins to struggle with the problem that has arisen.

Ultimately, both are our defense against the frightening factor. But not always this defense mechanism is adequate to the situation, and so it does not help to solve the main problem – it does not eliminate the cause of the crisis, but only relieves the symptoms.

It is possible to treat the runny nose with different ointments, drops, mixtures, trying to eliminate the symptom, but the disease will not pass until you eliminate the cause – the viruses and bacteria that cause it.

Practice shows that the most difficult thing for a person who finds himself in a crisis situation is simply to ask other people for help or to trust a specialist. People come to the psychologist after the problem has shown itself in full.

Every difficulty that we encounter in our lives has a certain meaning that we cannot always understand accurately, quickly and correctly. In order to overcome it, it is important to understand the essence of what is happening. It is easier for a person to accept something when he understands it, when the event is put into his system of values, notions, expectations.

Each problem is individual, but in general, we can say that they come and go in the same pattern for all people. First, every person who finds himself in an unexpected and difficult situation has a shock, then the person tries to deny what is happening, when understanding comes, there comes the stage of aggression or in other words, the stage of searching for the guilty, it is followed by depression, everything ends with the stage of acceptance.

Shock. The person is confronted with an unforeseen, unexpected event that has never happened in his life before. The woman was raised in a family where it was not customary to resolve conflicts by force. When her husband first hit her during an argument, she was simply not ready for it. The point of this stage is, to prepare the mind and body (closely connected to each other) of a person for something unknown. At the physiological level, the former “settings” of the body are disrupted. A person may begin to tremble uncontrollably, his or her limbs become padded, the tongue stops moving, etc. The body has to readjust, and it needs time for that. Each person’s duration of stay in this phase is different and may vary from a few minutes to a few hours.

Denial. The point of the stage is to realize that not all events in our lives are under our control. In this stage, people who have been victims of violence or who have lost loved ones refuse to believe what happened to them. They say they don’t remember anything and refuse to talk to others about it. This stage can last from a few hours to a few days or even weeks.

Aggression. Searching for the guilty party is a way to release inner emotions, an attempt to regain control over the situation. Quite often there is autoaggression (aggression directed at oneself), the person blames himself/herself for something that objectively he/she cannot be guilty of. Under the influence of emotions, the person may fall into a state of affect and try to harm himself or herself or others. The duration of this stage can last up to several months or even years, but it can also pass very quickly – it all depends on the individual person.

Depression. When a person finally realizes that nothing can be changed anymore, he or she may fall into a depressive state. This is a time of decreased activity, an attempt to rethink one’s role in what has happened. The person, at this point, is likely to need the support of others, but by no means obsessive chattering, but simple quiet sympathy and understanding. The duration of depression also depends on the individual characteristics of the person, it can last, on average, from a few days to a year. The peculiarity of depression is that under unfavorable conditions, it can become prolonged, or develop into a disease.

Acceptance. This stage is the final stage. Eventually, it occurs always and in every person, regardless of his or her age and life experience. At the stage of acceptance, the person understands that life, whatever it may be, goes on and any problem, if desired, can be solved. And what happened is his new experience, with which he can and must learn to live on.

How to cope with the crisis?

“I love crises,” says career coach Olga Lermontova, who has worked in top international companies for more than 14 years. – As someone who lived through 1998, 2008, 2014 and 2020, I know that this is a time when doors close but windows open. It’s the crises that give us the opportunity to grow because they force us to change.”

But what personal crises can we face? And how do we deal with them? Let’s try to figure it out together with a book by Olga, “Work in love.

Work on love

Personal crises.

There are large crises – pandemics, the devaluation of money, military action. Everyone suffers from them. And there are personal crises that happen at certain moments.

The entire career path can be divided into several phases. They do not always correlate with age: many people who are over forty remain in phase one. And the phases do not always follow one after the other. But understanding which phase you are in is important


This is the first phase, in which a person’s main goal is reduced to fighting for existence and paying the bills. Work at this stage is seen solely as a source of income, but not as a source of pleasure and fulfillment. Often people find themselves in a life situation in which they need to make money, and that is their main focus. This situation is fairly typical for a student or recent graduate – but unfortunately, many get stuck at this stage.


The next stage of “evolution” is the competitive stage. The person has already had time to realize his strengths, understand what he is good at and what is worse, and wants to move up the career ladder. At this stage he aspires to get a high status, to pump his skills, to find and develop his strengths, that is to become a high-class professional.


When a person no longer needs to think about his daily bread, he begins to wonder: what, in fact, he actually wants, what he does not want, what are his values, and not just material ones? For example, some are attracted to help homeless animals, others to help lonely elderly people, and still others strive to make quality education accessible to all.

At this stage, a person works not only for money and status, but also for something important for his inner self.

Sometimes people reach this stage in their thirties or forties, when a reassessment of values occurs, and sometimes they do not reach it at all. There is nothing wrong with that: the last two stages are not for everyone, not everyone needs them, and not everyone fits in. This doesn’t mean that you’re living your life in the wrong way. There’s also a thrill in that kind of strategy.


In the last career stage, one renounces one’s ambitions in favor of some “global good.” Not everyone comes to this stage, because it implies that from now on the purpose of a person’s life is to serve others. It is not money that matters, but the attitude to one’s work.

These are the steps a person climbs in the world of the ideal career. Sometimes he stops, looks around and thinks, “How did I get here? What do I do next? Which way do I go next?” It’s great if he answers all these questions easily and moves forward. But any transition from one stage to another is accompanied by an internal crisis. And sometimes crises also occur within a stage, when we ask ourselves if we are exactly where we are now.

Mid-life crisis

During this period, between the ages of 35 and 45, it is customary to take stock of the first results. What have I achieved? Have I come to a “success” or have I stayed roughly where I was? During this period, a person has a lot of questions to himself and to the world.

On the one hand, the childish “I wanted to be an astronaut (a ballerina, a writer, a doctor), but instead…” still sits in the mind. People tend to cling to old dreams, even if realizing them would not bring them any joy. We wanted to be doctors-we’re sales managers instead, and we don’t like it very much; so doctors would have been better.

  • First of all, no guarantee that it would have been better.
  • Second, life isn’t in the sunset yet (and even in the sunset there’s nothing stopping us from doing it!), there’s every chance to try.

On the other hand, social stereotypes haven’t gone anywhere, and the evil little man inside our heads keeps saying, “At this age everyone is already in charge, everyone has their own business…” “Everyone” is a common character in our attitudes in general. Almost like Katya from the second “A,” who had a thicker braid and got straight A’s in all her tests.

Why is this so?

Frustration arises when our aspirations run into fears and limitations. “I don’t know where I can go to school at 40”, “Oh, I’m scared of losing my stability, I’d rather work in one place until retirement – so what if it’s not fun, everyone lives that way”…

There is no point in trying to convince you that working after forty is easier to find than at twenty or thirty, but remember that there are always difficulties at any stage.

At twenty you have to convince the employer that you are not a greenhorn with the wind in his head, at thirty if you are a woman – that you are not going to go on maternity leave tomorrow, at forty – that you are not falling of sand and you do not type with one finger. The question is how you work with these beliefs.

We suggest doing a simple but pleasant exercise that can help you regain confidence in your abilities.

The Experience to Help Exercise

1. Make a list of all your significant accomplishments in your career. Don’t skimp on the details, pull out all the details from your memory.

Now underline the ones that will help you in your future career. It is important to recognize your strengths and remember your strengths, not just worry about the fact that it is harder to find a job when you reach that age.

This exercise is aimed at those who are sure that younger candidates are more in demand on the Russian labor market and have more advantages. But age is also an advantage. It means more years of accumulated experience, and there are bound to be things that come in handy in a new field.

Problems of age

There is no sense in pretending that ageism does not exist. It does exist. The stereotype that at 40, if you are not in an executive position or you do not have your own business, is to quietly wait for retirement with knitting in his hands, still lives in the head. Recruiters, among others. They perceive candidates over thirty-five as old-school: not as mobile, harder to learn… Negative attitudes about age are still part of the inevitability, although lately the ice has been broken.

Show that you can change.

If the recruiter fears that candidates over forty are more difficult to accept new things and do not want to change, show that he is mistaken: a resume created by the latest standards, the latest relevant courses in your specialty, knowledge of the latest trends in the industry … If you are constantly learning something new in your field, it’s only positive and convinces the employer that you genuinely interested and happy to do what you do.

When there is too much experience

Many candidates face rejection because they are overqualified. Therefore, in the resume and at the interview, it is better to focus not on your qualifications, but on what exactly you can give to this particular company, what useful innovations to bring.

Your experience is not your enemy, but it is not worth anything on its own, so show how you can apply your existing knowledge for the benefit of the new company.

Look for companies that are willing to abandon stereotypes and work to the standards of the new ethic. After all, even if you manage to squeeze into a team where ageism reigns, will you enjoy working there?


I have always been saved by the network (and will be saved after forty). You can communicate with people working in the company where you want to get, find out the atmosphere, how adequate the management is, what company’s problems are and how you can solve them. New connections are always healthy and useful. It is useful to understand what fears HR has about age and what prejudices need to be dispelled.

An authority that puts pressure.

Some managers are not comfortable working with people much older than themselves, because they are afraid that they will be pressured by their authority. There are such cases, too. Here is what, for example, told Olga Lermontova subscribers.

– When my father in his sixties looked for a job as an engineer, I was upset with him that he was not taken. And now I understand that they were right not to take it in a sense. He’s a great engineer, incredibly hardworking, but he looks down on young people. Apart from AutoCad and Word, he does not know how to use anything in particular (for example, put two windows side by side is a bit difficult for him). In general, I would think twice before hiring such an employee. But, of course, not all people at this age are the same.

Almost a similar story was shared by another subscriber.

– I once had a 40+ colleague who decided to go into IT, and his boss went ahead and took him on as a junkie. He argued a lot with the head of the department, never agreed with a point of view different from his. He actually considered everyone on the project team to be “chinks” and interacted appropriately. And he also practically forgot to study English, which made it impossible to “sell” him on the project to the customer. In the end, when an internal company project he was involved in was over, they said goodbye to him.

We were very surprised that a grown man had such an infantile attitude toward himself and his work. But then he wrote a public review, in which he reproached us for ageism. At the same time he called everyone underage, and the girls and even mentioned that we should have children, but we are here to turn the developers.

Crises are an inevitable part of our lives. Some we can foresee and make straws in advance, while others come as complete surprises. But both of them have two wonderful qualities. One: they provide us with opportunities for growth. Two: they sooner or later come to an end.

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