Personal Growth

How to Cope with a Crisis by Using Your Values

We will all experience crises during our lifetime – whether they are global or personal. One strategy that can build resilience and perseverance during a crisis is using your personal values as a coping strategy.

I learned how to use my values to cope with a crisis when my father was diagnosed with terminal cancer. At the same time, I was experiencing a significant career transition. I was struggling to deal with these simultaneous crises, so my mentor at the time advised me to make decisions that best aligned with my values. How could I respond to both challenges in a way that tapped into my authentic self? What inner resources could I draw on to support me through these crises?

Using my values to make decisions, work my way through problems, or cope with a life crisis more effectively has become a long-standing strategy for me, both in positive and negative situations.

What are values? Values fuel actions, emotions, and behaviour.

Values are character attributes and beliefs that are important to us. Values often guide your judgement and decision-making processes, and they can dictate your response to life events. They are a blueprint for what is important to you in terms of personal conduct, interpersonal interactions, and behaviour. In terms of coping, values help us choose practices and actions that best help us cope on the dark path of crisis (Wilson & Murrell, 2004, p. 135).

Think of your values as an inner light that guides you through stressful periods, reminding you of why it is worth it to keep going.

Some examples of values include:

  • Family
  • Health
  • Helping Others
  • Spirituality
  • Connectedness
  • Cooperation
  • Equality
  • Ethics
  • Achievement
  • Challenge
  • Community
  • Compassion

Research has revealed that connecting to values during a crisis promotes resiliency and strength. In fact, “privately clarifying, publicly articulating, and consciously acting on” (Patterson and Kelleher, 2005, p. 51) values during a crisis can help you confront the situation with optimism, determination, and inner strength. Tapping into your values can also lead you to choose more active coping strategies, such as taking charge of the situation and your emotions.

Essentially, values offer a reason to keep going and preserve through a crisis – especially during those that are long in duration and intense in nature. Let’s consider the following example of values in action during a crisis:

Kevin is an older adult who recently lost his senior management job due to position elimination. Kevin is forced to take a sales job at a carpet factory while he searches for another senior management position. Kevin’s values are optimism and determination. Driven by these values, Kevin finds the strength to deal with the career and life changes – choosing to draw on optimism and determination, he decides to make the best of his new situation.

Here are three steps you can take to tap into your values to cope with a crisis:

Step 1: Consider a current life crisis – it can be global or personal. Briefly describe it without getting too distracted by the expression of the details and emotions.

Step 2: Now, identify reasons to get through the crisis.

Consider why it is worth it to you to cope with the crisis. Think of the values listed above in this blog and note those you uphold.

For example, getting through the crisis may be worth it to you because relationships are one of your values. You want to make sure the crisis does not compromise your relationships with family and friends.

Think of as many reasons as you can and list them with the header: “The values that make persevering through this crisis worth it to me are…”

Step 3: Create a visual reminder of these values. Use handmade illustrations, photographs, pictures from a magazine, or words (or even a combination). Place this visual reminder in a place where you can see it easily as a daily reminder of the values that keep you going.


When a crisis occurs, it can be challenging to stay connected to your values. The stress that results from a crisis can monopolize your attention and emotions and you may lose sight of what is truly important. To bring yourself back, think of your values as an inner light that guides you through stressful periods, reminding you of why it is worth it to keep going. Remember – in crisis, your values are a beacon of hope.

For more FREE RESOURCES on this topic and others, visit our free resources page.


Jennifer Kelly

Trainer, ACHIEVE Centre for Leadership

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