Dealing with a crisis

peter-and-poppetAt the end of a busy volunteer day here at the temple I went with 3 year old Felix to feed our much loved bunnies, Peter and Poppet. After a while I thought it strange that Poppet wasn’t coming out of the hutch, and when I investigated I discovered that she’d broken her leg very badly.

The next 48 hours included a frantic journey to the emergency out of hours vet, research about rabbit fractures, transferring her back to our local vet, and 6 hours of anxiety as we waited to hear whether or not she’d made it through her operation. Rabbits are difficult to treat because of their size, the fact that vets get much more practice on cats and dogs, and their susceptibility to not making it through general anaesthetics.

We never know when a crisis is going to occur. During a time of stress, even a small event can feel like a crisis and tip us over into not coping. Here’s a check-list to help you when you feel like you’re losing control.

  1. Take a slow breath in and try to remember to keep breathing slowly and deeply. Feel the contact of your feet on the ground. If you can reduce your stress response you’ll be able to deal with whatever is happening more effectively.
  2. Seek support. This is important in the moment of crisis, as when I asked Felix to run for help, and as time goes on, as when I let my friend know what was happening and received her support. Even if you don’t usually ask for help, do it!
  3. If a crisis occurs, don’t feel you have to continue coping with the rest of your life in the way you always have. Delegate any crucial tasks and let go of the rest. There will be time to catch up later.
  4. Don’t rush. This can be very difficult in the heat of the moment, but give yourself a little space to consider your choices before you take any action. If you can find some calm, this will also help to steady others who are affected by the situation.
  5. Be kind to yourself. I didn’t behave perfectly when Poppet was injured, barking orders at Kaspa and having a panic response when it wasn’t helpful. We don’t all show the best of ourselves during a crisis, and that’s okay. Try to forgive yourself and try to forgive others for the way they behave when they’re under pressure.
  6. Allow space later for resting and processing. We were very physically tired for a couple of days afterwards and we tried to give ourselves rest. I also felt upset a couple of times and I let myself feel these feelings without rushing through them.
  7. One day at a time. If the crisis is ongoing, make plans for the future if you can and then try not to dwell on it – just deal with what needs to be done today, or during the next hour, or during the next five minutes. Keep taking care of yourself, and keep being kind to yourself.


On the night of Poppet’s big operation were delighted to pick her up and bring her home. She was now a tripod bunny – her back hind leg had been amputated – and we put her into her temporary pen in the middle of our living room with her dear companion Peter. Peter immediately started grooming her, especially the ear that she couldn’t reach any more with her absent leg. A week on and the wound is healing very well. She’s hopping around happily, eating well, still completely in love with Peter, and visibly enjoying her life. A happy bunny!

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