How to Stay Calm in a Crisis
Every now and then, things will go badly wrong.
Someone will be injured, you will get lost, or you will find out that you’ve just lost a huge amount of money.
Your natural reaction now may be to panic. After all, why wouldn’t you get in a fluster? What will you do now that you’ve lost the money? What will happen to your friend or relative who just fainted and is now lying there looking very unwell?
But while panicking is natural, it’s also entirely unhelpful. If this is your response, then you will be likely to make matters worse not better and you will potentially cause more problems than you solve.
The best response is to stay calm and robotic. You may appear cold and emotionless, but this is the most efficient and useful way to react to such a situation. This is how you’re going to help everyone deal with the problem – you can panic, cry or mourn later.
The question though, is how you can overcome that initial emotional response. How can you keep cool when everything is going awry around you? Here is what you should do.
Breathe and Slow Down
The first thing to do is to step back and take a moment to breathe and to assess the situation.
That initial urge to rush in or to cry is caused by a flood of adrenaline – your fight or flight hormone. This can be immensely useful for fuelling your reaction speed, increasing muscular strength and more. Unfortunately, it also suppresses activity in the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain that we use for future planning and reasoning.
So instead, you need to learn to control your breathing and to calm yourself down. This will reactivate your ‘rest and digest’ state via your parasympathetic nervous system. So breathe in through the stomach deeply and then let it fill your lungs.
You are not in a massive rush. If you rush, you will make matters worse. Even in time critical situations, remember the adage: less haste, more speed.
Look for the Answer
Now look for the best solution the problem at hand. Try to remove yourself emotionally from the situation by looking at it as an outsider. Think of this like an exercise and try to narrow down your actions to the most useful few options.
While in this scenario, you might be afraid to act. Each action you consider will likely have the risk of a negative outcome and might still make matters worse. But once you’ve considered carefully the options and efficiently weighed up the best course of action, the next step is simply to act. Even if you are uncertain, take positive and decisive action.
Doing this means accepting the possibility that things might go wrong and that it might be your fault. In other words, it means accepting your responsibility and being willing to shoulder that responsibility if necessary. It means being able and willing to put yourself out on a limb and to face the storm that might come.
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