How to Stay Calm in a Personal Crisis

When our human brain is confronted with an emergency, it behaves in a way that may seem rational but in reality the thought processes can be very irrational.

The purpose of this article is to give you some strategies to make better decisions during a crisis.

Creating A Pause:

Whatever type of crisis comes up, we are always capable of being more in control of our emotions than we realize. It really is a matter of ‘will’. If we can learn some new coping skills and understand how to interrupt our auto response mechanism, then we can take back control of how we respond and tap into a deep well of endurance.

In effect we need to ‘very deliberately’ create a pause between the event and our response. We then use that pause to choose a response that is best for that situation.

Let me put this in context. If the ‘event’ is someone firing a gun nearby, then the flight mechanism takes over. But if the crisis is a non-life threatening type of event, then you should try to create that pause (that moment) before you react. In that moment, you allow yourself to observe the entire situation; all the circumstances and dynamics that are going on. Breathe deeply and exhale slowly for a few seconds. This tells your brain that it needs to relax and reestablish its balance. You can then start to access your intuition and proceed and choose your response.

Engage In Constructive Strategies:

Banish Denial. When you get upset, you need to acknowledge your feelings to yourself. “I’m furious right now and I’ve every right to feel that way.” Never let yourself engage in any form of denial as it gives the crisis more time to get worse. Don’t bottle up your pain. If you need help then admit you need help. Most of the time, you probably just need to get into a situation where you can start to think more clearly.

Remove yourself from the situation. If possible, remove yourself from a heated situation. As long as you are in that situation, then you will not likely to be in the right frame of mind to deal with it. Go for a walk, so that you can breath, calm down and clear your head of any dramatic emotions that may be trying to take control. When the situation involves someone else’s bad behavior, then it is even more important to remove yourself as remaining with that person signals your acceptance of their bad behavior and may encourage even more!

Recognize that we are not our emotions.

This is such a simple concept to understand, but it is critical that we accept it and make it part of our thinking. You and your emotions are two separate entities. I have explained this to some people who flatly refuse to accept that they are separate from their emotions. My sense is that those people have already decided to abandon responsibility for their response in a crisis. They literally don’t want the burden of self-control.

How to Stay Calm in a Personal Crisis

To disengage from our emotions we start by changing our language. For instance, instead of saying ‘I’m angry” you could say, “I’m feel anger rising inside me”. We are acknowledging the anger inside us, rather than being the anger. It’s a subtle but importance difference that separates us from the more negative parts of our emotions.

Accept what cannot be changed.

There are some crises that just overwhelm us. For example, suddenly finding out that you have a life threatening illness. Or, a close friend or relative passes away. These are circumstances where you are literally powerless to change something. You need to make peace with your powerlessness as its critical for maintaining a balanced state of mind. You must not let “Denial” take over.

Practice mindfulness daily.

If I had to choose one habit that I believe has helped me through a personal crisis or two, it would be that I regularly practice mindfulness exercises everyday. Why? Because the more you practice, the stronger your control over your thought processes will be. As we cultivate contentment in the moment, our ability to engage and disengage from the swirl of calamity around us gets better. We have the skill to deal with any crisis more effectively when it comes into our life.

For more on this subject read: Everyday Mindfulness Exercises.