How To Keep Your Cool: 5 Tips to Stay Calm in a Crisis
How To Keep Your Cool: 5 Tips to Stay Calm in a Crisis
Posted on March 12th 2020 by Laura Armstrong
A word we had not heard of a few months ago is now enough to incite fear in many of us.
‘Breaking news’ updates with the latest infection statistics and new advice from authorities, it is not hard to understand why we are in a state of panic.
Our minds latch onto fear-inducing headlines and it can be hard to gain perspective on the situation when we have already entered crisis mode. We start to catastrophize, picturing the worst-case scenario.
An article from Psychology Today describes coronavirus as “exclusively, a moral panic,” highlighting that 0.0001% of the world’s population has been infected.*
Despite this low-level of infection, we have entered a state of international crisis - schools and borders have been closed, large public gatherings canceled, and quarantine measures introduced.
The risk of dying from coronavirus for an otherwise healthy adult is minimal. The director-general of the World Health Organization stated that a coronavirus pandemic “would be the first pandemic that could be controlled. The bottom line is, we are not at the mercy of the virus.”
Many of us will still feel fear when we read the news headlines, even with this knowledge. It is normal - the reason for this is largely to do with how our mind and body respond to a perceived crisis.
We do not profess to be experts on coronavirus, however, we can help you understand why you feel panic in situations like these and give you tips to help you stay calm.
What happens when we enter ‘crisis-mode’?
When we are confronted with a crisis, the mind goes into survival mode. This is also known as the ‘fight or flight’ response.
When we are faced with a threat (or a perceived threat), the body responds by releasing the stress hormones: cortisol and adrenaline. This hormone rush increases the heart rate and blood pressure and causes the breath to become shallow and rapid.
Why are some people better in a crisis?
Heart rate, in particular, is thought to have a bearing on the quality of our decisions in a high-stress situation.
When your heart rate rises above 175 bpm, your mind is more likely to ‘shutdown’, leaving you unable to think clearly.
Former military psychologist, Russell Shilling, explains that our response to a crisis depends on our past experiences and preconceived ideas of what constitutes a threat. This is why some of us appear to be ‘cool in a crisis’. These people have a different approach and perspective.
You can learn to be calm in a crisis too. There are a number of ways to keep your cool, from breathing techniques to changing how you think about the situation.
Below are 5 tips on how to stay calm in a crisis
1. Change your perspective
In situations of international crisis, we feel like we have no control and there is no escape.
“You cannot control outside events, but you can decide how you want to feel about something. You can choose how to respond,” leading therapist, Marisa Peer, explains.
“Tell yourself a different story,” Marisa suggests. Stop using catastrophizing language in how you think and talk about the situation. Stop using phrases like “it is a nightmare” or “the end of the world.” Your mind will accept that as reality and not find a solution.
Instead, Marisa encourages us to say “this is a challenge. When you do this, your mind hears that you have a situation that can be dealt with, even an opportunity… The words you use will either minimize or maximize stress.”
2. Focus on the present
The more you hypothesize about what could happen, the more you will feel out of control. When you find your mind wandering off down the rabbit hole of “what if,” bring yourself back to the present moment.
Mindfulness meditation is an excellent tool to keep you grounded in the present. The aim of meditation is not to have no thoughts, but to practice not engaging with them. Build up your meditation practice by starting with just two minutes each day.
Try this meditation for beginners:
- Sit comfortably in a quiet place where you will not be disturbed.
- Close your eyes and focus on your breathing.
- Take steady, deep breaths so you feel the belly inflate as you inhale and contract as you exhale.
- Say mentally to yourself “I’m inhaling, I’m exhaling” with each breath to keep your mind present.
- If your mind starts to wander, do not worry, just come back to your breathing.
You can find more advice on breathing, meditation and reducing stress in this powerful stress management guide.
3. Look after yourself
Find an activity that is just for you that benefits your wellbeing. Try to do one thing each day which brings you joy, whether it is going for a long walk, reading a book or going for a massage.
This act of self-care will help you stay positive and reduce stress.
4. Talk about it
A problem shared is a problem halved. When you are faced with a crisis, talking about it with a friend or family member can help you gain perspective.
In situations of international panic, excessive talking and catastrophizing are common. Step away from conversations that are fueling your fear. It is good to talk but confide in those close to you if you feel your worries are getting the better of you.
5. Make time to relax
True relaxation is an alien feeling for many of us. Take time out to dedicate to relaxing your mind and body - sleep does not count here!
Relaxing activities such as a slow-paced yoga class, guided meditation or hypnosis audios stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system - the body’s ‘rest and digest’ mode. This helps to reduce the feelings of stress and its impact.
The more you are able to actively relax, the more you will be able to maintain a state of calm in your daily life.
You can dramatically reduce stress with the Perfect Relaxation hypnosis audio. Listen regularly to de-stress and relax your mind for greater clarity and calm.