Believe it or not, disaster can strike at any time, anywhere. Life already has its ups and downs, but to deal with a major disaster? That can strike a chord with anyone and not always a good one. Panic kills. No one is safe from the inevitable and staying calm during any crisis you face is one of the most important factors in ensuring you will survive.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it is to expect the unexpected in this world. Both natural and man-made disasters are an increasingly inevitable part of our lives, so we must be well prepared for them when they arrive. This is easier said than done. While common sense usually prevails in simple situations, it is difficult to foresee the effects an emergency situation can have on our mental clarity.
As intelligent as we are, humans are not infallible creatures, and our base instincts, when faced with dangers such as fires, floods, or attacks, are to fight or flee. In a crisis, adrenaline may temporarily spike, and while this can provide a useful burst of speed and strength, it can also cause us to panic and make poor decisions that could have catastrophic consequences. Learning how to control your thought processes and staying calm in scenarios like this could mean the difference between life and death.
With that in mind, here are some helpful tips on how you can work on staying calm so that you and your family will stay healthy and safe, no matter the circumstance.
Steps to staying calm during an emergency
First and foremost, you may be scared of what’s going on. What happens next is that your body enters “fight or flight” mode, causing you to start breathing rapidly and shallowly, as if you’re trying to escape danger. That’s a normal response for those who experience disaster.
Even when we know what actions we ought to take in an emergency, one of the most common pitfalls people fall into that inhibits their ability to respond, is losing control of their breathing. Hyperventilation can seriously inhibit your brain and bodily function because fast, shallow breathing reduces the oxygen intake required for these areas.
If you find this happening, you CAN do something about it. You can override the “fight or flight” mode by employing a rhythmic breathing technique before attempting to continue your task. Slowing your breathing by inhaling through your nose for four counts, holding your breath for seven, and exhaling through your mouth for eight can help you regain essential levels of focus and control. As you do your breathing exercises, tell yourself that you’re okay, and let your mind fall into that state of calm.
It’s okay to have questions whenever something major happens in your life. While you can’t prevent certain things from happening, you should still be in the know of what has happened.
In other words, learn what to do in the situation that you’re in. Learn about first aid, read up on what basic supplies to have on hand, and look up survival skills.
When you educate yourself, not only will you panic less, but you’ll also know what to do whenever disaster strikes.
Assess the situation
Similarly, while the situation at hand may require you to act fast, make sure that the actions that you do make count by taking the time to assess the situation thoroughly first. Make sure your decisions take into account all of the information available to you, without letting your emotions affect your sense of perspective.
Slowing down your thought process and focusing on one task at a time in order of priority will actually help you achieve what you need to do more efficiently and safely.
Don’t Blame Yourself
Anything can happen – anytime, anywhere. There are many things that nobody can’t control.
With that said, it’s not healthy to blame yourself for something that you can’t control. While it’s still tempting to think about what would’ve happened if you had gone with a different decision, doing so won’t change the situation, and it’ll leave you more frustrated.
Therefore, it’s best to look forward. For example, if a circumstance (i.e. natural disaster) has forced you out of your home, there’s nothing you could’ve done to prevent that circumstance from happening to you. Instead, think about how you can improve the situation as is (i.e. fix your home) or move on (i.e. find a shelter).
Believe you will make it through
Be as optimistic as you can be. Rather than focusing on everything that is going wrong as issues that you are unable to do anything about, turn your attention to the aspects of the emergency that are within your control. Weighing up and worrying about alternative actions that you could have taken is a waste of valuable time that will only make you feel hopeless. Do not spend time apportioning blame, but use positive tactics such as repeating short affirmative mantras and forcing yourself to smile to increase your feelings of confidence and capability.
Extraordinary circumstances naturally require extraordinary action, so do not allow any room for self-doubt in your mind and know that in order to save lives, you are permitted to take actions that normally would not be socially acceptable. Do not feel anxious about trespassing or cutting off a stranger’s clothes if you have to; there are some scenarios in which decisive action without hesitation is very important. If an injured person requires life-saving intervention, seconds matter, and manners become irrelevant.
If you feel that you are particularly likely to panic in a stressful situation such as a terrorist attack or a car wreck, your best plan is just that… to plan for it! You will feel much calmer if you know that you have a go-bag containing all your survival essentials pre-packed, and if you are confident in your knowledge of key skills such as basic first aid and CPR.
Learn to do the following:
- Create a disaster plan that you and family or friends can use, in case you find yourself having to evacuate.
- Stock up on essentials like nonperishable food items, bottled water, medicines, etc.
- Pack a suitcase or backpack filled with irreplaceable items (i.e. photographs, valuables, important papers, etc.) and keep it in a convenient and safe place.
Again, educating yourself in activities such as how to make a fire or purify water will help you feel prepared for whatever life throws into your path.
Think about your goals
Whenever emergencies arise, it’s important to have a cool head, and to have goals in mind. Why is that?
Goals during an emergency can help you stay calm and do the right thing for yourself and anyone else involved. That means tuning everything out, as you stop and think of what to do next.
For example, if there’s a fire, your goal here is to get yourself outside, while helping others get out with you.
Another example is when you see something critical going on (i.e. someone gets hurt). When calling 911, stay calm and focus on the conversation with the operator.
As a community, we all need to help each other out every so often, even during tough times. Fortunately, there are many people who will come together to bring positivity and happiness into their communities to keep the spirit alive.
If you find yourself in need, don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends and family. You can also help others in your family and circle – be a shoulder to cry on, visit them often, keep in touch, etc. You can also reach out to special organizations that help those who face difficulties similar to yours.
Remember: Don’t blame yourself, and don’t blame other people. Understand that you’re not alone in your struggle. We’ll need each other to get through hardship, move on, and heal.
Finally, it’s important to take care of yourself, no matter the situation.
Panic and worry won’t change the fact that a disaster has happened, nor will they make you feel better. Therefore, make sure that panic and worry don’t ruin your day, your week, and so on. Rather than be a slave to anxiety, make it your job to overcome this obstacle by learning how to better manage your anxiety. Talk to family and friends about your struggles with anxiety, and treat yourself to some of the things that you’ve enjoyed before disaster had struck.
When you learn to manage anxiety, you’ll be able to have a clear head in almost anything that happens in life.
No matter the situation, it’s important to know that you’re not just up against external forces in life. Therefore, you must stay sharp, stay strong, and be ready for anything that might come your way. In other words, try not to focus on the negative too much, and start looking towards positivity.
While none of us can predict exactly which of our skill-sets we will be required to call upon in times of need throughout our lives, armed with the ability to stay calm under intense pressure, we give ourselves the best chance to make the best of what we’ve got. If you can practice steady breathing, rational analysis, and decision making and remain positive you will give yourself the ability to face fear head on and come out of it unscathed on the other side.
So, good luck, and stay safe!
About the Author:
Ashley Halsey is a full-time writer for Lucky Assignments and Gum Essays. She has been a key player in coordinating a series of survival courses throughout the country, and as a mother of two, enjoys calming her own mind by traveling and reading. She also writes for Research Papers UK.