Cool, Calm & Collected: A How-to Guide


Photo courtesy of Pat Williams

Throughout my life, I’ve been told numerous times that I always seem to have everything under control. “Cool as a cucumber,” is how I’m described, even when faced with what may seem like an insurmountable challenge.

I attribute my ability to “keep it together” to several very influential factors. First, I have to give a nod to both nature and nurture. My parents certainly have their wits about them and did a good job raising me to be capable and tenacious. Second, I’ve dealt with more than my fair share of difficulties - starting at a very young age.

During a crisis or emergency, it’s a normal reaction to feel panicky or to lose control of the situation at hand. Many people struggle to reign in their emotions when the pressure is on. If you’re someone who feels out of control or helpless in complicated or stressful situations, luckily there is hope for you.

By following a few simple guidelines, you can learn how to react more effectively and efficiently the next time a problematic situation arises.

  1. Step outside of the situation. In order to handle crisis situations with aplomb, remove yourself from the equation.  Look at the scenario from a third-person point of view in order to assess what needs to be done, and how to do it.
  2. Use a quiet voice. It may not come naturally at first, but I learned this particular tip a long time ago from one of my teachers, and it’s extremely effective at calming people down.  I always noticed that she spoke quietly whenever chaos was about to ensue, and the practice stuck with me to this day.
  3. Choose your reactions. The power of choice can be quite momentous if you actually put it to use. In situations where your mind and body seem to have an ‘automatic stress response,’ practice choosing a different reaction. Make this happen by becoming astutely aware of the very beginning of stressful situations and your natural reactions to them.  By acknowledging that you are no longer going to react with emotion or panic, you will have taken control over your own behavior.  Your brain will begin to respond accordingly by creating new automatic responses - if you consistently choose to react calmly to stress.
  4. Diffuse with humor. Let me preface this with a disclaimer: Not all situations are joke-appropriate. With that being said, if you can find the funny in the face of a challenge, use positive humor instead of sarcasm, which can have a negative impact on your psyche instead of making you calmer.
  5. Look to the future. A very good friend of mine once helped me through an extremely difficult time, and her tactics really resonated with me. Perhaps the most impactful was that “nothing lasts forever,” and the general sentiment that “this too, shall pass.” This mindset has gotten me through dozens of challenging moments and situations over the past decade, and it can help you, too. Picture yourself in the future – whether that’s tomorrow or next year. The crisis you are currently dealing with will be a thing of the past, and you will have survived to tell about it.

It always helps put things into perspective when you ask yourself, “How important is this to the big picture of my life?” Even though some of the things life throws at us can be messy, complicated, trying, annoying and undesirable – they may not have much bearing on your future at all.


Photo courtesy of Yeseren

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