Coping with a Crisis: 3 Techniques to Stay Calm

1) When we worry about an event, we focus on an imaginary threat that is not happening in reality. In most cases, simply taking a few moments to practice some simple relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing, can allow your body to calm down. When we deliberately take slow deep breaths, we are indirectly telling your body that all danger has now passed; as a consequence, our body will stop producing adrenaline and our arousal will cease.

Place your hand on your chest. Breathe in and out of your mouth, taking a big sigh, so that you feel your chest moving in and out against your hand. This is chest breathing, a shallow form of breathing that often occurs as a response to stress. Rapid chest breathing quickly gets oxygen to the muscles so you can fight or run away from whatever is stressing you. Heart rate and blood pressure go up, and you feel anxious.

Now place your hand on your stomach below your waist. Breathe in your nose like your smelling a flower. Then purse your lips and breathe out your mouth like your blowing at a match. You will feel your stomach move in and out against your hand. This is abdominal breathing or deep breathing, the kind of breathing you did naturally as a baby and still do when you’re asleep or very calm. Slow deep breathing reverses your body’s stress response of anxiety, slows the heart, reduces blood pressure so it is closer to normal and releases endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers.

Compare how you feel after one minute of chest breathing with how you feel after one minute of abdominal breathing. Take some time to practice deep breathing every day. If you only practice your aim when your in a battle you will get shot. We need to practice before we enter the conflict.

2) Challenge your negative thoughts.

The way we think has a lot to do with the way we feel, so changing your thoughts from a fearful, pessimistic orientation to a calm, positive orientation becomes essential in managing feelings of anxiety and worry. When feeling worried, it is helpful to say the following to yourself:

• This is an inconvenience and a disappointment. I have put up with disappointments all your life; I can tolerate this one too.
• In order to achieve pleasant results, I may have to do unpleasant things.
• Any solution using my adult judgment will be good enough to get the job done.
• I cannot predict the future or prevent things from happening. I can take life as it comes.
• I’m cooperating to get the job done as best I can.
• I have the power of choice and can chose and live on my own terms of good enough.
• I am no more or less loveable then anyone else.

3) Journaling

Writing our thoughts and feelings down on a piece of paper makes them tangible and concrete before our very eyes. We cannot evaluate abstract thoughts in our mind about our life or about ourselves. However, we can begin to sort them out when we see them in black and white in front of us.

To start the journaling process maybe useful to ask ourselves focusing questions. By answering these questions we are able to make our internalized, unconscious, unacceptable feelings conscious and concrete. This allows us to find relief from our conflicting logical and emotional reactions, which helps us to move forward. We can begin by using some focusing questions, such as:

“What is the worst part about it?”
“How does that worst part make me feel?”
“When else have I felt this way?”
“What am I trying achieve?”
“What scares me about this?”
“How will this affect my life in the long term?”
“What would be an ideal outcome?”
“What advice would I give to someone else in this situation?”

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Shared by: Aaron Karmin, LCPC, Contributing Blogger

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