How to Keep Your Head in a Crisis

Everyone has their own natural response to stress. Some of us are easily overwhelmed while others seem to become more focused. While scientists have found that your response to stress is partly innate, much of it is learned.

Regardless of how well you currently handle stress, you can become more effective with practice and awareness.

Use these key ideas to become the calmest, coolest, and most collected person you know:

  1. Identify the problem. What exactly is wrong? It might be obvious, but sometimes it’s not. Before you get yourself all worked up, identify the challenge. You might find there really isn’t an issue. Sometimes, we’re good at being dramatic when no drama is necessary.
  2. Determine if there’s anything you can do. Now that you know the challenge you’re facing, seek a solution. Ask yourself if there’s anything you can do. Understand that your thoughts don’t have the power to change anything other than your own behavior.
  3. What do you want? What is the new circumstance you want to experience? It’s one thing to know you have an issue, it’s another to know the outcome you desire. You can’t create a solution if you’re not clear on what you’re trying to accomplish.
  4. Avoid worry. Rather than focusing on the doom and gloom that may or may not happen, give your attention to solutions. What can you do to create the outcome you desire? While your mind is generating solutions, it can’t be worried. You can save yourself a lot of negative emotion by keeping your attention on finding a way out.
  5. Stay present. Avoid projecting into the future and imagining all the horrible outcomes that may never come to pass. This is how we create worry and anxiety. If you find your mind wandering to negative places, bring yourself back to the present. Look, hear, smell, and feel your immediate surroundings. Describe them to yourself.
  6. Breathe. Relaxed, easy breathing leads to a relaxed, easy attitude. The solution to many negative emotions lies in the breath.
  7. Relax your body. Stress releases chemicals that cause your muscles to tense. You can counteract this phenomenon by relaxing. Relax your shoulders and the other muscles of your body. Try to be loose like a noodle. Learn what a relaxed body and mind feel like. It will be easier to recognize when you’re experiencing stress.
  8. Stay busy. An idle mind is much more challenging to control than one that is focused on a task. Keep working on your solution. If there’s nothing more you can do, avoid just sitting around and worrying. Find an activity to keep your mind occupied.
  9. Be grateful. Studies have shown that feeling gratitude lowers cortisol levels by over 20%. Before you work yourself into a frenzy, list the things that make you feel grateful. Notice how much better you feel.
  10. Relabel your emotions. You’re not worried and stressed, you’re cautious and stimulated. It sounds like a trivial difference, but it makes a big difference.

Even if you’re the most anxious person you know, you can learn to keep your head in a crisis. Your reaction to stressful situations is mostly learned. You can learn to think and behave in a new way.

It’s been said that life is just one crisis after another. It might not be quite that bad, but life is full of challenges. Imagine being able to deal with those challenges more comfortably and effectively.

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