How to stay calm in a crisis: and why you should

We’ve probably all heard the one about the swan – calm and serene on the top, paddling like mad down below. But which half are you in a crisis? The Cambridge Dictionary defines calm as ‘peaceful, quiet, and without worry’, and we probably all know people who seem to naturally remain that way no matter what life throws at them.  If you’re not one of them, you may not realise just how useful it can be to keep your cool and manage your emotions.

Of course, it’s much easier to stay calm when life is going well, but there are lots of benefits to being that way even in a crisis. We all laugh at Corporal Jones in Dad’s Army or Basil Fawlty when they flap about things going wrong, but it’s rarely helpful in doing anything about the situation!

Benefits of being calm

  • It helps you think more clearly and deal with whatever chaos is happening around you: it’s well documented that the stress response turns off your ‘thinking brain’
  • You’re more likely to be successful in reaching goals: ‘TalentSmart’ says that 90% of top performers in the workplace have a high EQ (emotional intelligence) quotient, and one of the markers of high EQ is the ability to stay calm under pressure
  • It helps you stay optimistic and positive: focusing on the positives in any situation, or on solutions rather than obstacles, helps reduce negative self-talk
  • It’s good for your health:
    - a study at Penn State University showed that ‘adults who fail to maintain positive moods such as cheerfulness or calm when faced with the minor stressors of everyday life appear to have elevated levels of inflammation’
    - The European Heart Journal said that ‘the incidence of heart attack was almost five times higher in the two hours after an angry outburst, and the risk of stroke increased three-fold’

Interestingly, the Oxford Dictionary defines calm as both
  • the absence of strong emotions; calm feelings
  • not showing or feeling nervousness, anger, or other strong emotions
So, apparently, even ‘fake it till you make it’ helps. Calm is a skill you can learn, and here are some ways you can bring more of it into your life.

How to keep calm under pressure:

  • Have a good start to the day – follow a short calming ritual every morning, whether that’s breakfast before the kids get up, a cup of tea before leaving for work, ten minutes yoga, or listening to calming music in the car. Starting in a rush will carry that feeling on through the day. See more about this here.
  • Check your reactions to stressful events regularly.  Learn new coping strategies if the old ones aren’t working for you – you will find quite a few elsewhere on this blog. Relaxation, colouring, and exercise are just a few suggestions.
  • Take a moment before you react; avoid a kneejerk reaction by taking a few deep breaths. If you can, consider removing yourself from the situation for a brief time and responding later.
  • Refuse to take things personally: if someone’s comments or actions are rude, offensive or upsetting, it’s coming from their lives and attitudes and may have nothing to do with you.
  • Eliminate clutter from your environment. This includes all types of clutter, including untidiness, excessive noise, interruptions, and other distractions, as well as emotional drains.
  • Get enough sleep. It’s much easier to remain calm when you’ve had enough sleep, which helps to reduce the stress in your mind and body. Being well-rested also allows you to handle stressful situations better. However busy you are, you’ll usually get more done if you maintain your normal sleep schedule.
  • Talk to a friend: sharing your frustrations can help you see different solutions.
  • Look at the big picture: will this really matter in an hour, a week or a year?
  • Aim for excellence, not perfection. Manage your expectations and keep them realistic.

Staying calm in challenging situations can be tricky, but it’s a skill you can learn. Practice your new attitude with the least chaotic situations first to get yourself into the habit of using them. Move up to the bigger ones later, until you are staying amazingly cool, calm, and collected at all times.



Author: is a professional stress management coach, specialising in working with individuals and smaller employers to minimise stress and maximise feeling in control.Debbie is the author of Their Worlds, Your Words and has co-written the Hypnotherapy Handbook both of which are available from Amazon.
Find out more about Debbie's services on  or phone 01977 678593