How to Stay Calm in a Crisis

Yes, things will occasionally go wrong. Sometimes it is simple errors; sometimes, it is a massive blunder that significantly impacts you, friends, family, or company.

It may be an injury to someone, you get lost, or you have lost a considerable amount of money.

You may find that your default reaction is to panic. After all, why wouldn’t you get in a panic? For example, what will you do after you’ve lost the money? How can you help your friend or family member who just fainted and is now lying there looking terrible?

Panicking may be the default action; however, it’s also entirely useless. If this is your response, you will likely make matters worse, not better, and you will likely cause more problems than you solve.

Your best response is to become calm and clinical. You will appear cold and emotionless, but this is the most efficient and valuable way to react to such a situation. Assuming this attitude is how you’re going to help everyone deal with the problem — you can panic, cry or mourn later.

However, the question is how you can overcome that initial emotional response. How can you keep cool when everything and everyone is spinning out of control around you?

Breathe and Slow Down

First, assess the situation. Step back to breathe, clear your mind, and observe the situation’s facts, flow, and influencers.

Your initial impulse is to rush in, lash out, or cry is caused by a flood of adrenaline, the ancient fight or flight hormone. It can be beneficial for fueling your reaction speed, increasing muscular strength, and more if there is an immediate need for physical intervention. However, it also suppresses activity in the prefrontal cortex — the part of the brain that we use for future planning and reasoning.

To overcome this adrenaline rush, you must learn to control your breathing and calm yourself down. It activates your parasympathetic nervous system via your ‘rest and digest’ state.

So, breathe in through your nose deeply and then let it fill your lungs. Then exhale through your nose slowly until you can feel the calming effect. Don’t worry about what people around you are thinking. You have to get calmed down to focus.

Anticipate your thoughts, and don’t go in in a massive rush. If you rush, your thoughts will become scattered, and you will make matters worse. Remember the adage in time-critical situations: less haste, more speed.

Look for the Answer

When you are calm and clinical, you can look for the best solution to the problem at hand. Look at the situation as an outsider, remove yourself emotionally from the event. View the situation as an exercise and narrow down your actions to the most valuable few options.

While in this mode, you may be afraid to act. Influencers around you will pressure you to take the easy way out, which may cause even more damage.

Each action you consider will have associated risks of a negative outcome and might still make matters worse. Put every option in a mental SWOT diagram. Understand the strengths of the group, the weaknesses, the opportunities with each option, and the threats to successful completion. What solution provides the best chance to learn, grow, and benefit everyone, not just yourself.

However, once you’ve thought carefully about the options, received objective input from other trusted associates, and effectively weighed up the best course of action, the next step is to act. Even if you are uncertain, take positive and decisive action.

When you do this, you must be willing to accept the possibility that things still might go wrong and that it might be your fault. It means taking responsibility and being accountable for good or bad results. Be willing to put yourself out on a limb and to face the storm that might come. You have to be ready to abandon the blame game and deal with the consequences of your actions.

While this process is simple, it is not easy. Many would distract you from taking action or even contemplating solutions, and they need to be recognized and dealt with during this time. Once your effort has been completed and the issues resolved, revisit the entire process and see how you could improve the decision, results, and planning for the next event. Trust me, and there will be the next event!




Ron McIntyre is a Leadership Anthropologist, Author, and Consultant, who, in semi-retirement, is looking to help people who really want to make a difference.

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Ron McIntyre

Ron McIntyre

Ron McIntyre is a Leadership Anthropologist, Author, and Consultant, who, in semi-retirement, is looking to help people who really want to make a difference.

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