How to Stay Calm, Anxiety-Free, in a Crisis
Thursday, June 29 2017 Tanya J. Peterson, MS, NCC
When dealing with a crisis, it can be difficult to stay calm and anxiety-free. After all, “crisis” implies catastrophe, disaster, and sometimes even near-Armageddon. In reality, a crisis can be of any size or nature and is something that causes distress to those involved. Facing any type of crisis can create new anxiety where none existed before, and it can aggravate existing anxiety and anxiety disorders. While it’s natural to experience heightened anxiety during a crisis, it’s not a rule. You can stay calm and anxiety free in a crisis. Here’s how to do it.
Crises are a part of life. Quite likely, you’ve experienced more than one crisis in your life already and will probably experience more. My most recent crisis is ongoing and involves a computer meltdown. I’ve also experienced crises in the form of traumatic brain injury, psychiatric hospitalization, and more. The events differ, but they hold the potential to disrupt life and increase anxiety.
How Crises Can Impact Anxiety
An unexpected, negative event can stop us in our tracks. It can cause anxious racing thoughts that seem to consume us. Can we think of nothing other than the crisis and its consequences? It often seems like we can’t. We begin to overthink, to ruminate. Worries, fears, and what-ifs spiral out of control. Frequently, we catastrophize, inflating the problem so that it becomes even more difficult to handle. This heightened anxiety can disrupt sleep, insert itself into our relationships, and interfere in daily functioning.
Indeed, a crisis can wreak havoc on our lives by causing our anxiety to skyrocket. When anxiety takes over, it feels impossible to stay calm. Fortunately, each and every one of us has the power and ability to remain anxiety-free in a crisis.
Stay Calm and Anxiety-Free in a Crisis
It's okay—and perfectly normal—for a crisis to cause distress and anxiety. That doesn't mean, however, that we must stay in this agitated state. The tips that follow will help you to remain calm and anxiety-free in a crisis.
Shape your perspective. There are many negatives in a crisis situation, but not everything is negative. Intentionally discover what is still going right. What positive actions can you do more of to increase what's working and what's going well? In choosing your perspective, you're not ignoring the problem, but you are keeping it from consuming you.
Be solution-focused. Looking at all of the problems created during a crisis can be incredibly overwhelming. Instead, back up and break the problems into workable bits. How can you manage each piece? Find small solutions within each area.
Think of a broken piece of pottery. When you look at the whole, it just looks like a mess. If you take that mess and try to fix it all at once by putting glue on all of the pieces at the same time and shoving them together, it doesn't work. If you continue to look at the broken mess, you might be tempted to throw it away. If you do that, though, you'll be trashing a lot of beauty that remains. When you separate it into chunks and repair it piece by piece, you'll recover the good. This is what it means to be solution-focused in a crisis.
Find opportunities. In any crisis, big or small, there are opportunities to grow. With my computer veritably melted, I've been able to do work-related reading that I need to do but haven't. Years ago, when I was in the hospital, I was able to ponder my priorities, values, and goals, and I had the support to create action plans. Look at your own crisis. How can it shape you? Think of someone you admire. How would he/she handle this? Can you identify traits and strengths you want to develop?
Reach out. Sometimes, anxiety tells us that we "should" be able to handle something ourselves, without needing help. This is one of anxiety's lies. In reality, humans need each other, and connecting with someone for help and support can make solutions and opportunities easier to find.
Breathe. Meditate. Be mindful. Drink tea. Sometimes anxiety, and even panic, come anyway, despite what you're doing to remain calm. That is part of a crisis. When this happens, take time to stop and breathe deeply. Practice mindfulness and meditation to return your attention to the present moment and away from the worries and fears. Take plenty of breaks to drink tea to soothe your body and mind. Then return to the above strategies to become anxiety-free again.
A crisis can derail us and increase anxiety. By choosing our perspective, adopting a solution-focused approach, finding opportunities for personal growth, and reaching out for help and support, we can remain calm and anxiety-free in any crisis.