Let’s be honest, things happen beyond our control — both while traveling and while we’re at home — so it’s important to have some tools ready and available during those difficult situations in our lives. We have gathered our best tips to help you stay calm during a crisis.
Whether it’s a missed flight, lost or stolen passport, sickness, disaster, or pandemic, we can’t avoid uncomfortable situations in our lives. “It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters” is one of my favorite quotes and something I’ve personally struggled with for the better part of my life.
Up until about a year ago, I felt as if I had zero control over how I reacted to difficult situations in my life. My nervous system was ready to go into fight or flight at any given moment and sometimes even the smallest thing could set me into a panic spiral.
If you find yourself struggling during challenging times in your life, first let me say, you are NOT alone! This is completely normal!
Luckily, there are so many tools to help shift from a person who reacts to every external circumstance to a person who can stay calm even when things get tough. These are some of the tools I have found to be extremely helpful!
10 Ways To Stay Calm During Difficult Times
Remember To Breathe
I know it’s not always at the front of your mind when your body is in fight or flight mode, but taking a moment to breathe deeply is so important in a crisis. Neuroscientists have proven that breathing at different paces or paying careful attention to your breath engages different parts of the brain.
Slow, deep breaths activate the hypothalamus to send neurohormones that inhibit stress-producing hormones and trigger a relaxation response in the body. In addition, the arousal centre of the brain is not activated and we can stay and face the situation in front of us instead of going into panic mode.
In addition to blogging, I’m a breathwork guide and hypnotherapist and have found it to be one of the most powerful tools to shift my mental and emotional state.
Read more: 10 Ways Breathwork Can Change Your Life
Take A Moment of Silence
Whether you want to call this “meditation” or just “taking a moment of silence,” carving out some time to limit your external distractions is extremely important during a time of crisis. If you can make this a daily habit, it becomes so much easier to do when life feels challenging.
As someone who used to reach for alcohol, drugs, food, and binging on tv as a way to numb myself when I didn’t want to feel whatever emotions were coming up, I am so grateful I now automatically reach for meditation instead.
One thing I would like to point out is that there are a thousand ways to meditate. People always tell me they can’t empty their mind and it makes me so happy to be able to tell them that is perfectly normal and totally acceptable! It takes tremendous practice to be able to empty your mind. Most meditators rarely achieve this and, in my opinion, it’s not always the goal in meditation.
I’ve practiced mindful meditation for many years and I look at it as a way to become aware of what thoughts are unconsciously playing on a loop in my head — and ultimately controlling my emotional state. One of my favorite teachers calls it “watching the show” that’s going on in our heads.
I now practice transcendental meditation, which does involve emptying my mind, but I still really love coming back to mindful meditation.
Connect To The Present Moment
If you’re too wound up to close your eyes and sit in silence, here’s another great way to bring your mind back to the present moment.
For twenty to sixty seconds, concentrate solely on the back of your index finger. Let your mind and body be consumed by it. Move your finger close to you and study the lines and rivets. Do this while taking deep, slow breaths — inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth.
This is a quick and easy way to shift your mind back into the present moment instead of getting carried away in fear-based thoughts about what “might” happen in the future. Focusing on your hands is an ancient Ayurvedic practice that helps to ground the soul and provide stability in the physical body.
Shift Your Perspective
Isn’t it fascinating how two people can look at the same situation and react in completely different ways?
This is something that can take a little practice, but shifting your perspective is a Neurolinguistic Programming method that I absolutely love using in difficult situations. In NLP, they call it reframing and once you get good at it, you can take any situation and reframe it with an empowering narrative.
In unexpected situations, it’s natural to panic or focus on fear, but it’s not usually the best thing for us — unless we are being chased by a lion or some other situation where our natural fight or flight instinct is actually protecting us. Many times, the perspective we automatically choose is something our brain thinks will keep us safe, but it’s not always the most logical perspective. Sometimes, without realizing it, we are giving our power away by seeing life through our limited lens.
It’s important, however, to have enough awareness (this is where meditation and breathwork can be very useful) to realize that you always have the power to choose your perspective. So why wouldn’t you choose something that makes you feel empowered rather than deflated?
Tapping (or EFT) is a relatively new technique for me. I have known about it for years, but I never actually took the time to practice it until recently. Now that I’ve been practicing it more, I’m blown away by my ability to shift from an overly emotional state — where I am so upset that I can barely breathe — to a calm, centered state in just a few minutes.
In a nutshell, Tapping is an alternative acupressure therapy treatment used to restore balance to disrupted energy. This method has helped many people, including myself, work through deep trauma where other methods have barely scratched the surface. I use it whenever I’m feeling anxious as well, especially if I’m not able to sit for a longer mediation or breathwork session.
If you want to give Tapping a try, The Tapping Solution has some great free tapping meditations on their app.
Limit Your Time on Social Media
There’s a lot of noise on social media and most of it isn’t positive. I don’t know about you, but if I spend too much time on social media, I feel extremely exhausted. While it’s tempting to reach for a distraction like social media when you’re facing a difficult situation, it can deplete your energy quickly.
I recommend limiting your time online and, instead, spending time out in nature, meditating, or doing something you love. This will help to raise your vibration and mood, which helps you to think clearly and make better decisions.
I wrote about this recently in my post about how to work from home efficiently, but limiting your time on social media is imperative in times when you are already feeling stressed. If you find it difficult to limit your time online, here’s a list of apps that may help you.
Get Out Into Nature
If possible, get outside at least once a day! Nature can lift your mood and help ground you. There’s tons of studies out there about people who spend time in nature experiencing less depression and anxiety. I could be having the worst day and a walk outside changes everything for me.
If going for a walk isn’t possible for some reason, just spending some time outside, on a porch or backyard, listening to a recording with sounds of nature, or bringing nature to you with indoor plants can still do wonders for your mental health.
Read more: 10 Of The Most Spiritual Places On Earth
Call A Friend
Nowadays, many of us are so used to texting that it feels unnatural to pick up the phone and call a friend. I know I tend to prefer to texting, but when I’m struggling mentally, it helps to actually hear someone’s voice instead of reading a text.
I’m really starting to get onboard with video calls as well. I used to think it was weird, but my friends and family are scattered across the globe and I often don’t realize how much I miss that connection with people. If you have a group of friends that all know each other, I have found it’s fun to create virtual happy hours too!
Focus on Gratitude
This is something that is often overlooked in our society where we’re constantly looking to collect more material things to make us happy, but ever since my plant medicine experience in Ecuador, I have made gratitude a part of my daily life.
There is absolutely always something to be grateful for and we often overlook the simplest things because we take them for granted — access to fresh water, shelter, food, etc. In difficult times, it can be an amazing practice to shift your focus to gratitude instead of what you think you are missing in your life.
Look For The Lessons
It’s my belief that everything happens for a reason. I’m not saying that I immediately see the lesson when I’m in the midst of a difficult situation, but after some reflection, the lessons are always there.
It is said that pain is inevitable but suffering is optional. Difficult situations happen to everyone, but resisting what is happening is often what causes suffering in our lives. When we think something “shouldn’t” be happening, we suffer. Instead, I choose to find the lesson that this situation is trying to teach me — whether it’s that I need to take better care of my body, make sure I am getting enough rest, slow down, or make another change in my life.
The next time you feel like you’re frustrated or in a tough spot, try asking yourself “What is this trying to teach me?” The best part is that you get to choose the lesson — whatever makes you feel the most empowered!