Am I just crazy, or does it seem like we have more things to worry about today than ever before? All around us are negative reports that the economic recovery is weakening; heat waves, hurricanes and other natural disasters pound our communities; and gas prices are out of control. Presidential candidates, anxious to show themselves as the answer to everything, paint a dismal picture of our world, and then blame all the problems on their opponents. The stock market is experiencing turmoil as it grapples with an unprecedented array economic forces. No wonder people are losing their heads.
Fortunately, things are not really as bad as they may appear. I don’t mean to minimize these situations that affect real people. But, with all of this focus on negative circumstances and events, it is easy to lose sight of all the good things that are going on in the world and in each of our own lives. Few of us can do anything to change the economy or the weather. So, why do we spend so much time and energy fretting about them? Whether you are worried about global challenges, or dealing with personal and family challenges that come to all of us, here are 5 steps to help you remain calm in times of crisis.
- Stop, look and listen. This is how I was taught to cross the street as a 5 year old. But it’s remarkably good advice for us as adults. When things get crazy, we need to stop, take a break, and step away from the situation long enough to be able to think about it from a clear perspective. Too often we react without thinking, we become upset without getting all of the facts, we panic when there is no need to panic. When tempted to act rashly: stop, look, and listen.
- Get your information from reliable sources. Without a doubt there is more information available today than ever in our history. Much of it is accurate and informative. But, with the easy access of internet sites, blogs, and online news groups, it is more and more common for information to be slanted, sensationalized, or outright false. Recently, the publisher of an investment newsletter picked up a story on the internet, which he republished in his newsletter. The article stated that United Airlines had filed for bankruptcy. Since the only date on the article was in the URL, he didn’t realize that the article was actually 6 years old! News of the bankruptcy flew across the internet causing United’s stock to drop from $12 a share to around $3 before someone actually checked with United and the truth was brought to light. Why get in a tizzy until we have checked and rechecked the information, from a variety of sources, then taken time to consider a response?
- Be Prepared. I happen to live right on top of a major earthquake fault line. Every September, our community hosts a mock earthquake. 6 cannon blasts will signal the “disaster” and each community member will put their emergency plan into effect, as if a real earthquake had occurred. The drill will be calm, orderly and organized as everyone goes through the motions they have learned in training. Our hope is that because of this drill, in the event of a real emergency, despite the inevitable chaos, people will know what to do to get organized and to take care of their family and neighbors. Similarly, you need to anticipate difficult situations that might occur and try to prepare for them in advance. I’m not recommending that you focus on the negative. Good advice is to plan for the best, but prepare for the worst. If you have planned and prepared in advance, you will have earned the right to be calm when everyone else is in a panic.
- Think Proactively. No situation is ever as bad as it seems at first. A little creative thinking can often produce amazing solutions. How many times has what seemed to be a devastating challenge ended up becoming the catalyst for positive change? Challenges breed personal growth and innovative ideas. So, rather than worrying, get out a pencil and paper and start brainstorming. Use your logical mind to study it out and come up with a solution – then take proactive action.
- Look for the Positive. For every item of bad news, there is also good news to be found if we will just look for it. The truth is that we normally find what we are looking for. Make it a habit to concentrate on the good things that are happening around you.
Follow these ideas and you will be more calm in any crisis so that you can keep your head when everyone around you is losing theirs.