Controlling Your Panic Button

It’s not something we’d like to think we’d ever be involved in, but if it ever happens, you need to be calm and under control. An emergency situation is something that requires us to act and think quickly under pressure. And if you’ve been in a stressful situation, you know that panicking doesn’t help at all. But it’s nothing to do with you, it’s actually part of our biology that we are meant to be reactive in these situations, because our bodies were built to escape dangerous situations, like a bear attack. The stress hormone, cortisol, is pumped through your body and you feel the surge of adrenaline. The problem with this is that when faced with a challenge that needs us to think critically, we react emotionally, and the fight or flight syndrome that we are feeling overwhelms us to the point where we can’t act in that situation as best as we can. But there are ways to control it, and it just requires one thing, practice.


There are many wonderful side-effects of meditation, from an improved focus to relaxation, but in practicing it properly, it’s the same as building up a reserve of calmness. We experience stress in different ways, but a situation where you need to act and think fast, the pressure can be one thing that proves too intense. A situation where someone has had a heart attack means that someone is minutes away from life or death. If you were in public and you needed to operate an automated external defibrillator, a device which you have never used before, you need to be calm and focused in order to pay attention to what the device is instructing you to do, which can be difficult when everyone is around you in a blind panic. Focus is something that meditation can teach you to do very well but it is something that can take time to build up.

If you need to find a way to get calm quickly, there are some breathing techniques that are used by adventurers, such as the Wim Hof method, which, when practiced every day, can bring down your stress levels. But even one session of doing it has profound effects on your body and increases the amount of oxygen you are getting into the bloodstream. The method is very deep breathing, punctuated by periods where you are “not breathing” i.e. letting the air out of your lungs and are just being. There are many apps that you can download too, and one that has been proving very effective is the Box Breathing one, but you don’t need an app to practice this. It’s breathing in for a count of 4, hold for 4, out for 4, and then not breathing for 4. You repeat for about five minutes or until you feel calm. And if someone tells you that it’s too hippy-dippy, box breathing is actually used by Navy Seals to calm themselves down before a mission. Being calm doesn’t have to be difficult, but it is really effective when an emergency arises. So practice for that day and be thankful if it never comes.

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