When we are faced with any emergency situation we get stressed and our bodies go into what is best described as “survival mode” or what experts term “fight or flight syndrome”. Basically what your body does to prepare itself for the stress overload is to automatically overproduce the stress hormone called cortisol. This hormone sends a signal to your brain and slows down processes in your pre-frontal cortex which is where decisions are made and where your thought process is based. To put it another way the captain of the ship is no longer in control and instead the survival mode automatically switches on and takes over. So you see our bodies are biologically hardwired to handle stress overload and panic via an emotional approach. All emergency situations should be handled with a logical/rational approach or else the result is delayed reactions and bad decision making. So what you’re doing instead is overriding (or switching off) your body’s normal reaction so you can continue to think and function rationally. Emergency first responders have to do this all the time in order to make good decisions and act quickly.

Keeping calm is something that is extremely difficult for some people but is necessary in order to think clearly and make good decisions. Panicking and freaking out is dangerous and can get in the way of performing vital tasks such as calling for professional assistance, controlling bleeding or performing CPR. You cannot allow stress or your emotions to lead your decisions and actions. Yes it is easier said than done but panicking accomplishes absolutely nothing and doesn’t save any time at all (and time is an important factor in the outcome of an emergency).

So how do we handle emergencies in a controlled manner all the while remaining calm?

#1 Take a Deep Breath

Breathe in, breathe out. As hard as it may be, try to relax. Continue to breathe normally.

#2 Assess the Situation

You should assess every aspect of the situation. See what has happened, what’s going on, any hazards and what needs to be done.

#3 Develop a Strategy – Act Decisively

Emergency situations call for a good strategic approach to bring them to a positive outcome. There may be more than one option for resolving the problem. You must evaluate and assess your surroundings, every aspect of the emergency at hand and make an educated decision based on those evaluations and assessments.

#4 Stay Focused!

Doing something purposeful will calm you down. Assign yourself a task and stay focused. That way you won’t be focusing on the horror of the situation but instead focusing on the task at hand. For example if someone is bleeding out, instead of thinking about the person potentially dying and the sight of the blood, do something about it, grab something absorbent and apply direct pressure to the wound.

#5 Fortify Yourself Mentally

Some tasks that you may be faced with may not be pleasant. You have to fortify your mind and fill it with positive thoughts of yourself doing something to alleviate the problem and being a key instrument in bringing the emergency to a positive resolution.

#5 Remember Your Training

No amount of knowledge or training can adequately prepare you to handle an emergency situation. The real test of whether or not you handle the situation correctly won’t occur until you’ve actually experienced an emergency. I can write this as I have experienced a few serious life-threatening emergencies in my life.

Any firefighter, paramedic, police officer or first aider will tell you that remembering their training and sticking by it is what eases the anxiety in an emergency situation. It gives them a kind of confidence that they have been trained to deal with this particular situation and that they can hopefully use their skills and knowledge to bring it to a positive resolution. Good training and knowledge complimented by a calm, resolute demeanour usually increases the odds of a positive outcome.

‘Practice makes perfect’. How many of us have heard this line thrown around? For the best chance of remaining calm in an emergency situation it is a good idea to practice and rehearse what you and your family would do in any given particular emergency situation. For example have you thought about what you would do if you house caught on fire? What about an earthquake happening in the night? Daddy falling off the ladder while cleaning the gutters? By practicing drills for these different scenarios, you will be better prepared should the situation actually occur in real life.

Regardless of what type of emergency situation it is, the bottom line is that keeping calm and levelheaded is extremely important for the best possible outcome. Decisions can be made quickly, correct judgments can be made and people’s lives saved. Hysteria and excitement only gets in the way and complicates the situation further.

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