6 Strategies To Be Calm, Loving And Clear In A Stressful Situation

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5 Strategies to Be Calm, Loving and Clear in a Stressful Situation
Love, Family

We flew home recently and on the flight, my husband Chuck said he hurt his wrist while doing all the heavy lifting of luggage.  Since we woke up at 4:30 am to catch the flight, we were both tired.

After lunch, Chuck laid down for a nap.  When he woke up, his left arm was throbbing and radiating pain in his forearm. A few hours later, he came into my office and said he was worried he might be having have a heart attack and thought he should go to the hospital.  After all, one of the signs of a heart attack is radiating pain in your left arm.

Heading for the Hospital

Off we went.  I drove – the trip was about 15 minutes.  When I got in the car, I felt disoriented and could feel my heart beating so fast. My mind was filled with questions and concerns: “Is he okay?  What if he has a heart attack in the car?  We should have called an ambulance!”  I didn't want to say anything that would stress him out further.  I suggested we practice deep, slow mindful breathing which helped calm us down.

We got to the emergency room and I dropped him off at the front door and the nurse greeted him.  I parked the car and, when I got in a few minutes later, the nurse was already getting ready to hook Chuck up for an EKG.  What a relief, the treatment came before the paperwork.

Long story short, thorough testing did NOT indicate a heart attack. The doctor said it was probably due to a muscle injury from our travels.  We were home about 2 ½ hours after we left. Whew!

After something like this that is a scare (even when it turns out), you can move on and forget about it, glad it’s over, or you can learn something from this challenging situation…

Lessons I am taking from this challenging situation

What you practice grows stronger!

Practicing relationship skills will build new brain patterns that over time will be activated more than the old skills.  Then  – when your partner is upset with you for not listening, your child throws a tantrum at the store, when your phone battery dies during a business call, or when you have an emergency – you can be calm, act with love and think clearly.

Many people have a tragedy that becomes the impetus to change their life.  Do you really need a tragedy or an almost tragedy to start practicing ways of thinking, feeling and behaving that you really do want to master to have more love, connection and intimacy (or health and whatever else is important to you)?

A good question to ask yourself is “What am I practicing right now?”

1. Respect your partner's requests

We all want to be respected and when your partner or a loved one (or even a co-worker at work) asks for support, respect their request. (This is such a general statement that I’m not suggesting you do whatever they ask. However, consider if this is important and if it is appropriate for you.)

I never disagree with my husband about medical requests like this. If he wants to go to the hospital, I’m ready.  (Hmm, I should probably be more conscious of this lesson regarding other issues.)

Treat this important person in your life the way you want to be treated. Can you think of someone or a situation where this would increase your love and connection?

2. Act with urgency especially when the situation could be life-threatening

If your partner wants to go to the ER, and it could be life-threatening, call an ambulance as soon as possible. Calling 9-1-1 is even more important if you cannot get them right out the door and into a car or it’s during rush hour, etc.  Delays could be critical.

The reason I said to leave as soon as possible was that I had just answered the call as Chuck was walking into my office to say he wanted to go. I told the caller to hold on, told Chuck I would be ready to leave in a minute and then told the caller I couldn't do the call and why.  He was very understanding.  When I was driving to the ER, I was concerned the few minutes I took could have been the difference between life and death.  It didn't but it had me realize that if anything like this happens again, I won’t spend one minute delaying the most important thing – protecting someone – my husband’s – life, health and safety over something else.

Another example of urgency is when your partner or someone else calls out for you = literally calling your name out from another room in the house or calling you on the phone.  Do you usually drop what you are doing and answer the call to see what they need?  I didn’t know Chuck was changing the filter today in our attic and I thought I heard him call for me.  I was in the middle of writing this blog and could barely hear him.  He wanted me to take the dirty air filter he had just removed. I’m glad I went and helped him and it only took a few minutes.

We teach people how to treat us so if you want them to come running when we call for them, then we need to be someone they can count on, too.

3. Manage your Emotions

Stressful situations and emergencies trigger strong emotion and typically our brain's flight or fight response usually takes over.  If you have had an experience like this in the past, you know that you or others can "over-react" (nice term for "freak out!").  

It's best if you can keep yourself calm(er), so you can think clearly.   Try not to express your fears in the moment. Your partner is in fear and doesn't need to hear your version.  Be reassuring and loving. Don’t let the stress leak out in emotional reactions that add more stress. 

By the way, if you over-react around medical personnel, they may focus on calming you instead of the other person or make you leave if you don’t calm down immediately. (This happened to me, I calmed down immediately and I was able to accompany him to the hospital.  It was at the airport in Venice when Chuck fainted due to illness and they whisked him in an ambulance to the hospital. It was a severe allergic reaction after a 2 week cruise eating shrimp and lobster!)

We want to be present with the people in our lives but for most of us that does not come naturally.  I'm so grateful I’ve been practicing these skills regularly as part of the relationship course I lead. As soon as I got in the car and realized how stressed I was, I automatically started breathing slowly and consciously to maintain a calm presence with Chuck and drive safely to the hospital. I sensed the tension in my body and was able to relax my hands from gripping the steering wheel and let drop my shoulders to sit more relaxed. 

4. Be Grateful for this moment no matter what is happening

Feel gratitude ... even in the challenging moments. Gratitude?  Yes ….   Gratitude for a good parking spot, that he was seen right away, that the testing was done quickly and showed no sign of a heart attack and for the two nurses and the doctor for their great service and fast response. 

Two things I have learned about being grateful:  

Gratitude isn't about being grateful just when things are going well.  Gratitude is really about a way of living, appreciating the gift of every moment.  You may feel like you have lots of time to be grateful later, but you don't.  There is no guarantee how long you will be here. You and I are so lucky to have this moment.   
Gratitude that is not strongly felt has little impact on you in the long run.  Keeping a daily journal and writing the 3-5 things you are grateful for can move the dial to being more happy if you feel the gratitude when you are writing about what happened.  If you are going through the motions in keeping the journal, it doesn't have much impact on living a life of gratitude and being happy.  Feel the gratitude wash over you – and then your brain rewires itself for more gratitude.  Over time, your brain triggers feeling grateful more often instead of complaining or being sad.  You really can reprogram your brain for happiness.   Check out Brother David Steindl-Rast’s YouTube video “Want to be happy?  Be grateful” to learn more about the relationship between being grateful and happiness.

5. Remember:  "Life is short. Be kind now."

Be kind and patient. Be kind and patient with yourself as you practice new skills.  I really mean it.  Let's be honest, beating yourself up because you are not perfect doesn't have you be a better person.   And the same is true for the people in your life. Be patient with others.  Everyone (including you) is usually doing their best given the challenges they have.  Kindness melts the edges of emotions and paves the way for more love.

Do you feel you are drifting apart, having more disagreements, disconnecting?  Take action now to come closer together. Share with them your desire for more connection and intimacy, find out if there is something they want to tell you (and don't be defensive if it is hard to hear).  Knowing their truth gives you clarity about action you can take to create a more loving relationship.  

6. Create your own crisis by design  

Chuck and I are using this incident as a continuing wakeup call to elevate our health practices.   

Do not wait for life to give you a crisis!  Create urgency for action and then take the action.  Life is too short.

Given I’m a relationship coach, I invite you to create a crisis for more connection, intimacy, joy and self-expression. 

Pick one relationship that you want to focus on – partner, boss, kids, parents, siblings, friends -  or just pick whomever you are with in the moment.
Pick something you will practice –  waiting to speak until the other is done talking (not interrupting), being grateful for something specific with this person in the moment, feeling your feet on the floor and letting yourself settle, taking a few minutes of breathing deeply or counting your breath.  What you practice with one person benefits all your relationships. 

If you knew you had a short time left with your partner or family, what would you do?  Do it now!

Connect with me

If you’ve gotten this far, I invite you to take action to powerfully engage.  Reading this won’t make as much difference as actually picking a relationship and something to practice that will support you.

Leave a comment here to let me know what crisis you are creating and what you will be practicing (rather than waiting for a tragedy to befall you).  If you would like support, I’d be happy to help you identify what you could practice.

You are also invited to join my Facebook Group “Your Journey to Lasting Love” for men and women who are committed to being the best partner they can be.

Happy New Year.  Wishing you love and joy every day. 

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Marilyn Sutherland is a Relationship, Leadership and Personal Development coach.   If you're ready to commit to 2018 being the start of a new relationship, schedule a Lasting Love Breakthrough Session relationship here. 

This article was originally published at my blog on my website - it's rewritten some. Reprinted with permission from the author.