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How to stay calm in the midst of chaosWhether we’re at work facing a difficult situation or at home trying to put the kids to bed, stress can come upon us in an instance.

It can be easy to lose control and composure when we’re facing chaos because we get emotional and find ourselves overreacting. Often it is triggered by a sensation that we are helpless or do not have control of a given situation.

I have often lost my temper with my kids while trying to put them to bed and regretted it an hour later after they’re asleep.

Or in a work conversation where I felt stiff in my neck and back because of some unnerving news or development, where I felt as though I spoke irrationally.

No matter how smart we are, it can be difficult to stay calm in the midst of chaos, especially these days when we feel that moment is threatening our livelihood.

Uncertainty in the workplace to the unpredictability of life around us, any small occurrence can trigger stress, anxiety or tension making us behave inappropriately.

Over the last few years in my journey of learning to deal with uncertainty, I have learned to regain my composure more quickly especially in stressful situations. I re-learned how to stay calm in the midst of chaos so that I don’t lose my temper or act out emotionally at work.

Here are three tips on how to stay calm in the midst of chaos:

1. Breathe

Sitting behind a computer slouched over with our face glaring at the screen is not a good way to be productive and energized. In fact whether we’re working in an office setting or looking at our devices on the go, the fact is that more of us are hunched over than ever before.

And the more our shoulders hunch over, the less oxygen gets into our lungs, thereby depleting our brain of much needed nourishment in blood flow.

Every once in a while during the day, push away from the table, stand up, broaden the shoulders and take 7 deep breaths. Focus on getting as much into your lungs as possible. Stretch back the shoulders every time you inhale filling up the lungs. Breathe deeply from the stomach rather than the lungs, using the nose to inhale in order to bring in the vitality of life.

Proper breathing can elevate our mood, give us mental clarity , reduce our stress and give us a positive feeling of relaxation and control. Learning to stay calm in the midst of chaos means learning to change our breathing, going from unconscious shallow breaths to controlling the deep breaths.

Usually when I feel stress, my body tells me by giving me neck aches and clouding my mind with worrisome thoughts. Whether I’m at work or trying to get the kids to brush their teeth at night, deep breathing has been able to help me become more calm and relaxed despite the stressful situation.

While there are lots of videos out there for learning how to breathe, this one helps me stay calm in the midst of chaos: video of Dr. Weil doing an example of a powerful breathing exercise.

Also, if you haven’t been bitten by the yoga bug, it is worth considering. My favorite yoga youtube video. I’ve been practicing yoga for a short while now and what it does is to teach us how to use the breath optimally through slow movement of the body.

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” –Zen Buddhist monk Thích Nhất Hạnh


2. Work on the posture

Standing tall with our shoulders straight back helps us to stay calm in the midst of the chaos and feel strong. A large part of the reason I believe fixing our posture helps us to stay calm in the midst of chaos is that it allows sufficient oxygen to the lungs and blood flow to the brain and organs.

Yes, it’s about changing our physiology as much as our psychology.

I have a bad habit of slouching that has stuck with me from when I was a kid. So I have to remind myself consciously to walk straight and stand as if there’s a string pulling my head up.

This study from Columbia and Harvard indicate that there are numerous benefits of what they call an expansive posture which translates to reduced stress and more confidence.

If you’re sitting and facing a hostile and stressful situation, get up and straighten your back. Go to the wall and put your back into it aligning yourself vertically. Interrupting the physical pattern of posture can help stay calm in the midst of chaos.

During times of change and uncertainty in our jobs and in our lives, we often allow our bodies to be pulled down as if we’re carrying the weight of the world upon our fragile shoulders.

More: 6 techniques to improve your posture.

“Then imitate the action of the tiger; stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood” – Shakespeare

Act energetic, confident and strong and you will become energetic, confident and strong.


3. Ground yourself

Touch the table, take a sip of water, go for a walk outside and look up at the sun and sky. Breathe in the air and know that this moment in chaos will be behind you soon enough. Things are never as bad as they seem in that moment of chaos.

We get overwhelmed in the midst of chaos sometimes because we feel as though the situation in front of us is unbearable and never going to end. That we’re stuck in between a rock and a hard place.

In that very moment it can feel like imminent doom but what I have learned is that life goes on. We don’t fall off a cliff after climbing the mountain. We don’t drown when we jump in the water. We swim, soar and grow.

All of the stressful moments in the midst of chaos that I have experienced over the years don’t seem so bad when I looked back and all that stress I had felt was a waste.

By grounding ourselves to a piece of wood made by trees that have been around for hundreds of years, taking a sip of water that comes from the earth and sky bringing rejuvenation to our bodies and looking at the sky and sun which have existed for billions of years, we are reminded that this moment is but a speck in the history of time and like most periods of difficult events, this too shall pass.

Smile even if you have to fake it to train the mind and say, “Whatever chaos comes my way, I will not sway”. Being strong and calm in chaos requires us to turn to thoughts that reinforce a strong psychology.

I believe in that in our times of profound change and uncertainty, while no one can control what chaos comes upon them, what we can control is how we handle it. Staying calm in the midst of chaos requires us to be aware of our breath, our posture and most importantly to shift our thoughts to regain control of the most important thing – our mind.


Bob Miglani, Author, Embrace the Chaos

How to stay calm in the midst of chaos | November 2014

By Bob Miglani

Bob Miglani is the Author of the Washington Post Bestseller, Embrace the Chaos, which is about learning to move forward in times of change, uncertainty and disruption. He grew up running his family's Dairy Queen store, the subject of his first book, Treat Your Customers. He worked in corporate America for 23 years. Left to pursue a life of passion working in a startup, writing, motivational speaking and learning how to live a life of contribution.

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