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I am working in a bank as an assistant of one of my seniors. One day one of the bundles of account-opening forms was lost. I became much anxious and was thinking about an way out. I was continuously asking my senior to find an way to solve the problem.

Surprisingly enough I found my senior to be very cool and calm. I was so surprised that I asked him how was he remaining so calm. He told me nothing significant.

Finally, after 4 days, I discovered the bundle behind the cabinet. Most possibly, it slept from the top and remained hidden from our eyes.

My question is, what thought kept my senior so calm? Why was I failing to keep myself calm like he did? What one should actually do to keep him calm at this type of situations?

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Remember the people dying of starvation and getting killed by murderers and getting raped. That way you wouldn't mind even if someone slashed your arm... now compare losing your bundle with someone slashing your arm... – user4926 Feb 24 '13 at 3:50
I personally believe everything happens for a reason. Finding the solution to every setback has always helped me to improve myself. In war or every other horrible situation, some people hide and cower, others race to become heroes. Become that hero, embrace the difficult side of life. – Muz Feb 25 '13 at 8:57
@Raindrop Personally, that would make me even more anxious. Not the comparison, but the thought of people dying of starvation while I'm here worrying about losing a bundle of papers. – Joe Z. Feb 26 '13 at 20:02
That's humanity! – user4926 Feb 27 '13 at 3:39

A couple of approaches here:

The immediate approach- take a deep breath. Be logical. Try to be methodical. Does your company have a procedure for incidents or emergencies?

More recently, this study, shows the value of checklists and protocols for reducing risk in emergency scenarios!

The conscious assessment approach (which I learned because my wife was a cardiothoracic intensive care nurse) is to assess the situation. Is someone dying? If not then this really isn't a major emergency. What is the worst case scenario-and if this isn't it, start to realise that you can be calm.

I actually use that second approach-in most jobs The absolute worst case is that you might lose your job, but more commonly there might be embarrassment, some extra work, a low score on performance etc.

In summary, try and normalise against things that really matter. You will suddenly find yourself relaxing a lot!

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"The absolute worst case is that you might lose your job" - if that is the outcome, how can I keep myself calm? – user2963 Mar 23 '13 at 4:32
Well, it isn't the end of the world. It isn't a death. And remember that worst cases are at the end of the scale. – Rory Alsop Mar 23 '13 at 9:54
"End of the world" - means different things to different people. It depends on the resilience of the person. Everybody in this world do not have the same amount of resilience. And, I don't think psychologically I am that much resilient. – user2963 Mar 23 '13 at 11:22
You may think that, but imagine a scale that works for you. At one end you'd have minor inconveniences, and at the other perhaps loss of life. Viewed in this wider scale, perspective can help you focus your attention on those areas that matter. – Rory Alsop Mar 23 '13 at 14:27

I work as a programmer. My husband works as system engineer. He is on 24/7 support if our customers' websites get attacked. We promise zero downtime to our customer. We cannot let the website down for any second.

My nature is totally different from my husband's. :) I have high level of anxiety. In the past, I couldn't even demo the product in front of the customer.

When the website got hit by the bot and it died, my husband remained calm and fixed it.

If I were him I won't be able to do that easily. But, yeah, I can be better and better. Many books can explain about this and also provide an answer of can people improve on managing themselves in crisis situation. I read "The unthinkable by Amanda Ripley". It is really a good book.

Being calm in difficult situation is naturally genetic aspect. People can do better and better when they train themselves in such situation again and again.

I would suggest 2 things:

  • You set your goal how you want yourself to be. You want to keep calm in a difficult situation? Keep that in mind. Think about it, do it. Setting clear goal helps you reach your goal quicker.

  • In the situation, spend sometimes to imagine that you're not part of the situation. Imagine that it's just another story your friend's telling you. And you will give him/her an advise that he/she does bla bla bla.

Because normally when people are directly related in the situation, they will lost big picture and also think of the worst case scenario. It's hard for your brain to have a good idea in that situation. And you can also be distracted thinking about the consequences.

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One of the best things I've discovered for staying calm is thinking through what the series of steps would be to stay calm if I was the "perfect" me and was able to be that person.

Usually I'll write down the steps I'd take if I were that perfect person and then try and follow them one by one.

This helps in several ways: 1. It helps me realize that most tense situations can be handled with a little (like a minute) of thought, 2. It helps me realize that usually the steps I wish I could take (if I were perfect) are actually pretty easy, and 3. It helps me focus on the small, manageable things around any situation vs. the whole giant issue at once, which usually is pretty overwhelming.

My wife thinks I'm crazy, but I've developed some steps that I use mentally all the time now in various situations! :-)

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The first, most critical, step is taken when things are not in a crisis. That is to learn how to breathe deeply and relax and release tension. I have found that learning meditation or self-hypnosis techniques is best for this. Once you can calm your mind at will, then start to practice on slightly tense situations, things like having to stop for a traffic light when you are late or losing your car keys. Then once you can do that, practice on more stressful situations. While you are learning, if something really stressful comes along, go ahead and try your realxation techniques, but recognize that until you have perfected them, they may not help as much as they will later on. So don't give up on them if they don't help much at first.

Other things that help are reminding yourself that very little is as important or as stressful as we make it out to be. Will you even remember that lost bundle of forms in ten years? Most of us know someone who has been through something much worse that what we are currently facing. Remind yourself of that. Say soemthing to yourself like, "If Aunt Jenny can make through her husband's death, then I should be able to make it through losing these forms."

When the problem is truly serious (and no one gets through life without some of these) then I have found the practice on the small stuff helps you have a way to calm down and face the problem. Even the worst problem is helped by being calm because you think better when you are calm. For the really bad stuff the phrase, "this too shall pass" helps me tremendously. I have also found that telling myself, "I can fall apart after this crisis is over and I'm at home alone." to be helpful. It reminds me to focus on the necessity of what must be done in the crisis and gives me permission to get upset later when it isn't so critical.

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Your first question of why your senior did it and you did not is because not everyone is same. The different behaviours of different persons mainly depends on two things 1. the inherent nature of the person 2. the influences he has gone through

Over the years,your senior might have acquired the life skills for being calm and composed either with his various life experiences or observing others or by his own nature. Although It is not 100% that He will be calm for all the situations he face.

Why was I failing to keep myself calm like he did? What one should actually do to keep him calm at this type of situations?

I would say you are simply not equipped with the skills that he has learnt. But It may not be easy for everyone to do acquire it overnight and it needs a focused mind to achieve it. So, All you have to do is to find ways of improving yourself.

Say clearly to your mind that you need this tranformation. Tell your mind the reasons of Why you want it and imagine yourself handling the same situations calmly. Do meditation and it really helps.

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First the obvious: Cut down on additional anxiety factors. That includes caffeine, loud environments, unnecessary distractions.

Second, focus on the ultimate goal, the reason why you do what you do. Often, we're sidetracked by unimportant things that happen to seem more urgent. Priority management by email is one of the best examples: When we always work on whatever came latest to our inbox, we never complete what we were doing, and work on last in, first out mode, which is counterproductive in so many ways.

I recommend the Eisenhower method to make priorities explicit and not lose your mind while under heavy pressure.

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I think regular meditation (Mindfulness training) will help you establish an inner calm, even when faced with difficult situations. Take a look at the Ten Principles for Cultivating Peace of Mind and Body. Especially note these principles

Acceptance – Once we are aware of what we are experiencing, we can learn to accept that it is true. That does not mean that we like it or that there isn’t a better way for things to be; it just means that we are acknowledging the present reality without fighting it or trying to change it.

Tolerance – When you choose to tune in, you may find that some internal experiences are unpleasant or even painful. Rather than trying to immediately change them or block them out, we allow ourselves to experience the sensations, thereby cultivating tolerance for things that are uncomfortable.

Training this will physically rewire your brain so that you will be better equipped to deal with hardship. To get the effects you seek, you will have to do this regularly, circa 7 minutes per day.

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Perhaps you haven't defined your life's ultimate purpose.

Is your purpose keeping your job? Being a good worker? I hope not.

Your ultimate life purpose should nullify any (at first sight) bad event that happens to you.

What keeps me calm all the time is knowing my purpose. It's not keeping my current job or other similar small things. My purpose is far greater then that.

Your job, your stack - profile, your house, your car - all of it - It's just a Tool, nothing more, nothing less. You are not your job, your house, your TV.

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