A true measure of emotional strength is the ability to stay calm at a time of crisis or chaos or turmoil.  The ability to stay calm is such an empowering skill. 

Staying calm at a time when others seem unable to do so is such a powerful emotional tool.  It permits rational decision-making as well as enabling the calm individual to serve as a role model for those who lose perspective by thinking the worst and then making poor decisions under stress.  A calm individual instills confidence in a group by suggesting that things aren’t hopeless and spiraling out of control.  Fear of loss of control promotes distress; Calmness abates that fear.  While we can’t control every situation, our ability to stay calm enables us to control our reaction to it.

This may be easier said than done – and some people reject the idea that they can change because they have always been excitable, and they believe that they are physiologically unable to change.  That’s a cop-out.

While it’s not the only way to establish a sense of calmness, the popularity of self-regulation techniques such as meditation and yoga are testaments to the recognition that behavior can be changed in the direction of greater calmness.  Mindfulness is a process that promotes the skill of nonjudgmentally staying in the present rather than engaging in the type of anticipatory anxiety that creates internal chaos.  One of the newer psychotherapies, Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) begins with the concept of acceptance of feelings as a prelude to making behavior changes.  Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help us to stay calm by challenging irrational beliefs that create anxiety and depressed mood.

No effective approach to instilling calmness suggests that denial of a stressor or our feelings about it is a strategy.  But the process of strengthening internal calmness through meditation or a related activity provides us with a sense of internal calmness that we can employ during times when we are faced with stressors or chaos.  There is no research to suggest that excitability enhances one’s ability to deal with stress.

As is the case with so many things, developing a sense of calmness is best done preventively so that, as you learn it, calmness becomes your default mode.  You develop the confidence to recognize that you are a calm person, and when a crisis arises you don’t change who you are, but rather you utilize the strength of calmness to address challenges and to help others to do so.  And that’s really powerful!

Ron Kaiser, Ph.D. Psychologist, Educator, Author, Podcaster

Ron Kaiser, Ph.D., is a positive health psychologist, coach, author, podcaster, educator, consultant, and speaker. He has been in practice for more than five decades, including 25 years as Director of Psychology at the world-famous Jefferson Headache Center at Thomas Jefferson University. As an innovative thought leader in the field, he has developed the concepts of THE MENTAL HEALTH GYM, GOAL-ACHIEVING PSYCHOTHERAPY (GAP), THE TYPE P PERSONALITY, and REJUVENAGING®.

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