Remain Calm and Use S.O.S. (Stop. Oxygenate. Step Back)

Remain calm - breathe

Everyone—businesses and individuals alike—has felt a bit uneasy these past few weeks. Not fully knowing what’s happening goes against the grain of the most level-headed individuals. The many unknowns of the pandemic—when cases will peak, when schools will re-open, when it will be safe to visit loved ones—are creating widespread anxiety. It is important to be able to remain calm.

Several years ago, I took a course in Emotional Intelligence, and the letters S.O.S. have been serving me well. I learned strategies you can implement to “find yourself” when confronted with stressful situations. (As a disclaimer, I am not a doctor or psychologist so take this as a personal journey that has helped me and may help you.) 

The key strategy I use to remain calm in today’s crisis is the S.O.S. Self-Management technique. Self-management is the ability to control or redirect disruptive impulses and moods, allowing you to think before acting.  

S.O.S is short for:

  • Stop – Actually stop whatever you are doing. 
  • Oxygenate – Literally take 3 DEEP abdominal breaths. It is also figuratively taking a moment to reframe. 
  • Step Back – Physically distancing yourself provides you a moment to think and take action for self, instead of an action against another. Walk away for a drink of water, count to 10. 

In a crisis, human physiology changes trigger an amygdala hijack.  Psychologist Daniel Goleman coined this overreaction to stress in his book “Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.” It happens when a situation causes the amygdala in your brain to hijack control of your response to stress. It disables the frontal lobes and inhibits your ability to think clearly or make rational decisions.  

The amygdala is where emotions are given meaning and attached to responses (memories). It is key to how you process strong emotions like fear and pleasure. It is also the key driver of human fight or flight instinct. At the same time, your frontal lobes are determining if danger is present and the most logical response to it: 

  • When the threat is mild, the frontal lobes override the amygdala and you respond rationally. 
  • When the threat is strong, the amygdala quickly overpowers the frontal lobes, triggering the fight-or-flight response.  

The fight-or-flight response can result in sudden, illogical and irrational overreactions. However, with some patience and S.O.S, reframe the crisis and limit the chances of an amygdala hijack. See the crisis as an opportunity to grow and to learn. 

During an airplane emergency, there’s a reason why you put the oxygen mask on yourself before loved ones. It allows you to continue the flow of oxygen and remain calm. During a time of crisis and unknown, it’s important to take care of yourself emotionally and put strategies in place to react level-headedly:  

  • Practice self-restraint: Listen first, pause, and then respond. 
  • Learn your trigger points: Stop and identify what brought on that emotion. Take note to avoid it in the future.  
  • Ask yourself “What is the worst thing that can happen?” to consider the reality of the situation. 
  • Journal occurrences during which you were able to regulate your responses or emotions. 
  • Begin regular exercise, yoga or meditation to increase your ability to manage emotions and relax both body and mind.  
  • Get adequate sleep and rest. Otherwise, it’s easy to react in a way that you’ll regret. 

We hope that these strategies help you in dealing with the stressful crisis. Below are more resources you may find helpful:  

Take care of yourself, and please do not hesitate to reach out to Wingman if you need any further assistance.