How to Stay Calm in Stressful Situations

farmer Life lessons from a farmer’s story

Back in the late 1800s, there was an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day, his son left a gate open and his three horses ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbors came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically. 

“Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t,” the farmer replied.

The next morning the horses returned, bringing with them 40 other wild horses. “How wonderful!” the neighbors exclaimed. 

“Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t,” said the old man.

The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown off and broke his leg. The neighbors again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “This is terrible news,” they said.

“Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t,” answered the farmer.

The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the farmer’s son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbors congratulated for his good luck. “Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t,” said the farmer.

The moral of this story is, of course, that no event, in and of itself, can truly be judged as good or bad, lucky or unlucky, fortunate or unfortunate — only time will reveal what a situation will bring into your life.

When life throws you a curve ball, whether it appears to be “good” or “bad”, the wiser move is to stay as calm as possible. To help you do this, here are three simple tips for you to follow whenever you find yourself in a stressful situation.

How to Stay Calm in the Presence of Stress and Chaos

1. Notice what you’re noticing.

When we’re in the middle of a stressful situation, it can be tempting to let ourselves be swallowed up by the sense of overwhelm.

But there’s a powerful question to consider that will help you bring yourself back to center… Are you focusing your attention to the obstacles and problems in your life, or are you noticing the blessings and opportunities? 

Here’s the truth: If you focus on your problems and how much pain and stress they are causing you, your negative feelings will only grow.

So the first step I recommend you do in any stressful situation is to take a deep breath. Notice that you’re breathing. Feel the air flowing through your nostrils, going down into your belly, then rising back out of your body.

Next, notice that you can notice. Notice that you have that faculty, just like you have hearing, seeing, smelling, feeling and tasting faculties.

Notice the tip of your nose, your right index finger, your left kneecap, the bottom of your right foot, the tips of all ten toes, your cheeks, your chin, the top of your head.

You have a choice at this very moment – you can choose what to notice. Notice that you’re alive. Notice that you can choose to pay attention to the positive things in your life, or you can choose to keep thinking about your problems.

Use this practice to bring your awareness back to yourself and your body, and take a moment to let your mind rest. Become present again by focusing on the simple sensations that let you become aware that you’re alive.

2.  Ask yourself, “What possible good could come from this situation?”

Every challenge has within it the seed of an equal or greater benefit. 

But before you can experience these benefits, you have to find that seed, nourish it,  and let it bloom in your mind.

When we’re in the middle of seemingly adverse situations, this can be easier said than done. Still, I encourage you to try this practice. Looking for the possible good in any situation opens you to receiving the greatest, secret gifts from the universe!

The key to seeing the possible good when you’re facing challenges is to stay open and curious – this is how opportunities present themselves to you.

Ask yourself, “What possible gift could there be for me inside of this challenge?”

Then, stay open and write down the answers that come to you. Write anything you could think of. All possibilities are valid! Let the infinite intelligence support you in your journey with something even better that you could have imagined.

remaining calm in chaos woman

3. Ground yourself with the Rectangular Breathing Exercise.

When we are feeling overwhelmed or anxious, we can actually feel physical symptoms – rapid heartbeat, sweating and even shortness of breath. This state is called “fight or flight,” and when you’re in it, you may feel panicky and unsure how to move to a state of calm and relief.

A really helpful tool in this situation is the Rectangular Breathing Exercise. Changing our breathing can very quickly change our energetic state, helping us to find calm in a stressful circumstance.

The technique receives its name because it consists of 4 steps, breaking down each breath into 2 long periods and 2 short periods.

The first step is to breathe in through your nose for a count of eight seconds (this could be considered the long side of the rectangle). Pause for a count of four seconds (this would be the short side of the rectangle). Next, breathe out for a count of eight and pause for a count of four.

Do this for five minutes whenever you feel anxious and upset. While you repeat this breathing pattern, you will feel your physiology begin to change.

The Rectangular Breathing Exercise is used to move your physiology from “fight or flight”  (sympathetic nervous system), to “rest and digest” or parasympathetic nervous system.

This way, you will use the power of your breathing to regain a peaceful state.

how to stay calm in stressful situations woman

Let’s review the 3 tips for staying relaxed and present in any situation…

Whenever you find yourself in a stressful circumstance, I recommend you try the following:

  1. Notice what you’re noticing.
  2. Ask yourself, “What possible good could come from this situation?”
  3. Ground yourself with the Rectangular Breathing Exercise.

One more thing: Sometimes, it’s easy to think that circumstances are bigger than you, and that they have the power to control your life. However, the secret to maintaining unshakeable peace is to realize that YOU have the power within you to choose presence and happiness. No matter what’s happening around you, you get to create harmony with your circumstances, so that you no longer feel like the universe is working against you.

Do you feel like there must be more to life, but you just can’t seem to figure out how to get there?

You may feel stuck in an unfulfilling job, a relationship that doesn’t bring you happiness, or you may be unsatisfied with your physical condition. And yet, you’re not sure exactly how to move forward toward a life you would love living.

If so, I highly recommend you read my eBook, Master Your Mind: Turning Fear into Fuel.

Fear has a sneaky way of creeping into our minds and making us believe our biggest dreams  are unattainable, or worse… that we’re not worthy of them.

In reality, this simply isn’t true. We’ve just been conditioned to think this way. We’ve become afraid to try new things, move out of our comfort zone and reach for the stars.

The only way to overcome this fear is through a process called “thought re-patterning,” that allows you to uproot the fears that hold you back, replacing them with empowering thoughts and beliefs.

You can learn all about this process in my FREE eBook, Master Your Mind: Turning Fear into Fuel.

If you’re ready to cut ties with the fear that is keeping you from going after your dreams, click below to download a free copy of this eBook today!

Mark Nepo's Weekly Reflection: The Great Waters
How To Forgive
Comment for this post has been locked by admin.


Weekday Personal Support

Join Panache Desai each weekday morning for support in reconnecting to the wellspring of calm and peace that lives within you and that has the power to counterbalance all of the fear, panic, and uncertainty that currently engulfs the world.

Designed To Move You From Survival and Fear to Safety and Peace. Available Monday - Friday. Meditation begins at 9 AM.  Access early to hear Panache's monologue -  around 8:30 AM. 

30 Simple Ways to Create Balance and Connection

Join Soulspring for conscious insights...

...on all things life, wellness, love, transformation and spirituality...

 PLUS! Get your FREE Guide: 12 Mindfulness Practices to a Peaceful Mind