As I watch the latest news update regarding the recent horrific event that occurred at the Manchester Arena, I think about how I would have reacted in that frighting situation…especially if I had children with me. How horrifying! To be honest, I’m not sure what I would do.
I’m intrigued by how the brain responds to stimuli that triggers the fight or flight response. The question is, do you fight or do you flight–out of there.
Check out this burst of power (adrenaline) coming from inside your body! How cool is this? The body has the right tools, it’s up to you to use them to your advantage.
I really like this article by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) titled “This is Your Brain on Emergencies”. Here’s the science behind the way you react to stressful situations, and how you should use it to your advantage.
First thing you should do is slow your heart rate.
If your heart rate soars above about 175 beats per minute (check that Fitbit), you’re more likely to go into shutdown mode and not be able to think clearly or act. A technique called “combat breathing” (inhale through your nose, hold, exhale through your mouth, hold) has been shown to reduce your heart rate by 20-30 beats per minute.
Next, decided what the heck you will do.
As you decided what the heck you will do (these are my own words, not the CDC’s), your mind will most likely move through three stages:
- Decisive action
Knowing these stages – and preparing for them ahead of time – can help you recognize and deal with what’s going on around you more effectively (or you can always just cry).
Denial: This is not happening
You may not think it’s really happening. But don’t waste time! Pay close attention to your surroundings for cues about what you should do (is everyone else running and screaming, or are they sitting quietly in their chairs? Are others stopping to help?). This is known as social proof. Social proof is a psychological phenomenon that happens whenever people aren’t sure what to do. We assume others around us know more about the situation, and so we do what they do, whether it’s the right thing or not.
Deliberation: What are my options?
Once you’ve recognized the emergency, you’ll begin to consider your options. The more you’ve prepared, the more options you’ll have to work with.
One thing you can do is prepare everywhere. All it requires is a little bit of imagination (I do this all the time). Pay attention to your surroundings and see what’s available to you. Run different scenarios in your head. Where would you go if you had to get out? Who would you call if you needed help? What will you do if there’s a fire? A robbery? A bomb threat? Think about the possibilities ahead of time.
Decisive action: It’s go time!
You’ve acknowledged there’s a problem. You’ve considered your options. The next step is to take decisive action. With all the information you have, what are you going to do next?
Before you take action:
Shift your emotion. If you do get mad, use that anger as energy (Grrrr)
Stay fit – if you’re more fit, you’re likely to be more rational (another reason to go to the gym)
Now is the time to put your plans into motion. Go to the exit, call for help, take cover, give CPR… whatever you’ve decided to do. In most crisis situations, there is no definite right or wrong. There is no perfect way – only the best we can do. The most important thing is to do something. In almost every case, an imperfect plan is better than no plan, and action is better than inaction.
Don’t wait to make a plan. Know yourself, know your situation, and be prepared to save your own life, and your loved ones too.
What would you do?