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Taming the Frenzy: Staying Calm When the Unexpected Happens

When frenzy shows up, our emotional brain hijacks our cognitive brain, and we are spinning. How we react in that very moment has a huge impact on whether life unravels or if we muster the energy to deal with the problem the best we can. Often our reaction at that very moment will determine how we feel for hours, days or even weeks ahead.
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Over the past few years, I've been teaching clients a system called "Taming the Daily Frenzy." They use it to get out from overwhelm, and to release stress and anxiety. We aim for them to reach a place where most of their days are calm, healthy and productive.

The system is built based on a few basic principles. First, create a solid foundation by prioritizing self-care. In this way, we maximize personal energy. Eat healthy foods to fuel the body and brain. Get the sleep we need each night, so we can optimize brain functioning and stay in a positive mood. Exercising, movement, drinking enough water and taking time to relax are just as important.

Once self-care is on the daily to-do list, learning to stop multi-tasking and stay fully engaged in one task, one activity, one conversation at a time, is essential. Add to that using technology to our advantage, not our detriment. Have systems in place to proactively plan our days and weeks, and schedule time for rest, rejuvenation and reconnecting with the people and things we love. Utilize this system and we are well on our way to taming daily frenzy and living more productive and happier lives.

But let's face it... no matter how much we set ourselves up for calm, focused and productive days, sometimes sh*t happens! The unexpected occurs and throws a monkey-wrench into our day, no matter how well planned out it is.

Suddenly frenzy shows up, our emotional brain hijacks our cognitive brain, and we are spinning. How we react in that very moment has a huge impact on whether life unravels or if we muster the energy to deal with the problem the best we can. Often our reaction at that very moment will determine how we feel for hours, days or even weeks ahead.

One morning, not too long ago, frenzy reared it's ugly head. While it was not a major life threatening hurdle, it was one that had the potential to ruin my day, big time!

I had a speaking engagement in NYC. Usually when I head to the city, I either drive or take the train. However, the meeting was being held in a building directly across from the Port Authority. That meant taking the bus was the most logical mode of transportation.

Days before, in true "Taming the Frenzy" style, I did the proactive planning that would lead me to a calm, smooth morning. I solidified my PowerPoint and made sure I had the necessary attachments for the computer. My handouts were printed and ready, my clothing laid out for the event. I checked the schedule and picked the bus that would get me into Manhattan well before the meeting started, especially since I was traveling during morning rush hour.

That day, as I waited for my 7:40 a.m. bus, I began to feel slightly irritated that it was running late. When we finally boarded at 8 a.m., although annoyed, I was calm knowing that I had left a good cushion of time. I sent a quick text to the event coordinator to let her know that I'd be slightly later than expected, and then began reading.

On the road less than 10 minutes, sitting a few rows behind the driver, I heard his walkie talkie go off, "There's a six-car accident on the NJ Turnpike. Only one lane is open." I looked up and noticed several lines of traffic attempting to merge into one. Although we were moving, it was at a snail's crawl. Feeling slightly nauseous (my tell when frenzy is beginning to build), I watched as we came to a full stop. Frenzy was escalating at a rapid pace.

So I took a huge cleansing breath, which helped to calm my increasing heart rate and breathing. A second one relaxed my tensing neck muscles. And then I asked myself, "What is the emotion I am feeling right now?" "Anxiety! What if the unexpected traffic wipes out my cushion of time? What if I am late?"

Going on to the next step in the Taming the Frenzy process, I asked myself, "What is within my control?" I realized that the only thing I could do was stay in contact with the event coordinator and get clarification on what was the earliest time I would be called to the stage. While waiting for her response, I then asked myself, "What is the absolute worst scenario, and can I live with it?"

Well, the worst would be I would arrive too late to give the presentation. That would be disappointing and sad, but not the end of the world. I had already been paid so I would give back the presenter fee and apologize. Yes, I could live with all of that. It was not life and death. Sadly, the individuals in the six-car crash might be facing life or death, but not me.

Calming the frenzy allowed my logical brain to light up, getting my creative juices to flow. I thought, "If the worst does happen, I can then record this presentation as a webinar, send it to the program coordinator so that the attendees would get the info at a later date." Relaxed and accepting of my current situation, I settled back into my book.

Within a few minutes, I received the text back that the earliest I was expected on stage was 10a.. It was now 8:30 a.m., so I reasoned that I would probably be there in time. Of course, with NYC traffic you could never tell, but it would be what it would be.

End of story, the bus passed the accident, which ironically was on the other side of the turnpike. All our traffic was due to rubbernecking! We began moving at a swift pace, and I got there in plenty of time. Most importantly, I arrived calm and in a great place for presenting.

I easily could have chosen to let the panic lead to overwhelming anxiety and total frenzy! Not the place to be when you are about to step onto a stage. I had a great story and example of how to put the Taming the Frenzy steps into place, and proof that they work. In other words, I walked (or road) my talk.

So the next time the unexpected happens, and frenzy starts to build and overtake you, try these steps:
-Take a couple of deep cleansing breaths to release the tension in your body.
-Name the emotion you are feeling -- anxiety, anger, frustration, etc.
-Ask yourself, "What, if anything, is within my control?"
If you can attend to it immediately, do so. If not, assign a time to deal with the issues at an appropriate time. If there is nothing within your control, work on accepting that.
-Finally, ask yourself, "What's the worst case scenario? Can I live with that?" In other words, put things into prospective.

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