blurred image of doctors and nurses pushing a gurney as in an emergency
Profiles and Features January 24, 2020

5 Effective Calming Techniques to Use During a Patient Crisis

Being a nurse can put you face to face with a patient crisis. Because of that, it is of the utmost importance that you know how to stay calm in the face of tragedy and stress. After all, unhealthy coping practices can lead to nurse fatigue.

According to Harvard Medical School, the stress response begins in the brain. When confronted with a crisis, your eyes and ears send information to the part of your brain that processes emotions. The brain then interprets the images and sounds. If danger is sensed, a distress signal is sent to the rest of the body in the form of a “fight or flight” reaction.

This process occurs in a matter of seconds. As your body reacts to the stress, your blood pressure, breathing, heart rate, and blood vessels will respond. You may experience a burst of energy when this occurs.

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5 Ways To Stay Calm During A Crisis

1. Slow Down

When you are in the middle of a crisis, it feels like everything is moving quickly. Decisions are made in the blink of an eye. A patient crisis can create a lot of commotion.

One of the best calming techniques is to simply slow down. Don’t react immediately, if possible. Be patient with yourself and others around you. 

If the patient is safe and their immediate needs are being cared for, simply walk away for a few minutes. This distance will help you to reset your level of stress reaction.  

2. Count Your Breaths

Breathing is second nature, but during a crisis, the body’s stress response may cause your breathing to increase. You must know how to stay calm by changing your breathing pattern. 

When you force yourself to breathe in a relaxed way, you can trick your body into thinking and feeling more relaxed.

Quietly inhale and pay attention to your belly expanding. Go as slow as possible, counting in – 1, 2, 3. Pay attention to when you are ready to exhale, then breathe out, counting again – 1, 2, 3. Even doing this for as little as 1 minute will make you feel calmer. 

3. Take A Break

If you are feeling too overwhelmed in the middle of a patient crisis, ask if you can simply walk away. You may want to stay and push through your feelings, but a break is a stress relieving calming technique.

Go for a walk. Get outside if possible. Once you are away from the commotion, take a few deep, cleansing breaths. Clear your mind. If you start to feel better, you can return to the crisis and be better prepared to assist others.

4. Use Visualization

 If you are feeling overwhelmed in a patient crisis, step away and take a few minutes to visualize a peaceful place. Close your eyes, picture a beach, mountains, or another calming image. 

Then count to three while taking a slow, calming breath. Exhale and count to three again. You can repeat this a few times. Focusing on positive thoughts and images helps to slow down the fight or flight reaction in our body.

5. Stay Positive

It is easy to become focused on the negative in a crisis situation. One way to stay calm is to simply focus on the positive. Keep the lines of communication open, which helps to decrease the risk of medical errors during a crisis.  

Don’t imagine the worst case scenario. Positive self-talk, even in your head, will help you to stay calm. Offer words of encouragement to others. Allow courage to take over. This will help you to act safely, quickly, and responsibly. 

If you work in a high-stress patient care area, you will experience a patient crisis. The first few times it happens, you may feel the effects of the body’s stress reaction take over. Use these five calming techniques as a great lesson on how to stay calm.