6 Ways to Stay Calm in the Heat of the Moment

  • Cynthia Johnson

A couple of our clients have people who work in public facing roles and if you have ever worked in a similar role you will know how challenging some of the public can be. They asked us what their people could do immediately in response to a difficult member of the public.  

The first thing to do is breathe out and it needs to be done before you try, in any order, any one or all of our other suggestions.  Try experimenting with the suggestions on an ordinary day when the public doesn’t have you under pressure so you can test out which ones work best for you.

Breathe out

If in doubt, breathe out is the advice given by internationally renowned NZ physiotherapist Tania Clifton-Smith. When we are threatened or anxious we tend to hold our breath. Try noticing how often you do this during the day, for example, turning into busy traffic; when someone interrupts you; when you are doing something new. Breathing out helps us hack into the body’s calming response, the parasympathetic nervous system.  We have written about the power of breath before.

Take 3 belly breaths

Breathing deep into your belly helps calm you down, as noted above, and it also gives you another object of focus. Take three deep breaths, breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth with your lips pursed as though you were breathing out through a straw. It may help to count as you do so. Count to six on the way in and six on the way out.

Sight and Sound

Look around you and, inside your head, name three things you see. Then name three sounds you hear. This will help bring you back to the present and bring your attention to other things.


Moving three parts of your body has a similar effect to sight and sound technique. Roll your shoulders, wiggle your toes, stretch your fingers, or move your arms. Stand up straight. When we are anxious we tend to close in on our upper body, making deep breathing more difficult. Standing strong also helps you feel more confident.


Stand back from the problem. Remind yourself that it is them, not you. You could go further by telling yourself that we don’t know what is happening in another person’s life which might help you have a bit more tolerance or understanding of the other person.

Let go and focus on the good things about your job

Don’t dwell on it. It’s a moment in time which will pass. Shift your attention to the good things about your job, the next customer who smiled at you or thanked you, the problem you solved for someone else, the fun you have with your workmates, the difference you make.



Image from Frank Busch on Unsplash


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