Recently friend and colleague Lynn Schaber told a story in her weekly e-newsletter which I feel inspired to share with you:
More than 20 years ago, Lynn heard a tale from speaker Danny Cox, a professional trainer known as the “Sonic Boom.” Cox was known for his work as an Air Force spokesperson, addressing communities affected by the first flights to break the sound barrier. Before that, he had been an Air Force pilot on some of those same flights.
One day, Danny was pushing 700 mph to break the barrier when he went into a death roll, his plane tumbling end over end. (You can imagine how a death roll usually ends.) In such terrifying circumstances, instinct tells you to do everything you can to fix the problem. Danny’s quick thinking got the plane under control, and experts later told him his actions had probably saved his life.
So what did Danny do to save himself? Nothing. In the initial seconds after the death roll started, he didn’t make a single move. Then, after his mind spiraled through the options, Danny calmly chose the course of action that stopped the jet from spinning.
Don’t take this the wrong way. None of us (Danny, Lynn nor I) think you should do nothing about your problems. That could be deadly! Dangerous anxiety and stress, for example, can wreak long-term havoc on your health, so quick decisions are often necessary to save your life, too.
What we are suggesting is that in a situation of dire panic, it’s perfectly all right—even optimal—to take a few moments to be still. If possible, take a long walk, breathe deeply or, as Lynn put it, “step back and assess the landscape. Give your brain a chance to disengage from the panic and think logically.” In other words, figure out exactly what’s happening and assess your options.
You can, as Lynn recommends, ask yourself some questions: