Editorial: How to Stay Calm in Emergency Situations

Staff Writer Maria Christine C. Castro


Reading those words that Saturday morning, what was the first thought that crept its way into your mind? Was it to make sure you would survive? Was it to know if your friends and family were safe? What raced through your mind?

The Saturday morning of Jan. 13, 2018 was an incredibly stressful situation for many of the people in the islands of Hawaiʻi. Why wouldn’t it be? We woke up to an alarm reading that there was a ballistic missile heading for us. What made it even more stressful was the alarming text: “THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” In that type of situation, what is the correct way to react? What are we supposed to do? What should we be feeling? Of course everyone would react differently, as there are no two people in this world who are alike, but there are recommended strategies for coping..

Slow down and take a deep breath. Adrenaline is pumping through your body. Every single nerve you have is in overdrive. The neurons in your brain are flaring. All of this will invoke the reaction of “fight or flight”. You won’t know how your body will react, but it is a guarantee that it will not do you any good if you begin panicking and start crying in a corner. Take a moment to breathe and collect your thoughts. Jacqueline Whitmore, a contributor for Entrepreneur, suggested that “if possible, don’t react immediately.” Giving yourself time to process and analyze your situation gives you the ability to make quick and rational decisions.

Gather all the information you can. Arm yourself with knowledge about the situation at hand. Tsunami? Go to higher ground. Earthquake? Take cover under stable structures. Typhoon, hurricane, bomb, or missile? Take shelter. No matter what situation you find yourself in, it is important to know what you can possibly do. Once you are as safe as you can make yourself, quickly find materials that will allow you to continue to receive information. Check every social media for posts from people in your area. Keep in touch with your friends and family to get an update on their situation and what they know. Going in blindly to any situation tends to be very stressful, but supplying yourself with all the information you can at least gives you the comfort of knowing that you are doing something to improve your situation, even if by just a little.

If possible, be with other people. Stressful situations become a little less stressful if you have another person with you, no matter how introverted you are. Dr. Margaret Paul wrote to Inner Bonding that “we are not meant to be alone.” If you are by yourself in a crisis, try to find a way to be with others if you can do it safely. Besides, more people means that more minds can help think of solutions. With calm and collected people, you will be able to stay calm and collected as well.

Keep a goal in your mind to stay focused. With thousands of thoughts zipping through your mind, it can be hard to stay focused on one task when you need to get a lot done. This is where staying calm and having others with you comes in handy. With a game plan in mind, you and the others can get more tasks done to keep everyone safe. It also helps to remind yourself that you cannot control everything that will happen. Instead, put all of your energy into what you can do. If with others, Jane Burnett tells Ladders that we must “trust other people to do their part, and accept that they may do things differently than you do. The sooner you let go of what you can’t control, the sooner you can move forward, and get focused again.”

Don’t ask yourself the ‘What if…’ question. Asking yourself questions that begin with “what if” may be the root of that panic attack you are having. Whitmore states that the “worst question you could ask yourself or others in the middle of a crisis begins with what if.” For many, asking “what if…” in a stressful situation can be the start of a downward spiral of negative thoughts. Filling your mind with negative thoughts and emotions will not help anyone. Instead, take a moment to breathe and push these thoughts out of your head as you fill it with information that would be in your favor.

We all responded to the alert differently, but we can all agree it left some sort of impact on us. For some, it may be an unhealthy impact that possibly affected your way of living. Know that you do not have to go through what you are feeling on your own. Talk to others and tell them how you are feeling to get if off your chest.

Student Counseling Services is available to help those who are struggling to sort through their thoughts and feelings from 7:45a.m. - 4:30p.m., Monday through Friday (except holidays). The Counseling Services is located at the Student Services Center (SSC) in room E-203. You can make an appointment to see a counselor at the front desk, email them at uhhcouns@hawaii.edu, or call (808) 932-7465.

Off-campus services are also available if you need help during the hours Counseling Services are not available:

Crisis Line of Hawaiʻi 24 Hour Support: 1-800-753-6879

24 Hour Crisis Text Line: Text “HELLO” or “ALOHA” to 741-741

Disaster Distress Helpline: 1-800-985-5990

Text: “TalkWithUs” to 66746

WorkLife Hawaii: (808) 543-8445 from Mondays to Fridays from 8:00am-5:00pm or their after hours toll free number: 1-800-994-3571.