Managing a Crisis of Any Size

Avalanche control at sunrise

Avalanche Control

My job as a ski patroller and Emergency Medical Technician has taught me how to deal with crisis. For the most part, however, these are other people’s crises.

By: Kim Kircher

Apparently, I’m an expert in calamity. I used to be the kind of person that avoided conflict, wanting to bury my head under the pillow when things got rough. Life can be like that sometimes, offering circumstances to learn the lessons we most need. My job as a ski patroller and Emergency Medical Technician has certainly taught me how to deal with crisis. For the most part, however, these are other people’s crises, and I’m there to help them get through it. When my husband needed a liver transplant, I learned how to use what I’d learned on the slopes and apply it to my own ordeal. For the first time, I had to get through my own crisis. Here’s how you can do it too:

  1. Breathe. When faced with stress, our natural reaction is to inhale. We gulp down a sharp breath and often hold it, willing the problem to go away. During a stressful situation, focus, instead, on exhaling. Expel all the air from your lungs for three large breaths. Then return to normal breathing. This response calms you down and helps you focus. It also fuels your brain with oxygen, which is important in any crisis.
  2. Remember your training. In emergency medicine, practitioners use memory aids to help them function in serious situations. When faced with an unconscious patient, an EMT can rely on the ABC’s (airway, breathing, and circulation) to remind her the order of care if the tension becomes overwhelming. Use this same technique to handle any crisis. Stick with your routines. Order the tasks necessary to get through the situation and tick them off, one by one. Not only will you work towards a solution, you will also feel an important sense of accomplishment.
  3. Look to your past accomplishments. Life constantly offers us lessons for growth. Remind yourself of the difficult hurdles you’ve previously overcome. Use these trials for strength; assuring yourself that you’ve been through hard times before, you can get through this. Adversity is unavoidable. Instead of running away from it, face it head on. Not only can hardship offer valuable lessons, it can also prepare you for even bigger challenges to come.
  4. Focus only on small increments of time. Do not try to solve the entire crisis at once. In fact, try to avoid thinking of the big picture or the “what ifs” that might happen down the road. I broke time down into 15-minute intervals, telling myself I could get through the next 15 minutes, then the next. When the fear and stress threaten to swallow you, just get through the next 15 seconds.

Learning to handle a crisis comes with practice. Unfortunately, life consistently gives us new occasions to improve. Whether dealing with a partner’s illness, your own disease management, relationship issues, financial concerns or the myriad of other opportunities life presents, you, too, can learn to slow down and take it just fifteen minutes at a time.

About the Author:
Kim Kircher, author and professional ski patroller, grew up on the ski slopes near Seattle. She has logged over 600 hours of explosives control, earning not only her avalanche blaster’s card, but also a heli-blaster endorsement, allowing her to fly over the slopes in a helicopter and drop bombs from the open cockpit, while uttering the fabulously thrilling words “bombs away” into the mic. She divides her time between working on the slopes and writing on her computer. Visit Kim’s blog.