Turning Panic into Calm
“I never got the email,” a parent expressed after an exchange about additional essays. How could that be? I knew the email was sent out six weeks ago.
Two months ago, I turned over sending out group emails to my virtual assistant. And as I frantically looked through the email history, I noticed that none of the emails intended for Parents and Students had been sent out. And of course, it was during the busiest and most critical time for communication where we sent out multiple emails to keep our clients informed and on track.
Confusion turned to disbelief: I kept rechecking the history of emails addressed “Dear Students and Parents”? But no parents had been included. I drafted a strongly worded email expressing my frustration.
Disbelief turned to panic: OMG, that means none of my parents received important information about essay deadlines, financial aid, and other critical communication. What will they think of our business? Our reputation will be ruined!
It’s easy to catastrophize issues that crop up: I got a C on my last chemistry exam: I’ll never get into college. I didn’t make the varsity soccer team: my life is over. I got deferred from my Early Decision School, or I got in for January instead of the fall: I must be a total failure.
But like the email debacle, nothing in life is so black and white as we initially think. So as crises come up in your life, here are five ways to turn panic into calm.
Take a deep breath. I know it sounds cliche, but it works. Breathing allows you to refocus your mind and calm your racing thoughts. I also enjoy Apps like Headspace that offer free guided meditations.
Refrain from taking action immediately. Fortunately, I kept my original email in draft form and rewrote it with a calm head. Things always look better with some distance. It will also give you the opportunity to figure out what is the best course of action and think through what you ultimately want to happen. If you felt slighted by a friend or dismissed by a teacher, it’s best to take a beat before responding.
Assess the real damage (not perceived damage). After I calmed down the next day, I assessed the situation and realized that even though it was an unfortunate situation, the damage was not as catastrophic as I initially thought. You can do the same when you step back and realize that one single bad grade, rejection, or misstep is not going to keep you from achieving your goals. Identify what it really means.
Develop a plan. An old boss once told me, “It’s not a mistake until you make it twice.” How can I prevent this from happening again? Figure out what went wrong and what steps you can take proactively to have a better outcome in the future. Once we talked, I realized I had not told her to send some emails to parents, too, so we came up with a clearer communication plan and process. What about for you? Does it require studying differently? Meeting with your teacher for extra help? Starting your paper earlier? Really listening to your friends?
Look for the Opportunity. Every setback is an opportunity to improve or think of another way to approach a situation. This is exactly how you build resiliency and problem-solving skills. If you didn’t make the varsity team, can you build your leadership skills as captain of the JV team? If you got into your first choice school for the spring, can you travel (if possible) or get an internship or volunteer somewhere interesting? If you can’t volunteer in person, can you create a virtual situation and reach more people?