Staying calm when everything goes wrong

When I first started writing this blog I was going to call it ” clients that scream!” but then decided that people might get the wrong idea!

There are times in our lives when it is really important to remain calm.

I remember once being stuck in a lift during a lightning storm and electricity blackout in Africa in the Eighties as a young professional.

I was showing clients a penthouse apartment in a high rise building in a coastal resort.

They were excited elderly buyers who came into my office clutching the newspaper advertisement.

Let’s call them Mr and Mrs B.

We set off to view the apartment and Mrs B chatted away as we got into the lift. It was a nasty day outside with thunder and lightning, so it was just the 3 of us heading up to the Penthouse apartment when all of a sudden there was a jolt and the lift stopped suddenly between the floors.

In those days we had “bricks” for mobile phones with limited reception, and they did not have a light, so it was quite alarming when Mrs B started to scream.

So not only was it dark but it was also very hot in the lift.

I could see a little light coming through where we were stuck between floors, and knew that there was an old bucket of sand in the corner of the lift.

In those days lifts had buckets of sand where smokers could extinguish their cigarettes.

Trying to remain calm, I focused on the practical things

One was to stop Mrs B from screaming and declaring that we were going to die – I was far too young to die I thought and had much living to do still.

I guided her carefully to sit on top of the bucket as she said she had felt faint, but when she sat down I inadvertently touched her head which felt a little synthetic.

Of course it was a wig – I was not to know that Mrs B enjoyed wearing stylish wigs as she was a plump lady with colourful taste, and I was to learn very early on, with very fixed opinions.

With Mrs B seated, it was now a matter of keeping them busy and reassured while we waited for the electricity to come back on.

Mr B was no help in calming Mrs B and he was unexpectedly rather quiet during the ordeal. I felt his anxiety even though I could not see it in the dark.

Lucky for me, I had been stuck in that lift in that apartment building several times before while trying to sell the apartments in that block, so I knew that it would eventually start working again.

However this time it did take a little longer, and that led to Mr and Mrs B no longer wanting to view the apartment, and wanting to exit the building as soon as possible walking down the 12 flights of stairs, but thankfully I eventually sold it to somebody else who was not afraid of lifts.

In Mr and Mrs B’s hurried departure from the lift, I noticed Mrs B’s wig was very off side and crooked, but the worst of it was the unpleasant cigarette butts fixed firmly onto the rear of her skirt with grey ash marks from sitting on top of the bucket.

I was not going to point it out to her though, as I was worried about her reaction. Mr B did not point it out either much to my surprise.

They eventually bought a single level townhouse from me and often recounted the horrific experience of that day to anybody who would listen.

Tips to stay calm


Breathing properly is the most effective way of reducing anxiety quickly. When you are anxious you tend to take quick shallow breaths which ultimately sends a message to your brain saying “fight or flight”, so taking nice deep calming breaths helps you calm down.

Challenge your thoughts

Sometimes fear can make us think irrationally. In the lift Mrs B was screaming uncontrollably. She was an elderly lady who had lived a quiet life in a small town, so being stuck in a lift which was hot and dark made her extremely anxious. She thought she was going to die.

She told me that over and over again at the time. So by getting her to sit quietly and reassure her that the lift would start up again, and that the caretaker was always at hand even though it did take him a longer time to get the lift back working, she began to focus on other things.

I chatted about her family and my family, my youngest son’s antics, dogs and cats and anything that would take her mind off the present.

Visualise yourself as calm

Picture yourself on a beach with the waves lapping over your toes, or go to a place that relaxes you and the stress will melt away as you relax.

If you have music, listen to it

Music has a calming effect on your body and mind and can be useful in many stressful situations.

Drop your shoulders

If your body is tense, there’s a good chance your posture will suffer. Stand or sit up tall, take a deep breath, and drop your shoulders.

To do this, you can focus on bringing your shoulder blades together and then down. This pulls your shoulders down. Take a few deep breaths.

“Sometimes it is just about finding calmness in the chaos”


One Comment

  • Nicoli Bucner says:

    Wow humour and sound advice – in ONE blog – nice writing. I’m enjoying your website ….