How to stay calm and respond effectively when you’re freaking out.


True Story.

It was about five minutes into my favorite yoga class (taught by the beautiful Emma Poole). We had chanted our “ohms” and Emma’s zen voice began guiding us through our flow, when all of a sudden, the FIRE ALARM WENT OFF AT FULL BLAST.

I instantly fell out of my downward dog and gasped “ohmyg-d!” – clutching my chest for dear life.

Half the room hopped up and hustled out of the studio, completely startled. Emma jumped up behind them and headed for the lobby to find out what was going on. The rest of us looked around – some giggling, some bewildered – all wondering if this was real or just a drill

After about two minutes, Emma came back in and the alarm stopped ringing.“Apparently they needed to run a test,” Emma told us with a calming smile. She then invited us to return to our mats, take a few deep breaths, and let go of the tension we just accumulated. “Let’s meet back in downward dog when you’re ready.”

After about five minutes, those of us who stayed had shaken off the blaring interruption and were now back in the flow. When out of nowhere… the alarm started RINGING AGAIN.

Half the room jumped up and ran out. Some huffing and puffing – mumbling  “seriously!?” and “this is ridiculous”  under their breath.

Emma looked at the rest of us in tickled disbelief:“I guess they needed to run another test? Why don’t we all take a child’s pose…” A few more people walked out, as the rest of us folded into the posture. “I can’t promise it won’t happen again,” she said. “But I wanna welcome you to stay and breathe through it… Let’s slowly return to Warrior 3…”

Five minutes passed. Those of us who were still there were doing our absolute best to regain our focus, fully aware that at any moment we could be taken out of it again. And just as we were getting back into the flow for the third time…  Yup, you guessed it, the alarm went off AGAIN!!! 

This time though, something kinda magical happened. 

There were no audible huffs or puffs. No “c’mon!” or “are you kidding me.” Just a light, collective giggle at the situation and a palpable determination to keep flowing. Not one of us hopped out of the pose. Not one of us left the room. We were officially in it together.

The alarm blared on for another minute or so as Emma fiercely guided us through it. And then yes, if you can believe it, it went off again five minutes after that.

We were a group of strangers who couldn’t control the situation. The noise was absolutely unavoidable, that alarm could start blaring again at any moment, but we chose to breathe through it and to move through it. We modeled focus and determination and surrender for one another. It was as if we were all silently chanting “we got this.”

It was by far the  most useful yoga class I’ve ever taken.


Because it was real life.

Let’s say:

  • A client asks you a question you’ve never answered before and you’re not entirely sure what he’s asking.
  • You’re asked to present a summary of your ideas by the end of the day.
  • Your boss asks you to take on a project you  just don’t have the bandwidth to handle.

Are your internal alarm bells going off just thinking about these scenarios? Mine are. And here’s where this yoga-on-fire experience is useful. 

We all have an internal, built-in alarm system. It’s designed to go off when your limbic system (in charge of survival) senses danger. But sometimes it goes off when something feels like danger, but isn’t actually life-threatening. It’s just a drill.

And when you know it’s just a drill, you have exactly two choices.

You can: 

  1. Give your power over to the alarm system and let the blaring noise inside your mind rule your thinking and behavior. i.e. run away or rage. 
  2. Wait a sec, then flow through it – give your alarm system the time it needs to cycle through its drill. Don’t react right away. Breathe and gently nudge your focus away from the alarm, back toward what’s right in front of you. Back toward what you can control.  Take your time, keep breathing, and offer up a response when you’re ready.

By owning that space between the alarm going off and your reaction to it, you convince your limbic brain (flooding you with all sorts of stressful hormones)  that you have the time and the power to make a decision for yourself. You don’t have to run away or fight the situation. You with a capital Y—that wiser, conscious part of you – gets to decide what You do next.

Pro tips: 

  • If you release the tension in your shoulders and breathe into your belly (not your chest) three times before responding, your internal alarm will quiet down quicker and you’ll feel more in control of your response.
  • You’re always allowed to say: Let me think about that and get back to you. Or, I want to do the best job I possibly can on this, and to do that, I’ll need more time. Or, I’m feeling a bit stressed right now, can we chat more about this later?

⚠️Warning: Reacting (without choosing to breathe, wait or flow), may result in diminished reputation, loss of friends, stinky self-esteem, and issues with swallowing difficult (but manageable) situations.

So ask yourself: What’s one thing you’re gonna commit to doing next time you experience that internal fire drill?

You’re not crazy for feeling stressed. But don’t let that inner fire drill trick you into believing it’s the real thing. You’re in charge of your response always. Make a choice. Choose to breathe, wait a sec and then let your response flow. 

You got this. We got this. Keep showing up as that beautiful YOU, You most want to be. 

All my love,

P.S. Want more tips on how to respond with clarity and confidence when you’re put on the spot? Grab our free resources from the sidebar! You’ll get instant access and E-Tribe tips/giveaways we don’t share anywhere else.

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