Managing Crises: How to be Cool as a Cucumber

By Valerie Rice | October 19, 2020

Photo by Markus Winkler on

It is not often I encourage people to act like vegetables, but most of us understand this one. You know those people who can walk into any situation and wave a magic wand making it  better, no matter how dire it may seem? I am one of those. This is only because I am the Queen of Compartmentalization. On the other hand, you have people who end up in the same situation and freeze because there is too much chaos. That’s fine too, because it’s a perfectly normal reaction. I am here to give you a few tips on how to be a cucumber, and wave that magic wand to make things better.


Sounds simple, but do it mindfully. At the start of any crisis take a minute to engage in box breathing. This technique reduces stress and helps you keep a cool head. It is rather simple to master: breathe in for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, out for 4 seconds, and hold for 4 seconds. Just like a box. I know we have discussed this before, but I can’t stress it enough. Connecting your mind to your body through breath is essential for functioning in the now, which is what you need in a crisis. Taking a moment to do this is so very important, especially during a crisis. The situation is not going anywhere, and trying to function in a panic is going to make it worse. So breathe, it allows you to focus, and let’s move on.


In order to take command of the situation, you need to focus on your tone and presence. Make sure your voice is low pitched, as people tend to find this soothing. It also projects a feeling of confidence, which is essential when taking control. Make sure you are loud enough to be heard without causing fear. Having a lower tone helps you increase volume while eliminating a sense of hysteria. Make sure you speak calmly, or slowly, so that your words are fully articulated. Most people will automatically turn to you for instructions if you can successfully project this image with your voice. Keep your body posture similarly calm by standing straight, do not cross your arms, as this makes you look closed off, and look the part. It is about emanating command. Controlling your breath will help.


What do you need? What do you have on hand? What can you get quickly? You may need to start with a pen and paper to write a few columns. With enough practice, these things will quickly fall into place mentally. Don’t worry. Even when time is of the essence, it is worth writing them down to make sure you don’t forget anything. This is your outline for action. Make sure you have backups for your needs if you can, but if you don’t there is no need to panic. You are not going for perfection, just improvement. Once this is done, you can move on to the next step.


Do not bark orders, but do give tasks. Find the people most likely to succeed in gathering resources or completing tasks and start issuing commands. You already have the full attention of the room, so keep handing out orders until all needs are met. Odds are that nobody is going to question you, and being in charge  comes with responsibility so nobody wants that job. If anyone does want a challenge, just ask them what they think the group should do. With a straight face and eye contact. Value their input, they may be useful and can shoulder some of that responsibility. If they break eye contact and mutter, they are panicky and need reassurance, but do not belittle them, give them a task and move on.


Funny we should end here. Once everything is managed, you don’t need to be in control anymore. The group or individual will be calm and the needs taken care of, so be quiet and wait. Be available. There may be a moment you are needed again, because you have gained trust in a critical situation. There may not be, and that is okay too. It is always best to relinquish control when you are no longer needed, but be available should you be needed later.

I really hope this helps. I have faced many crises in my time, both at work and at home, and found these things always useful. They take practice, so make sure you try them out before you need them. Some people can slide into this role naturally, but others need practice. Part of mastering your universe is lending a hand when it comes crashing down. We all hate crashes, but being a  commanding and compassionate leader when you need to ensure that things are not only taken care of effectively, but that your needs don’t get swept aside in the process. Good luck out there!

Published by vrice2010

A mother, an author, a nerd. After many years working in the fields of mental health and developmental disabilities, graduating from the University of Phoenix, and pouring my talents into my local community, I decided to spread my wings and reach a wider audience.

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