Calm Amid Chaos

by Jo-Aynne von Born, Executive Coach

Hurricane Irma was wearisome for many of us but any crises we face can be an opportunity to bring out the best in us. The critical factor is presence of mind. What is that exactly? The ability to remain calm and take quick, sensible action. If this type of composure doesn’t come naturally, mindfulness is an excellent tool to develop calm amid the chaos.

Although it has its roots in Buddhist meditation, mindfulness has become a mainstream secular practice with thousands of studies documenting the physical and psychological health benefits. These include stress reduction, a boost to working memory and focus and an improved immune system.

As an Executive Coach helping my clients develop their professional and personal best, I share mindfulness practices as a way to cultivate the composure needed to operate effectively under pressure. Mindfulness involves paying attention to our thoughts and feelings with less judgment and more acceptance empowering us to stay centered. With this type of mental/emotional balance, we are:

  • more clear headed
  • less stressed
  • our decision making and interactions are based on what is appropriate for the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.

Here’s an example of mindfulness in action. Just prior to the storm, a client I work with needed to take a detour in our session to deal with the stress of the storm on his family. He agreed it would be best to start with a couple of minutes of Breath Awareness, a simple mindfulness practice that involves observing your breath. His emotions settled and he was able to get clarity on his family situation. In this clear space, he saw things from a broader perspective and made choices that acknowledged everyone’s needs. He demonstrated true leadership.

If you get overwhelmed at times caring for an aging parent, an ill loved one or a child who is having challenges in school, S.T.O.P. is a simple mindfulness practice developed by Dr. Elisha Goldstein, a psychologist who specializes in mindfulness, to help you get back on track. There are four simple steps in the process:

S – Stop.
T – Take a few deep breaths.
O – Observe your experience (Body, Emotions, Thoughts).
P – Proceed proactively by answering this question, “What is most important thing for me to take care of right now?”

By taking a break to breathe and observe your experience, you call your attention back to yourself. This offers you an opportunity to pause, refocus and choose what is he critical next step. Sometimes, this may mean something needs to be done to help the other person, but often times it means tending to yourself. Your own well-being is vital to the well-being of your loved one.

Mindfulness can enhance so many areas of your life and the best thing about it— It doesn’t cost anything but your willingness to practice, even for as little as 5 minutes a day to feel the cumulative effect. If you would like to learn more about mindfulness, contact me and I will send a list of free and reputable resources online from universities and health professionals to get started.

The next time a crisis comes along, you may do as my client did. Take a few moments to breathe and gain calm amid the chaos.

Jo-Aynne von Born, Executive Coach can be reached at or 954-701-8521.

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