Staying Afloat at times of crisis

Last summer The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) produced a video designed to cut risks from drowning. It introduced the key survival skill of floating.



They explained that on falling into cold water our instinct is to swim hard to fight the cold water. However the average temperature of British and Irish waters is 12-15°C – cold enough to cause cold water shock. Cold water shock makes you gasp uncontrollably and breathe in water, which quickly leads to drowning. It is really important to fight this instinct to swim and instead pause, float on our back until you are able to catch your breath. If you just float until the cold water shock has passed and control your breathing you have a far better chance of staying alive.



What can we learn from this in our personal and professional lives?


How many of us, when confronted with a crisis situation have panic as an immediate response and immediately go into a flurry of activity.
How much more effective to do the equivalent of floating in water . Sit down, get your breath and think through what to do first. This will enable you to think clearly and encourages those around you to stay calm as well. Your calmness, followed by thought-through action will show others that you will find a way to get the situation under control.

This year at least seven people were sure that remembering to float first when falling into water saved their life. They had a plan of action ahead of time for dealing with such an emergency . Similarly in the work environment it is useful to have a plan of action for dealing with emergencies and criteria in place for distinguishing between a real emergency and an unwanted event. The former is best tackled by having a clear list of actions, people to contact etc that is decided before the emergency takes place. The latter may prove quite manageable once you have thought it through.

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Moment captured through bubble with a man

Holding on to the moment

Moment captured through bubble with a man

 Holding on to the moment

“For oft, when on my couch I lie. In vacant or in pensive mood…” Wordsworth

We can become so embroiled in work that we rush from one task to another. Our bodies and brains are running on adrenalin as if we were under attack. We may feel virtuously busy and that this is an effective use of time but, if unchecked, such frenetic activity can wear us down physically, emotionally and mentally. The logical part of the brain switches off so we cannot find solutions easily. Clear thinking and creativity are compromised.

Deeply beneficial is to find ways of stopping and pausing even when we are busy. One way that can help us pace ourselves and draw breath is by holding on to key moments in the day and drinking them in by way of sustenance.

Moments of Celebration

Spending a few moments last thing at night or when we first wake up to celebrate what is going well and what we have recently achieved can help lighten the weight of expectations and obligations we envisage for the day. So, too, can duly acknowledging those moments in the day when we complete a task successfully rather than hurtling past them.

Moments of Recalibration

Unless responding to immediate demands or an unexpected emergency, it is beneficial to recalibrate when shifting from one task to another by pausing to take stock and recoup, exploring possible options for our next move and then prioritising as best suits the situation we find ourselves in. This helps us feel in control while staying flexible and open to possibilities.

Moments of Insight:

Finding moments in the day when our body rhythms are in a relaxed state is another important way of allaying overload and stress. These can fall in easily with our normal routine as, for example, when we are having a bath or walking. Our thoughts and emotions are able to unravel, gradually reconfiguring to reach a point of clarity and revelation. It is often then that up it comes, the gem of a thought and the answer to what previously puzzled us. Such moments of insight are precious and it is important to cherish and hold on to them.