15 Ways to Bring Calm to a Stressful Situation

Dear YMCA community,

Lately one of my focuses, as Community Engagement Director and interfaith chaplain, has been to research and attend trainings on handling difficult situations, particularly those involving conflict, harassment, or a mental health crisis. Whether you witness a hateful outburst in a coffee shop or someone needing mental health first aid in our YMCA, often those diverse situations call for similar de-escalation and non-anxious presence.

Below are some techniques I bring to you from the Pledge to Step In bystander intervention workshop, led by self-defense and de-escalation experts at the TownLake branch a few weeks ago. The participants found it so helpful, we plan to hold the workshop again, open to all YMCA staff, members, and the public. Stay tuned to TownLake YMCA on Facebook and your member newsletter for the next dates.

If you have questions about these techniques, additional research or expertise to share, or you need support, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me at erin.walter@austinymca.org.

De-escalation techniques

  1. Non-anxious body language and tone of voice
  2. Determine the subject’s objective
  3. “What I’m hearing you say is…”
  4. Mirroring – repeat their words, mirror their body language, if appropriate
  5. Don’t say, “Calm down.” Don’t contradict.
  6. Make yourself as little a threat as possible. The goal is not to correct the person or prove you are right. The goal is to de-escalate the situation.

Some options if you’re being harassed…

  1. Leave the scene.
  2. Notify someone in charge.
  3. Politely ask the harasser to refrain.
  4. Say or shout, “I don’t know you!” so others can hear.
  5. Enlist the help of bystanders.

Some options if you see someone being harassed…

  1. Stand or sit by them.
  2. Strike up a conversation using positive language, tone of voice.
  3. Ignore the harasser. Look away from them or be between them and the target of harassment.
  4. Invite the target to go somewhere else with you. Leave together.

Source for three lists above: Pledge to Step-In bystander intervention training

In this post, I share resources for mental health crises and providing mental health first aid.

If you need immediate crisis or mental health support, please call 512-472-HELP for a variety of resources. If you need ongoing counseling support, please click here to reach out to our YMCA  pro bono counselors

Last but not least, when you have had to deal with a highly stressful situation, take time for yourself afterward. Meditate, pray, breathe, talk with loved ones, nap, go for a walk — whatever helps restore your peace. Life is full of challenging interactions, and they can be less traumatizing if we plan in advance for how to behave in the moment and how to recover afterward. Here are some programs the YMCA offers for tending to your spirit.

With much love,

Rev. Erin J. Walter,

Community Engagement Director

All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and/or contributors and not of their employer. Any questions or concerns regarding the content found here may be sent to info@austinymca.org

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