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How To Actually Keep Calm And Carry On

The British are better at so many things. Throwing weddings, speaking in cool voices and above all, keeping calm. They are really good at not losing it. Examples: Mary Poppins, Dr. House, Will and Kate, Giles from Buffy, Helen Mirren and Angela Lansbury’s greatest role ever as Mrs. Potts from Beauty and the Beast.

I think Americans are known for being rushed, busy and always wanting and needing things “on the go.” Or we’re thought of as being lazy. I guess it depends on who you’re asking.

As an American who always wanted to be British when she grew up, I’m trying to be more level-headed like our friends “across the pond.” It’s very hit or miss. In some situations, I’m calmer than others. I’m able to stand back and assess the situation, realize how others are responding poorly to it, and not do what they’re doing. In other situations, I act like the workers at Springfield’s nuclear power plant during a practice evacuation. In an effort to help myself, I’m going to help you, too, because I think when we give others advice help ourselves.

michael caine 1966

Michael Caine: everything British in one photo

– You’ve heard many times that you should take a deep breath. But do you actually do it? A legit deep breath? Here’s what you do. Before you go into a potentially stressful situation, like work on Monday morning, sit in your car (or boat or subway or whatever), close your eyes, inhale, hold it and exhale. When you inhale, do it slowly and count in your head to three like you’re a robot, not like you’re a rushed person heading to work. Then let it go. That’s it. But it’s very important to be present when you do this. Don’t do it just to do it. Really think about it.

– Listen to Huey Lewis and the News. I’m serious – when something makes you nervous, listen to the first few seconds of this, and you’re set. Look at how successful Patrick Bateman is!

– Realize that at some point, the day is going to end. Time has to go by. What looks tough now is going to be a memory tomorrow, and that’s just a fact.

– Find the calmest, most put together person in the room and copy them. If you can’t get it together, find someone who can, and do what they do.


Unlike these losers. Kids are such quitters. You put a bear in their room and it's like, ohhh I need mommy.

– Think of an escape plan. If you’re the kind of person who thinks immediately of the worst case scenario, maybe stop trying to fight it. Go ahead and think of the worst case scenario but instead of making it spooky, look at how you’ll rationally get over it. If you did something stupid at work, come up with your escape plan. “I’ll apologize, ask what I can do to make it better, and if I get fired I can use this as a learning experience and ask my friends if they know of any job leads and in the mean time sell my plasma for cash.” If you had a fight with your partner, think, “Okay if they break up with me, I’ll be all right, I’ll collect myself and talk to my friends and/or mom and take a personal day and learn from this experience and buy another cat and pick up a bottle of whiskey.” And so forth.

– Ask yourself, “Is this actually going to matter a week from now?” Think of other times in your life when it seemed like you were on the brink of disaster. Don’t you now realize, I can’t believe I freaked out over that?

Here’s what not to do:

– DO NOT post about it on the internet. It may bite you in your bum later. (See, British people say bum.)

– DO NOT speak out of anger. That’s just going to lead to more anger.

– DO NOT cry in public. That’s what your car is for!



  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002581598663 Hans Johan Svensson

    My opinion is allmost the opposite.
    The value of keeping calm is mostly strategic. It is also about how much time we spend on being misserable.
    The brittish “stiff upper lip” comes mostly out of experiances made in worldwars one and two. There were so many people who simply had to ignore whar they felt in order to go on living. Pills alcohol cigarettes and whatever drug became what people used to sedate themselves. No one was then in a good mental health. No one could afford to be reminded about themselves.
    In the earthquakeridden land of Japan Bushido develouped much for the same reasons. They went even further: “only birth and death are real – all of our life between is but a dream”. Life became a highly estetic beutyfull package of art and perfection – with vertually nothing in it. “Empty your mind” they say, “do not let ytour emotions stop you”.
    I play ches because I enjoy chess – I am emotionally motivated to play chess. I therefore draw the conclusion that all logic must be emptionally motivated. You won´t think if you don´t feel like it.
    Societies that are full of people who spend their days avoyding their past and thereof related emotions has a tendency to stop develouping – no one dares to think of anything new, because that might just remind them of something old that would rather forgett.

    Any society where all are claimed to be exactly alike – “in gods image” “a biological machine” – be it a socialist communist nazist democratic religious state or what ever, will becomme a dictatorship to anyope who disagrees or is somehow different.
    Adolf Hitler called himself a painter – he just provided a “new coat of paint” on what he did not like or on what should not be seen according to him.

    It is easy to look away. It can so becomme easy to regard people as nothing more worth than a simple fly – and so swat him or her.
    I can not turn myself into an antsized creature to then crawl into your brain and there pull on your very nervendings. I have to see you through my eyes and other sences. I can never be you. This is also the limit of my emphathy.
    I can not tell you about you. But, I can certenly ask myself about why and how I react to the things and people around me – I will take care of myself before I try to take care of you. I will not tell you to move away because you offend or upset me.

    Live and let live.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=665170392 Alyssa Wongkee

    Lovely post! I routinely practice some of these, and it helps a lot. No matter what happens life goes on.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=507211695 Samantha Jayne Momber

    As a Brit I would also add, drink a cup of tea, everything seems much better after a cuppa!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=851379405 Becky Hadgett

    Good tips! Though I’d add: make a good cup of English breakfast, add a rich tea biscuit and write an angry letter. Sometimes its good just to rant it all out in safe knowledge that nobody else can take offence at what you’re saying. Plus, if you’re complaining, it can be put aside for a day or so before you decide whether you really do mean what you said. But we Brits do like to complain. I swear most of the time we only stay calm on the outside because we’re doing this on the inside: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DivypvHzPww

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=625057246 David R Jennings

    Your comment, “Have an escape plan”, is sort of a one paragraph definition of stoicism.

    It’s a marvelous thing once you can set aside those negative thoughts that bombard us all each day. Stoicism is really just a few simple mental exercises that work together to help you create an escape plan.

    Here’s where I first learned about it: http://boingboing.net/2010/10/27/twenty-first-century-2.html

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002454016939 John-Paul Keates

    Something might “bite you in the bum”, not in “your” bum.

    This is something else the British do very well; use precise nuances of language to identify those who are part of “us” and those who are not.

    A further example would be our oddly spelt names such as Cholmondeley, which is correctly pronounced Chumley; you either know that or you don’t, you outsider.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000110593395 Michael Munson

    I lived in London as a child, and grew up admiring British films and American versions of British aplomb, in exactly the same way.

    What I have always keyed on though, isn’t the calm. It’s the sense of humor. I think that that is the real key to this.

    The techniques suggested aren’t at all bad, but they require far more work, experience, and direct knowledge than most people can manage. “Always having an escape plan” sounds nice, but if you put in the time required to ACTUALLY have an escape plan for everything, you’ll spend your entire life planning, and never actually do anything.

    Believing everything will work out in the end also sounds marvelous, but the only people who can actually carry that off, are people who have always been able to do things, like get another job within days of losing the one they had; and people who move easily from one mate to the next. Lots of us can’t have the sort of laissez faire attitude required to follow that advice, because our lives just haven’t ever been that easy.

    I think it’s more a matter of letting go of the notion that existence revolves around yourself, and further accepting that life might well often be bloody awful for you, WITHOUT that meaning that you are yourself a “loser.”

    From there, comes the small step, of staring at adversity when it does confront you, and finding that the pressure is now off to prove yourself, you can instead look for the mildly humorous potentials of it all.

    Add in a small dose of “find the bright side, even if you have to switch on your own torch,” and you will soon find that you are able to do things such as responding to your car being towed away with “Ah, well that saves me the challenge of parallel parking it.” Or if your foot must be amputated, you make a note to lobby for half pairs of shoes, to be sold at half price.

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