How to Find Calm in the Storm

Posted By on Sep 9, 2013 | 3 comments

The pressure is on.

Maybe you’ve got a big deadline coming up. It could be a big presentation you’ve got to do soon. Perhaps you’ve got a bunch of customers clambering for refunds or needing assistance. Or it could be something else completely.

Whatever the issue is, you feel like you are in the middle of a storm that is raging out of control, and you don’t know how to find the calm.

Everyone has the potential to become extremely stressed out by things going on in their environment. It’s normal. We are designed to react to certain circumstances with a fight or flight mentality. That very natural reaction is one that can cause us to act unprofessionally, irrationally, and even childishly.

So, how do we do it? How do we find the calm in the storm of things swirling around.

Several people have asked me this question in multiple settings. One such situation I’ve been asked about a lot is my demeanor just before I  go on stage with my band.

You may or may not know that I am a singer (occasionally) and have been playing with a rock band since 1999. One of the most important things I do before a show is picture myself in a very calm place. I allow myself to become so relaxed, people often ask if I’m okay or if I’m sick. I always tell them that it is the calm before the storm.

On stage, it is a high energy, high output environment. And as the singer, most of the eyes in the venue are on me. If you think about it, that can become a very frightening, stressful situation. Instead, I allow myself to think about a myriad of things that will keep me optimally relaxed.

It could be baseball, discussing other bands with a friend, or just letting my mind wander to the back porch of my house, which is one of the most relaxing places I go. There is, however, another thing I do that I have found to be the most calming of all.

I listen.

Before a show, I have discovered that by talking to some fans or friends and asking them leading questions that will allow them to talk for a while, I refocus my mind completely on the other person. I take a keen interest in hearing what they have to say, and it totally removes any thoughts of what I have to do or how many people are going to be looking at me. I am no longer concerned about hitting all the right notes or getting all the lyrics right.

I have taken my focus and put it on others. And this can be done in almost any kind of scenario. You can put yourself in an early frame of calm before a presentation, a performance, or just clocking in at work.

That is before the storm, though. What do we do if the storm just happens?

I had a co-worker ask me how I stay so calm all the time. He said I looked like the most chill person on the planet no matter what was going on in the building. In fact, one day when we had a line of students out the door of the school where we worked, I was processing their information on the computer as fast as I could, one kid at a time.

People were grumbling in the line, wanting to know why it was taking so long, and it was just a general cluster of insanity.

While several of the people I worked with said they would have lost their cool and freaked out, I didn’t. And they couldn’t understand it.

Here is how I do it. And you can apply this immediately to your life in almost any situation. It is one line that you must always keep at the front of your mind. Ready?

You can only do as much as you can do.

I know. It’s disappointing, right? You thought I was going to give you some mind-blowing advice. Nope. Just that line. But if you think about it, and you are mindful of that line, you will soon begin to see how powerful it really is.

Here’s a little explanation.

If you are at work and you have a stack of 100 papers you have to take care of. Maybe they’re reports or records or some other kind of paperwork that many of us deal with on a regular basis.

That stack looks imposing, doesn’t it? Now, is it possible for you to get the entire pile done simultaneously? No! It isn’t! And no matter what you do or how awesome you are at your job, you cannot possibly get it all done instantly.

We live in a society that demands that sort of thing. Many of us want instant gratification for nearly everything in life. So, when we can’t get something done super fast, it causes us stress, and stimulates that fight or flight chemical response.

When those moments come, remember that you you can only do what you can do. No more, and no less.

When I am faced with situations like the stack of paperwork or a line of kids out the door of my building, I focus on the one piece of paper or the one student right in front of me. I know that I can get that one task taken care of. And I do my best to handle it quickly, and correctly. Then, it’s on to the next one.

By locking in my focus on only what I know I can complete, I remain very calm amid the storm going on around me, and am able to finish the tasks at hand one at a time.

Here’s another fact about that: the more I focus on one thing at a time, the faster I get each individual task done.

Like I said, you can apply this to many situations. Whether you are trying to write a book, run an office, or just doing stuff your boss has given you, by keeping in mind that you can only do what you can do a sense of calm will well up inside you no matter what kind of storm is brewing.

Let me know what you think about this. If you have another tip, I’d love to hear it, and so would other people. And if you found this helpful, give it a share on your social media profiles. The more people we can help stay calm, the calmer our whole world will become.



  1. It’s late, and I seem to do that here lately. I am glad I stayed up and I found this to read Very encouraging! I love this one line: “You can only do as much as you can do”. It is so simple and true, but it is so profound.
    I am preparing to speak in front of my church this Sunday on a personal topic, and I have been a little intimated about it. I have been on stage before in the theater, but that is different beause I enjoy that. Your blog “How to find calm in the storm” is perfect timing for me; I needed to read it.
    Now, I can be calm on Sunday because I can only do as much as I can do.
    Thank you Ernie

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  2. Hi Ernie,

    I very much like your suggestion of saying to ones self “You can only do what you can do.” when faced with a stressful situation that could spiral out of control. I can’t count the number of times I’ve deluded myself into thinking that if I ramped up my effort to a higher level or a better level, I could squeeze out a wee bit faster or better result – even tho I’m already giving 100%. Of course that’s crazy.
    Your suggestion will allow me in the future to give the 100% effort when needed, but then stop, relax, and realize there is NO benefit in striving for something more. I can see the use of your method relieving allot of stress in my future.

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  3. Hi Ernie,

    I love your article. I love this line “You can only do as much as you can do”.
    I work as a physical therapist in my local government clinic. Every working day, i will see a lot of patient, some are given appoinment, some are walk-in patient. Somedays, there will a lot of walk-in patient, and this increase my work.
    I found that this line “You can only do as much as you can do” is very helpful in my job. I will apply it into my job. Using this method help me relieve a lot of stress.
    Thanks Ernie

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