I read a fascinating piece in the i newspaper recently about ‘cold shock’, the name given to our body’s response to sudden immersion into very cold water.
You can read the article here but to quickly summarise, being plunged into cold water causes a number of quick changes in our bodies, we have a ‘gasp’ response leading to hyperventilation, lose control of our breathing, and the sudden temperature change can put a strain on our hearts, we are overwhelmed with sudden change.
The best advice is to give ourselves time to adapt to the change, stay still, hold onto something if possible, or just float, fight the instinct to swim hard, in other words, give yourself time to acclimatise to the sudden change.
Reading it I was struck with the parallels to dealing with any sudden change. A change in circumstances, unexpected extra responsibilities, a new job even, all of these things can lead us to panic. The change can overwhelm us to the point where we can’t think straight. We often lose valuable time thinking about how overwhelmed we are.
It may seem counter-intuitive at times like this, but sometimes the best response in these situations, as with ‘cold shock’ – is to sit in your environment for a time to acclimatise, get your breath back (metaphorically and physically!), resist the temptation to ‘do’. Early decisions made in panic are often the worst decisions, based on limited understanding.
So, pause, be aware of the effect that your circumstances are having on you and just ‘float’ for a bit. Once you have acclimatised, then you can start thinking about the next move ahead. As the RNLI advise ‘Fight your instincts’; and ‘Float first’.