How To Survive An Emotional Stampede

A few years ago I had what is safe to say; the worst day of my life. Worst day EVER. My boyfriend dumped me and I found out my father was terminal with only months to live.

Furthermore, in the back-drop I was having a crisis of faith.

AND to top this Armageddon- esque day off, I was having friend dramas, major friend dramas.

I was going through what I like to call an emotional stampede.

FYI an stampede is:

stampede [noun]


an occasion when many large animals or many people suddenly all move quickly and in an uncontrolled way, usually in the same direction at the same time, especially because of fear:

More catastrophic is an emotional stampede:

emotional stampede [ C ]

[stam-peed] + [ih-moh-shuh-nl]

an occasion when many problems and calamities all move quickly and in an uncontrolled way towards a person, usually in the same direction at the same time, causing incomprehensibly fear, panic and sadness:

If you ever find yourself in a stampede, an actual physical real-life one, the Bear Grylls type people of the world recommend the following actions:

  1. Conserve energy

  2. Stay on your feet

  3. Protect your vitals

Truthfully, I think the same can apply for an emotional stampede.

1) Conserve energy

The current is always heaviest in the middle. When you’re caught in a rip-tide, the advice is; don't fight the current, conserve your energy and ride it out.

Conserve energy – don't push against the crowd and don't yell or scream.

Apparently, panicked crowds release an incredible amount of energy- comparable to that of a running train.

When you’re in the throes of an emotional stampede, sometimes it’s best to ride it out. It takes an element of surrender.

‘At fifteen life had taught me undeniably that surrender, in its place, was as honorable as resistance, especially if one had no choice.” - Maya Angelou

Naturally our instinct is to fight. Fight for relationships. Fight for life. Fight for justice. Fight to be heard. Fight for happiness.

Don’t get me wrong, ALL of aforementioned are worthy of fighting for. But there are just some moments in life that require surrender.

For me, I had to let go of that relationship (spoiler alert: it incidentally ended in marriage)

I had to surrender to the idea of loss. I was losing my dad (at least in this life). I had to become conformable with the idea that death is an important part of life. I couldn’t save him, despite my best efforts.

Surrender was a gift. Surrender allowed me to be more present for the precious time that I had left with him.

In times of crisis choose your fights well. Conserve your energy. Go inward, look upward.

2. Stay on your feet

Don’t let this emotional onslaught take you out.

Negativity, disappointment, set-back, heart-ache, sadness, loss- it might be coming for you but brace yourself, you’re going to get through this!

A human stampede can exceed a 1000 pounds of force. An emotional one is much the same.

Abraham Lincoln famously said; “Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.”

An emotional stampede can take you places you never intended on going. It can sweep you into a depressed state, anxiety and negativity. Anchor your state of mind. Allow yourself to feel all the feels but don’t let the force take you somewhere you don’t want to go.

3. Protect your vitals

Experts say that death from asphyxiation is the primary cause of death in a stampede. Essentially, you are suffocated. To survive you are encouraged to shape up like a boxer and protect your lungs and heart.

Similarly, in an emotional stampede, you must protect the things you hold dearest.

Your dream, your beliefs, your ideals, your optimism or your spark need protecting first and foremost.

Now is not the time to let these things lose oxygen.

At peak crisis it can be tempting to give-up.

I used have a trouble seeing things through to completion. I’m an excellent starter but I tend to fizzle out somewhere in the middle. When my father took ill, I was two years in the three year degree. My initial reactions was to post-pone (aka quit) my degree.

This would have been acceptable, no-one would blame a girl with a dying dad. None-the-less, I had a dear friend challenge me. She reminded me that dad would most likely want me to complete my dream. She was right. So I did. I’m not suggesting that postponing wouldn’t be the right move for some people, it just ultimately wasn’t right for me!

When the stampede is coming thick and fast allow it to shape and refine all of the positive virtues and dreams in your life but DON’T throw them away in the heat of the moment.

If you need to rest, rest. Take a breather.

“If you get tired learn to rest, not to quit.” - Banksy

In my experience, the old cliché about diamonds being made through pressure and force is tried and tested. Emotional stampedes happen. How we navigate our way through them is the trick.

By Kristy Fox

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