7 Ways to Stay Calm in Stressful Moments


No matter how much we simplify our lives, try to be organized, or carefully plan our weeks, stress happens. And in a hyper-connected world, stress can find us wherever we are. With a reach like that, we could all use a few new strategies for maintaining a level head when the world feels upside down. Here are seven ways to stay calm when you're stressed.

1. Prepare yourself mentally

If you can anticipate stress, you can prepare for it and (with a little practice) control your response to it. Approach the situation with a positive attitude, consider what solutions will be available, make a plan, and determine how you'll reward yourself once the challenge is over. With a strategy in place, you'll be much more likely to stay cool when the heat is on.

2. Breathe

Proper breathing feeds oxygen to your brain and helps restore imbalances in the autonomic nervous system — two advantages if you're trying to keep calm under pressure. Take a few moments to practice mindful breathing. Inhale deeply, expanding the chest and engaging the diaphragm muscles. Exhale slowly and fully. Repeat. Relax. (See also: You Might Be Breathing Wrong)

3. Think of the big picture

Without proper perspective, stress can seem all-consuming. When you feel the pressure mounting, remind yourself that this is just a challenging moment in time; it's not the rest of your life. Identify the natural end point of every stressful period — the end of workweek, once final exams are over, or as soon as the latest project is complete — then work toward that point with renewed clarity and energy.

4. Identify what you can and can't control

Every stressful situation is different. Focus your energy by understanding what's within your control right now and working through solutions. Surrender everything that's beyond your control to the talents of others and that ultimate de-stressor: time.

5. Focus on what's urgent

With a clearer idea of what you can control, prioritize tasks as you go. Ask yourself, "What issue is most urgent? What could have the largest impact on my job, my business, or my family?" Sure, the printer may be jammed, there are deliveries to sign for, and your best salesperson just handed in her resignation letter. But if your largest client is fuming on the other end of the phone, that's the emergency. Focus only on what's primary and leave the rest for later.

6. Delegate

Often, stress is simply the result of too much to do in too short a time. In these instances, find someone you can delegate low-level tasks to (a team member at work, and a friend or family member at home). Trust that person to get the job done without your constant supervision and input. (See also: How to Delegate at Work and at Home in 4 Easy Steps)

7. Unplug

If you're feeling overwhelmed, phone calls, emails, text messages, and a steady stream of world news will only add to the chaos. Give yourself permission to unplug for awhile and give your brain a rest. If stress is a regular part of your life, reserve some off-grid time every evening or on weekends. Defend your downtime (and avoid worrying friends and family) by letting everyone know you won't be available. (See also: 13 Cheap Ways to Beat Stress)

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