Stress doesn’t always hit when it’s convenient. In fact, more often than not, panic, jitters, fear — whatever form your stress takes at any given moment – comes on just when you need it the least. Yet, almost all guides on decompressing and de-stressing say you should meditate or do yoga or make time for yourself on a regular basis. All of these things are true, and they will contribute to reduced stress levels overall, but they don’t necessarily help you in the heat of the moment – at the mall, in the office or at your family’s annual mid-summer reunion!
For those special stressful moments, we offer you these quick hints for getting centered on the go!
No matter where you go, there you are
Okay, so you know the whole trick to life is being present in the moment, right? Alas, it’s easier said than done. However, when the big S (stress) hits you hardcore in the middle of a moment when it, well, wasn’t welcome to say the least, one of the first things you need to do is to stop and get a grip. Are you stressing about that particular moment or are you off in space thinking about where you’ve got to go next, the pile of paperwork on your desk or next week’s business trip?
Oftentimes when we freak out it’s about things that have already happened or are coming down the pike. However, since there’s very little we can do to change the past (in fact, there’s no way to actually change it), and, unless you’re in the heat of planning when the anxiety comes on, little you can do to affect the future, it makes sense that by getting in the present – in the moment – with a few deep breaths, you’ll do a lot to relieve your immediate tension. This doesn’t have to be a full-on deep breathing session, and if you’re in the company of others, they don’t even have to notice you’re doing it. Simply elect to breathe evenly and deeply when you realize the pressure’s coming on. You may find that it makes all the difference.
Take a few minutes to organize
While you may not feel it at the moment, no one is going to begrudge you a moment to organize yourself. In fact, if it will make you less scattered or stressed and thereby easier to deal with, excusing yourself for a just a moment to return calm, cool and collected, will do wonders for any situation – and save you the embarrassment of reacting from a place of anxiety.
Know your own bounds
In stressful situations many of us (particularly women) take on more than we can really handle. Whether it’s because we feel we need to please people, we don’t want to trouble anyone else, or for any other reason, this is the kind of behavior that leads to more and more stress down the road. So, if you’re out at the supermarket and are already overwhelmed because you forgot your list, after you take a few minutes to make a new one (a few minutes will save you a lot mentally and financially in these kinds of situations – see above!), switch off your cell phone. Don’t agree to pick up a few extras or run another errand when you don’t have the time. If it’s going to add too much to your plate to pick the kids up from school when it’s someone else’s turn from your carpool, politely decline. In other words, know your own boundaries. Adding fuel to an already blazing fire is going to leave you burnt to a crisp. Don’t do it. Stop the insanity. This goes for work, home, relationships, whatever. A candle burnt at both ends melts away to nothing. You need to burn brightly, not burn out!
Take care of you
It may be hard to believe, but above all else, the most important thing you can do is to get your own needs met. Stop a moment and determine what needs you have that aren’t being met at the moment when stress comes on. If you can, jot them down – even the silly ones like a bubble bath and a massage! Just getting them out will help and bring levity to the situation. In the end, you may not be able to fix that exact situation, but you’ll be better prepared for next time.
It’s always half full
Even though it may kill you to see it that way, always do your best to see the glass as half full rather than half empty, especially when you’re stressed! This sounds kind of Polyanna, but it’s not meant that way. What electing to take this point of view will do is cool things down a few degrees when stress heats up. Positive people have lower stress levels over all and get more of what they want – it’s a proven fact. William James, the father of modern psychology, said, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that man can alter his life simply by altering his attitude of mind.”
You can’t fix everything!
Okay, so it might be nice sometimes if you could actually be responsible for someone else’s behavior. But the truth is, even if you’re dealing with your own toddler, you can’t decide what anyone else is going to do or say at any given moment. The next time someone pisses you off beyond reproach (like your annoying mother-in-law or know-it-all boss), try to remember that it has nothing to do with you (as in you most likely didn’t cause it). Likewise, don’t let your judgments of (or reactions to) them be self-behavior based. In other words, you can’t expect anyone else to behave as you would in any given situation — because they’re not you!
Now remove yourself from responsibility for their actions, and remove yourself from trying to fix them. That alone should be enough to unburden most of us, a lot of the time!
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