Raise your hand if you are feeling stressed! If you’re reading this post, you might be looking for respite from the blood-pumping, heart-racing, fast-breathing type of stress that hits us when our days take unexpected turns.
Stress is an everyday part of life for most people, in varying amounts, but the situations in which we feel anxious can be vastly different. This means there are interventions that work for some types of stress, yet not for others.
Chronic stress can have serious negative effects on our health as it weighs on us over time. There are tons of great ideas for managing stress on a long-term basis, including daily self-care practices and activities you can turn to in times of need. Acute stress, however, operates a little differently. It can strike while we are driving, at work, around the house—pretty much any time and place. And we might not have our long-term stress management tools with us when it does hit us (for example, we might not be able to excuse ourselves to quietly journal, meditate or crank up our favorite tunes in the grocery store).
There are some things we can do in the moment that will help us get through a stressful patch. Review these ideas so you can proverbially pull them out of your back pocket the next time traffic raises your blood pressure, criticism from a coworker sends you reeling or technology fails.
1. QUICK DEEP BREATHING EXERCISES.
Perhaps the most underrated stress management technique, deep breathing, is a tool you can take with you wherever you go—and it can be very effective! You don’t need any special training to learn how to do it, either, which makes it an easy and accessible go-to tool.
Deep breathing can be done in just a few breaths in between sentences or, if you can find a quiet spot for 10 minutes, in a more relaxed (but quick!) recharge. Depending on the amount of time and space you have to practice, you can fit this technique into most acutely stressful situations that you might encounter every day. In traffic, at the office, while presenting to a group of people, while in line at the bank… pretty much wherever you go. Deliberately controlling your breathing to reduce your body’s anxiety response is an important tool to have in your portable toolbox.
2. RECOGNIZE THE STRESS AS FLEETING.
Just like controlling your breathing can be helpful, controlling your perspective can also improve stressful situations greatly. It is easy for us to have tunnel vision when introduced to an unpleasant situation (it’s probably how our species have survived this long!), yet in our modern day this can be more of a roadblock to achieving calmness.
When stress hits, reel yourself in and remind yourself that this kind of stress is fleeting. The traffic will clear up, the irritating work day will end and there will be calmer times ahead. Putting our experiences into perspective can help us kick our focus and problem-solving skills into high gear, so we can get through the situation unscathed. One helpful question to ask ourselves in these instances is “Will this stuff matter in a year?” If the answer is “no,” then we can more easily move forward through the stress to get to the other side.
3. CREATE CALMNESS.
It is way too easy for some people to quickly escalate and freak out in stressful situations. It is often more difficult to to maintain a calm and focused demeanor and outward expression, yet doing so can make a big difference.
The more often we can try to keep a calm facial expression, tone of voice and posture while dealing with stress, the better. This may be really hard to do (especially if other people are not cool, calm and collected), but it’s important to try. Especially because animals are prone to mirror the behavior of other animals—even if we aren’t aware we’re doing it! So, the next time you find yourself face-to-face with someone who is raising your stress level, try on a serene expression and “indoor voice” and see how quickly the stress level dies down.
It’s important to note that acute stress for everyday events is different than clinical anxiety or panic disorders. The former is something that everyone experiences and the latter affects some people in a very significant way. For people with severe anxiety and panic, treatment with the help of mental health professionals is advised.
This post originally appeared on Care2.com.