It's inevitable that feelings of stress and anxiety come in moments that we can't predict or control. Whether you are scrambling to meet a deadline at work and it's only 8:30 AM on Monday, or you're in a personal crisis ... or an all-consuming anxious feeling of dread comes over you "randomly" ... it's difficult to deal with these emotions when they surprise us at very inconvenient times.
The fact is that no feeling is final, and you are physically and mentally equipped to handle it with finesse.
Okay, great...but HOW?
Life is busy. Responsibilities and challenges mount naturally as we get older.
Even if you have good self-care outlets in place, you won't always have the luxury of dropping everything and heading to yoga or therapy when stress hits.
It's easier to respond mindfully in the present, than to recover from self-destructive reactions later.
So here are 8 easy ways to manage, cope, and decrease feelings of stress and anxiety in the moment.
1. Breathe. It's really simple. Don't forget to breathe! Breathe calmly with intentionality behind it. There is hard science behind this...breathing=oxygen to your brain=brings you out of fight or flight mode--back to your prefrontal cortex=rational, logical consciousness. Even taking 3 long deep breaths can make a huge difference. Click here for a useful guide to calm breathing.
2. Name it. Naming and acknowledging emotional experiences reduces the sting from raw feelings of stress and panic on the body. And now that you're breathing and back to true consciousness, you can think clearly. When you're stuck in emotion and your brain is lacking oxygen, your perception about what is really going on is cloudy. This is paramount, because oftentimes in stressful, unexpected situations, we need to be able to respond accordingly, make positive decisions, and think with rationale (bonus: this applies to communication and conflict resolution too).
3. Talk to yourself. If you find yourself naturally catastrophizing and sinking into negative thinking ["this is so bad", "I can't handle this", "I suck", "I'm gonna lose it", etc.], it's important to teach your brain how to reframe the negative thinking into positive self-talk. Talk yourself through the situation like you would a good friend.
4. Endorphins! - Endorphins are neurotransmitters that act as natural analgesics and calming defenses to both stress and pain responses in the body. Physical activity is the most effective way to release endorphins. That doesn't mean you have to hit the gym or go run 5 miles...even a short walk or squeezing a stress ball can be helpful.
5. Phone a friend. Or text, snapchat, ping.... choose an appropriate person from your support system. Sometimes just the security that someone else knows you're having a rough day and has your back is a great comfort and reminder that you're not alone.
6. Get outside. When possible, it's important to step away from a stressful situation, even for a couple of minutes. Going outside takes positive redirection a step further. Feel your feet on the ground, gain a broader perspective, breathe in the fresh air and allow yourself the time and space to re-group.
7. Take a shower. If you're home or somewhere else you can jump in the shower...this can work wonders. Water is a natural calming agent. Add in some essential oils, deep breathing, and positive self-affirmations...you've got a refreshing recipe for recovery and re-set.
8. Last but not least - make the time to schedule a thorough self-care activity.
When you do find yourself in one of those inconvenient, unsuspecting, all-consuming moments of stress, anxiety, or panic, and you don't have the time or luxury to drop everything and go to -- schedule it instead. as soon as you can. Most of the things listed above are quick and simple for in the moment...but "your happy place" taking care of yourself and allowing your mind and body to recover in the long term is imperative for ongoing mental and physical health.
© 2016 Rachel Cord
Pacific Marriage and Family Therapy Network
We provide teen, couples, and family therapy, and have therapists who are skilled in working with kids, teens, and adults experiencing difficult transitions, relationships, or emotions.
Pacific MFT Network is a professional network of highly skilled licensed Marriage & Family Therapists and Interns that are committed to empowering a sense of self in our clients and helping them live the life they want. We do so by creating a relationship that is based on genuine care and concern, non-judgment, and support. Our mission is to help you help yourself live a happier and more satisfying life.
Manhattan Beach, CA