How to cope with stress in the moment
Biologically, we react to stress in three ways: physically fighting its cause, running away from the situation, or feeling frozen and unable to work. In the 21st century where most causes of stress are mental, it can become particularly difficult to deal with stress in these ways; essentially because we need to work in spite of the stress factor. In many cases, we find ourselves mentally incapacitated to work, which can be counterproductive to dealing with the situation and overcoming it, and can in fact bring about more stress.
Stress affects each one of us in a unique way. Some may start perspiring, or experience increased heart rate. Some, on the other hand, may feel faint or light headed. On the mental level, some may feel angry and want to break something, while some may simply find it difficult to think clearly. To move forward, it is of the utmost importance that we learn how our brain and body react to stress, to be able to identify when we are experiencing stress – and take measures to effectively deal with it.
Broadly classified, this is to say we either have an overexcited or underexcited stress response. What this means is, we either experience being agitated, overly emotional, keyed up with thoughts racing a hundred miles an hour, or have an underexcited response by feeling depressed, withdrawn, or spaced out with a blank mind.
The remedies work in balancing these states to help you feel normal again; such as if your mind is overexcited, you may feel better after taking a walk and expelling that energy, or taking long, slow breaths to calm your thoughts. If you are feeling more reclusive, then energising activities that stimulate your mind might work better, such as playing a game, having a conversation, or simply watching an informative video.
Another response many experience is feeling frozen under stress, being unable to move. This may be associated with previous experience of trauma. However, you can overcome this. The challenge here is to break free – movement is one of the best ways. Try simply getting off the chair or bed and walk, fill a glass of water and do an activity that requires physical action. This will also help in distracting your mind. The next step here could be to read something interesting. This will not only engage your mind, but also distract you from the stress factor, to help you calm down and relook at it. Baby steps are the way to go from here. Start by just one simple task after another and you will find yourself making headway.
Depending upon how you experience stress, your response to dealing with it will need to customised. There are many tips and tricks available online, as well as in books; however, you need to find what you are comfortable with, and what works for you. Following are some tips and ideas to get you started:
Find ways to expel energy if you are overexcited, or energise yourself by:
- Writing down your thoughts and feelings. This will enable you to analyse and work through them better.
- Find a stress ball or Rubik’s cube that you can play with.
- Play an engaging game online or on your mobile.
- Take a brisk walk.
Find ways to calm yourself down or invigorate your senses by:
- Take long deep breaths. When feeling stressed, our breathing becomes shallow and fast. Changing this can have a physically calming response.
- Talk to a friend or trusted colleague. Having someone to talk to at the office can be hugely relieving and helpful. Do choose this person wisely, as you do not want any talks to backfire.
- Watch calming and relaxing videos with ASMR or soft music. They are becoming popular in helping with calming the nerves.
- Take a shower, if available.
- Use aromatherapy. There are many oils and blends that produce the desired results.
There are various other techniques you can use to deal with stress in the moment, to be able to work better and overcome any situations you may be facing. Explore what works best for you through trial and error. Keeping a journal might be a great idea too. One of the most common physical responses to stress is feeling hungry and binging on sugary or fried food. Do remember this and keep such responses in check to avoid sugar crashes and remain in better health.
While dealing with stress in the moment is critical, incorporating long-term stress-reducing habits such as better diet, exercise and mindfulness go a long way in lowering the frequency and intensity of the experience of stress. Practice both in balance to deal with stressful situations in life in a healthier manner.