Reducing Stress in the Moment Requires Physical and Mental Awareness

Most examples of stress management advice call for long-term lifestyle shifts, which are all fine and good. But that doesn't mean there isn't anything you can do when stress sneaks up on your in the moment.

There are many little inconveniences in life that, in the moment, can be troubleshooted with a quick Google search: How long will this rainstorm last? Is it safe to eat that expired food? Are those chicken pox on my arm? A quick few keystrokes later and you've got your answer.


But when it comes to stress management, in-the-moment troubleshooting doesn't often come to mind. As Rebecca Knight writes over at the Harvard Business Review, that's partly because we've long been inundated with the same old strategies for stress relief that almost categorically recommend broader lifestyle shifts such as getting more sleep or taking up yoga. Those are fine and good for preventing stress for the future. But what about your stress today? How do you deal with sudden bad news or added responsibilities or any number of different causes of abrupt tension?

Luckily, Knight's piece does a fantastic job of amassing a ton of academic research supporting proven tactics for tackling temporary stress. The common key to dealing with flare ups is to assess one's physical reactions to stimuli. Knight calls these "stress signals." They're usually things like increased pulse, heavy breathing, and toxic feeling of self-doubt. Addressing your stress signals, like treating symptoms of an illness, is the best way to pull yourself out of a temporary funk. Focus on controlling your breathing. Take a walk to calm your mind. Shift your internal conversation so that "stressful tasks" become "opportunities for growth or advancement." You can also enlist a friend to help talk you down or make a list of priorities for problem solving.

These are all basic little strategies, but only the tip of the iceberg. Everyone processes stress differently so your own personal strategy can veer from these stated examples. Just remember that addressing your stress signals needs to be the starting point.

Take a look at Knight's full piece (linked below) for more on the topic. It's a really great article.

Read more at Harvard Business Review

Photo credit: PathDoc / Shutterstock

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