Life can sometimes be exhausting and there seem to be some days when your troubles are endless. When faced with a stressful situation, it can be difficult to keep your composure and remain calm. The next time you feel like breaking down or lashing out, take a few moments to calm yourself down before you react, change your thoughts about the situation, and then respond with patience.
Don’t take it personally.
In many stressful situations, you might be tempted to perceive personal persecution or insult when none exists. For instance, sometimes at your place of employment, a coworker may make a decision that you disagree with or find to be inappropriate. However, do not take this as a personal affront to you but instead as a business decision.
Assure yourself that everyone has their own ideas and that those ideas will inevitably be at odds with yours on occasion. Differing ideas are not necessarily meant as an insult against you.
Don’t allow your emotions to be manipulated or controlled by decisions made by others that are not personal.
Reflect on past outbursts.
Think about the times you have reacted because of a burst of emotion in the past. Ask yourself whether or not these bursts of emotions have ever truly made a bad situation better. More often than not, the answer is no.
Consider how your emotional outbursts usually go. Think of the rule, not the exception. Once or twice, throwing a fit may have made things better. As a general rule, though, reacting to a sudden burst of emotion will complicate things even more.
When a person gets upset, it becomes easier to assume that those involved in the problem are behaving in the worst way possible, even before confirmation of that behavior is received. Oftentimes, however, the behaviors and motives you might be tempted to assume exist are not actually true, so you’ll work yourself up for no real reason.
Similarly, when one thing goes wrong, it’s easy to assume that things will continue to go wrong. Making that assumption can cause you to create a self-fulfilling prophecy. You may create more problems simply by anticipating them.
For example, if you just went through a messy breakup, you might assume that all of your mutual friends will turn against you after hearing your ex’s side of things. Your panic may cause you to distance yourself from those friends, and you may inadvertently cause the same sort of problems you were afraid of.
Identify the true source of your frustration.
Ask yourself what really has you feeling so upset. A certain situation may have acted as a trigger, but that trigger may not actually address the real problem. Only by identifying the real problem can you hope to solve things.
For instance, the trigger of your stress might be a last-minute assignment handed to you by an instructor or boss. The assignment itself might not be the source of your tension, though. You might be personally frustrated because the assignment cuts into time you wanted to spend with a loved one, or you might be professionally frustrated because your instructor or boss regularly puts unfair demands on you in this type of manner.
Address the issue to avoid future problems. If these last minute assignments do frustrate you, have a talk with your boss about giving you more notice about deadlines.
Remember also that you CAN say no. You don’t want to make it a habit of saying no to your boss very often if your boss is the issue, but you can exercise that right occasionally, particularly if you have other plans.
Call a friend.
Keeping the stress and frustration inside of you will often cause you to maintain a high level of anxiety, making it impossible for you to maintain any real composure. One helpful way to vent is to call up a friend, relative, or trustworthy colleague and rant to that individual about your frustrations.
Journal or write a letter.
Many people find it helpful to write down their frustrations in a list, poem or story. Take some time away from the situation to jot down the emotions you are feeling. If you are angry at a person, you could write them a letter, but do not send it. Just use this as a mechanism through which to express yourself.
Keep the letter or note out of sight, and consider destroying it once you feel calm.
View the situation objectively.
Ask yourself how an unrelated party might view the current issue or how you would view this issue if it were happening to someone else instead of you. Be honest, and use your conclusions to help guide your reactions.
For instance, if you are feeling upset because someone cut you off in traffic, take an impersonal approach. The person could be elderly or could have just received terrible news. Don’t assume their motivations were to bother you.
Also ask yourself how someone you admire might handle the same sort of situation. By thinking about how a role model will react, you can temper your own reactions and form yourself into the “you” you want to be.
Take a few deep breaths.
Breathe in through your nose slowly and exhale through your mouth. This increase in oxygen to your body will help to calm you so that you don’t react aggressively or inappropriately.
When you panic, your breathing automatically becomes shallower and more rapid. Intentionally slowing your breathing down and taking deeper breaths can reverse the panic response altogether.
Physical stress can pile on top of situational stress, making you more likely to overreact to the situation in question. Get your mind off the situational stress and focus on fixing your physical stress for a few minutes through exercise. Take a few moments to do some exercises at your desk if you are at work.
You might also go for a walk.
If there is a gym at your work or nearby, consider setting up a membership there and going on your lunch break or before work. This is a great way to relieve tension regularly throughout the week.
If you only have a few minutes, correct your physical ailments as best as possible by standing up, stretching slowly, and taking a short walk around your desk or room. Stretch muscles that are stiff from lack of activity and soothe muscles that are sore from too much activity.
Have something to eat.
If you are feeling dehydrated or lightheaded, drink some water and have a snack. If it is nearing lunch time, get out of the office to go have lunch somewhere. You can go alone if you’d like to have time away from others to think or you can go with friends to vent.
Try to have healthy foods as they tend to improve your mood and give you more energy. Fast food makes you feel sluggish.
Stay away from sweets, as they can exacerbate your tension or reactivity.
Give yourself a break.
Sometimes, the best thing to do in a hectic situation is simply to step away from it. Spend some time doing something you enjoy to get your mind off the problem you’re facing. Doing so can change your overall mood and help you re-approach the problem from a calmer standpoint later on.
For instance, if you are stressed out because a coworker has said something offensive to you, you can say “excuse me for a moment” and head to the restroom or to your office to cool down.
Even a short break is better than none at all. If you can only afford to walk away for five minutes, then walk away for five minutes. If you can give yourself more time, then give yourself more time.
One option is to completely unplug yourself. Step away from your computer, put your phone on silent, and go somewhere to do an activity that has absolutely nothing to do with the digital world. Technology is great, but it keeps people so connected that it can feel difficult to escape unless you set it aside momentarily.
If you cannot break away, another option is to spend a few minutes on a website or digital activity that makes you happy. Try a coloring app, which could be very relaxing.
Work on something productive.
Spending too much time on unproductive activities can increase your stress. If you still don’t feel that you’ve gathered your composure after taking a short break, spend a longer period of time working on something unrelated to your stress yet still productive.
This works especially well if you find something that you’ve been meaning to do, but have continued procrastinating on. Clean out your files. Organize your bedroom or office. Finish the book you started reading and never finished.
Switch into an attitude of gratitude.
Thinking about the things you’re thankful for can lift your mood. The key is to focus on the actual sources of gratitude, not to make yourself feel guilty about the lack of gratitude you feel in the face of other difficulties.
Identify the things in your life that you are happy for–people, pets, a home, etc. Meditate on those sources of happiness for a few minutes. Maybe look at a picture of your family or your friends.
Consider the possibilities.
Instead of thinking about all the bad consequences that come with a bad turn of events, think about all the possible good consequences that may develop from it. Consider your present difficulties as opportunities.
For example, if you just lost your job, your initial reaction will likely be steeped in fear about the future. Now might be a good time to think about the complaints you had regarding your old job and consider the fact that you no longer have to deal with those issues.
If you lost your job, now is also the time to start thinking about the possible courses of action you can pursue now that you no longer restricted by your old job.
Think about how you will view this incident in the future.
More specifically, think about how you will view this incident in the future. The things that threaten a person’s peace of mind are often rather short-lived. When viewed in that light, it might be easier for you to devote less energy worrying about your problem.
If imagining yourself 5 or 10 years in the future seems difficult, think about yourself 5 or 10 years in the past. Consider the sources of stress that consumed you back then. Usually, you will be able to see that the things that seemed like such big deals back then no longer seem as important to you today.
Be tactful and respectful.
If you have have an issue with someone in your personal or professional life that has caused you stress, you should address it with them. Share your frustrations with them without ascribing blame. Keep your voice at a normal, unraised level and show them respect.
You might say something like “It wasn’t cool the other day how you cut me off in the meeting. It feels like you do that a lot and I feel frustrated because I’m not able to share my ideas with you.”
Control your facial expressions and body language.
Though you may be a person who wears their heart on their sleeve, if you are hoping to remain composed, you must keep your face and body language in check. You can display aggression and anger simply by your expression and how you position your body. Instead, mirror gestures that are positive, open and inviting.
Don’t have your arms crossed and don’t furrow your brow together or frown.
Sit instead with your arms in your lap or by your side. Keep a neutral facial expression, neither frowning nor smiling.
Keep your argument to three main points.
You don’t want to bombard the person you are upset with with massive amounts of grievances. Instead, focus on a few key points that highlight why you were upset. If you overwhelm them, they’ll be less likely to respond positively and more likely to be defensive.
For instance, if you feel upset with your partner after an argument, you might say something like “I wanted to talk about our fight. It really bothers me when you interrupt me when I’m speaking, try to shift blame to me, and insult me in fights. I don’t think it’s healthy and I’d like to proceed forward in a more constructive manner.”
Once you’ve managed to regain your composure and sort out your feelings, the next thing to do is to press forward. This might mean trying to solve the problem, or it might mean walking away from the problem completely.
When rebounding into action, focus only on the things you have control over: your schedule, your actions, and your interactions. Don’t fixate on things you can only wish might happen.
Look for practical solutions. Ask for a hectic deadline to be extended. Seek professional counseling if you’re struggling with a difficult relationship or an addiction.
Avoid future issues.
Many issues that we have in life can be avoided. As far as it is possible with you, try to live a life that is peaceful and drama free. You will feel happier and less stressed. Do your part to create a drama free life!
For instance, if you have road rage on your commute to work in the mornings, you can try leaving a few minutes earlier so you have more time to get to work. Don’t sweat the small stuff!
Another potential issue that can possibly be avoided is coworker conflict. If you often get into arguments with a coworker who regularly interrupts you in staff meetings, you might pull them aside to have a discussion about it to avoid these issues in the future. You could also have a conversation with your supervisor who may be able to address the situation, as well.