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"I'm going to blow" How to deal with stress in the heat of the moment

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

person feeling calm doing yoga at sunset

Acute stress is usually triggered by unexpected events or situations which set off a strong “fight or flight” response. The surge of stress hormones can feel overwhelming and leave you feeling out of control.

The good news is that it is possible to control the impact of this stress response. The trick is to quickly recognise the triggers and employ simple techniques to re-engage your rational brain and get back to feeling in control.

Technique 1: Take Time Out

An oldie, but a goodie! This technique gives yourself time to calm down and not respond in a way you might regret later.

“Count to ten” before doing or saying anything. If ten isn't long enough, count longer. The trick is to let the initial hormone surge dissipate before responding to the situation.

In extreme situations when counting is not enough, take yourself physically out of the situation until you have calmed down enough to respond rationally. If you can try to explain to people what you are doing before removing yourself this will help them understand and leave you alone until you are ready to talk calmly.

Note: This technique should not be used as a way to avoid dealing with things, but is a way to ensure that when you do, it is more likely to be calm and productive.

Technique 2: Get your breathing under control

High levels of stress hormones can result in a feeling of panic, with an accompanying erratic heart beat and irregular breathing. This physical state can even escalate into a full blown panic attack if not dealt with, during which it is impossible to think rationally. In these situations, you need to get back yourself back in control by concentrating on your breathing.

The following simple technique is proven to regulate the heart rate and calm your entire system:

  • Breathe in through your nose for a count of four,

  • Hold your breath for a count of 1-2,

  • Breathe out through your mouth for a count of four.

Repeat until you feel calm.


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