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What To Do When Stress Arises - A Step By Step Guide

I recently wrote an article about stress in the workplace, in which I touched briefly on what to do when stress arises. It seemed to resonate with readers, so I thought I would expand on the practical part.

In general, I think of my articles as either food for thought or practical guides. Typically, they are a combination of the two. When I offer advice, however, I make sure it pertains to things that I've actually tried and found useful in my own life.

In this article, I offer simple, step by step advice on what to do when stress arises. I don't claim these steps will immediately eradicate all stress from your life, but they will help right away.

When you get stressed, whether it be at work, or outside of work, try the following steps in order.

1. Notice it

When we get stressed, we have a tendency to not even be aware. We're so caught up in the effects - our body temperature rising, the tension in our upper body, the tornado of thoughts swirling in our heads - that we're unaware it's even happening.

We quickly assume the problem is something or somebody else, which automatically puts us in a position of "us versus the world."

Once we're caught, we're caught. We're so deep inside the storm, with little chance of escaping. At this point, since we've deemed the problem to be outside, we're then dependent on external circumstances to pull us out of the miserable state.

So, the first step is to simply realize that the storm is brewing inside us. If you don't do this, you will not have the awareness to move on to the next step.

2. Relax

Yes, it's simple, but here's the key. I'm not telling the stress to relax. I'm telling you to relax.

When you notice the stress arise, who is noticing what? The simple fact that you're noticing stress, should tell you that you are not it.

Take a deep breath and say to yourself: "Oh, there's the stress again."

Know that it's not your fault you're feeling stressed, and that there's a reason for it. Yes, it's your fault you created an environment inside yourself that responds with stress. But no, it's not your fault that stress is arising in this moment. Don't beat yourself up over it.

Remember that it's a feeling, and a feeling passes when you give it space. The whole point of relaxing is to give space.

You have a choice of whether or not to get involved. Getting involved means getting sucked in and removing space (you already know what happens when you do this), whereas relaxing means letting go and providing space.

So how do you relax? Breathe. Relax your chest. Smile, even if it's subtle, even if it's internal. When you feel stress, you tend to tense up, right? Well, to relax, you do the opposite of tensing up. You relax your muscles. You lean away from the feelings, not into them.

When you do this, you're immediately creating dis