When it comes to long-term balance, there’s no shortage of tips and ideas on how to ensure that you’re maintaining healthy stress levels and your work doesn’t completely swamp your personal life. But other times, all that advice to exercise, set priorities, and keep your perspective just isn’t what you need–on these occasions something highly stressful has happened, your heart is pounding, and your palms are getting sweaty. You’re about to have a freak-out Now.
What you need is a sort of instant-relief medicine for stress. Something quick and effective to quell your rising panic and get you back to a place where you can think with a level head about how to proceed. Thankfully, such fast-acting techniques are available (no trip to the pharmacy necessary).
University of Cincinnati researcher Keith King, an expert on stress management techniques, recently offered research-backed advice for panic-stricken students that would serve just as well for business owners on the edge of a breakdown. What are his top in-the-moment ideas to short-circuit an imminent freak-out?
When you’re gripped by stress, it’s not a good time to recall complicated formulas or subtle wisdom. But you should be able to manage three little letters. So next time you feel panic rising, simply take a moment to recall this ultra simple recipe to get a grip: Stop, Pause, and Breathe.
“In the moment when you’re stressed, you need to slow down. You pause. You take some deep breaths. Maybe you count backwards from 10. Those types of things calm everything down and slow it down,” says King.
When you’re panicked, your first thought may not be to reach out to others, but fighting through your initial skepticism about sharing your bad mood with others is likely to pay big dividends. So get on the phone and chat with a friend next time your stress levels start to rise. “Everyone has phones on them. Call your buddy and let him know what’s going on,” King suggests. Research has shown that getting together with other people is one of the surest ways to bust a bad mood–as long as you can overcome your inertia and drag yourself out the door.
King offers another handy acronym to keep in mind: H.A.L.T. Stress is often exacerbated by physical conditions that can help turn molehills into mountains. You need to keep this in mind and maintain your perspective.
The secret of H.A.L.T.? “Make sure you’re not Hungry, you’re not Angry, you’re not Lonely, and you’re not Tired. If you can take care of those four things, you’re significantly more likely to be unstressed,” King says.
If the problem is more your empty stomach than your situation, that’s a handy thing to know.
How do you react when you feel yourself starting to panic?