How to quickly manage stress tip 1: Realize when you’re stressed

The first step to reducing stress is recognizing what stress feels like. Many of us spend so much time in a stressed state, we have forgotten what it feels like to be fully relaxed and alert.

What does it feel like to calm and stress-free? You can see that “just right” inner balance in the smile of a happy baby—a face so full of joy it reminds adults of the balanced emotional state that most of us have misplaced. In adulthood, being balanced means maintaining a calm state of energy, alertness, and focus. Calmness is more than just feeling relaxed; being alert is an equally important aspect of finding the balance needed to withstand stress.


Signs that you may be stressed

  • You feel drained and depleted
  • You can’t concentrate or think straight
  • You feel nervous and keyed up
  • Your stomach is upset
  • You’re having trouble sleeping
  • Your muscles are tense





How to quickly manage stress tip 2: Identify your stress response

Everyone reacts differently to stress. Some people get angry and do or say things they regret. Others shut down, withdraw, or freeze with anxiety. The best way to quickly relieve stress and calm yourself down depends on your specific stress response.

The most common ways of responding to stress:

Psychologist Connie Lillas uses a driving analogy to describe the three most common ways people respond when they’re overwhelmed by stress:

  • Foot on the gas – An angry or agitated stress response. You’re heated, keyed up, overly emotional, and unable to sit still.
  • Foot on the brake – A withdrawn or depressed stress response. You shut down, space out, and show very little energy or emotion.
  • Foot on both – A tense and frozen stress response. You “freeze” under pressure and can’t do anything. You look paralyzed, but under the surface you’re extremely agitated.

Overexcited vs. underexcited

When it comes to managing and reducing stress quickly in the middle of a heated situation, it’s important to know whether you tend to become overexcited or underexcited when overwhelmed.

  • Overexcited – If you tend to become angry, agitated, or keyed up under stress, you will respond best to stress relief activities that are calming and soothing.
  • Underexcited – If you tend to become frozen, depressed, withdrawn, or spaced out under stress, you will respond best to stress relief activities that are stimulating and that energize your nervous system.

How to quickly manage stress tip 3: Discover what works for you

The best way to reduce stress quickly and reliably is through the senses: through sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. But each person responds differently to sensory input, so you need to find things that are soothing to you.

We all have different preferences and needs. What some people find soothing may be unpleasant or even stressful to others. For example, certain kinds of music may relax one person but irritate another. So you need to be a “stress-buster detective,” spending time figuring out what works for you. Then you can use what you’ve learned to create calming, sensory-rich environments at home, in your car, at the office, or wherever you spend time.

Knowing the right kind of sensory input is essential to:

  • Speed up, if you are a person who is spaced out or depressed
  • Slow down, if you are a person who is angry or agitated
  • Help get unstuck, if you are a person who is frozen with anxiety

Learning the sensory stress-busting techniques that work for you give you a powerful tool for staying clear-headed and in control. You’ll have the confidence to face challenges, knowing that you have the ability to rapidly bring yourself back into a state of equilibrium.

It’s important to identify stress relief techniques that:

  • Both relax and energize you
  • Have an immediate impact on your stress
  • Are enjoyable and make you feel good
  • Consistently work for you
  • Are always available or easily accessible


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