Sally rolls over in bed, glancing at her alarm clock. “7:45!!” she exclaims while rocket- propelling herself out of bed. Sally has already been late to work twice this month. “I can’t be late again,” she tells herself. Her chest tightens, heart begins to race and her stomach becomes hot and churns; with no time for a shower, Sally races out the door.

Sally has triggered her body’s primordial ‘fight or flight’ response. This response was, at one time, a basic human survival mechanism alerting us to danger and the need to either stay and fight or run for one’s life. Although we have evolved from such a brutal existence – this response is still triggered during high stress situations.

Stress is any change requiring us to adapt. Stress is unavoidable and necessary. Stress is tension…the “I can’t take it” of uneasy emotions. It is a strain, a pressure of life events. Stress can be positive. It can be a source of high energy and increased awareness. Some stress actually improves performance, but too much impedes performance.

What could Sally have done, in the moment, to manage the stress she was experiencing?

When we are stressed, we tend to breathe from our chest in short, shallow breaths. To manage this response, take a break, get quiet somewhere and breathe deeply and slowly from your diaphragm. Get clear about what you can and cannot control. Choose responses (actions, words, etc.) for what you can control. Develop tolerance for what you cannot control.

OK, you are stressed right now…What do you DO?

  • Listen to music
  • Rock in a rocking chair
  • Play with your pet
  • Weed a garden
  • Scream into a pillow
  • Take a bath
  • Watch a movie
  • Paint
  • Pray/meditate
  • Go for a walk
  • Call some-one