Acknowledging your feelings, instead of masking them, is the first step in releasing stress.
Whether you’re dealing with a personal problem or things at work have gotten out of hand, you have to be resourceful when dealing with stress. The first step is to acknowledge your fears and concerns, as the more you can let go of your emotions, the better you will feel.
But what if you have to hide it? You may be in the middle of a work day, shifting from one meeting to another — or on your way to a family event — and receive some troubling news that causes you stress. The concept of responding to an emotionally disturbing and potentially traumatic experience with a “business as usual” attitude sounds great in theory, but in practice, it is challenging. You need time to work through your feelings and process the stress into a workable conclusion.
When you try to conceal your emotions over something superficial, you may be able to shift into a place of controlled calm, wherein it’s easy enough to manage your emotions. But when you are forced to make a more dramatic shift, such as when you are confronted, or when you receive bad news, the shift can be more intense. This leads to a reaction that is neither easy nor natural. As a result, the effort is far more challenging, and there may be a cost to you via increased stress, which can take a toll on your physical health.
There are times you are forced to “fake good” such as taking care of an upset client, dealing with an irrational employee or coworker, and you have to project the image that you aren’t anxious, irritated, or stressed. Learning to acknowledge your emotions is a valuable skill, but the process of getting to that place of coolness requires that you first respect and acknowledge the authenticity of how you feel, right here and right now. It’s also important to get in touch with how you feel without the judgment or pressure from others over how you “should” be feeling.
You may need time to work through your feelings, but there are some simple tools to use, in the moment, to stop stress in its tracks before it takes hold. The following four points may help you get through the day until you can get help from a family member, trusted friend, coach or therapist.
1. Take some deep breaths.
Common advice, however breathing exercises possess significant power to transform your physical and emotional state. Specifically, mindful breathing techniques can lower your blood pressure and keep you grounded.
2. Change your immediate surroundings.
Go outside if possible. Get moving to release energy from the body.
3. Call a friend.
Vent for a few minutes to get your emotions out.
4. Check your thoughts.
Stop the negative loop of fear or irrationality that may be running in your head. If you have ten minutes, try a meditation to calm your nerves.
When bad things happen, give yourself — and the people in your life — the necessary time and support required to arrive at a place of emotional equanimity. It is important to own your feelings, manage your fears, and take control of your emotional life in the face of difficulty but the worst thing you can do is to force emotional control. It is okay to admit your true feelings. In fact, it is the most effective way to heal.
The original version of this post first appeared on Inc.com