Three Dos And Don’ts For Handling Stress In The Heat Of The Moment

Three Dos And Don’ts For Handling Stress In The Heat Of The Moment

In the heat of a stressful moment, it can be easy to lose ourselves. Everything you’ve worked on to reduce your stress level could fly right out the window in a really tough situation, but if you can remember these three simple dos and don’ts, you can make it through.

Photo by db Photography

Dealing with the overall stress of your life and handling stress moment to moment can be two very different beasts. You may be stressed about a long-term goal coming to fruition, but when something hits you out of nowhere, you can be paralysed in stress overload.

Writer Rebecca Knight at the Harvard Business Review breaks down a moment of intense stress into three dos and don’ts:


  • Identify what your physiological signs of stress are so you can work to alleviate the tension
  • Counteract stressful situations by taking deep breaths
  • Find someone whose judgment you trust who can listen and provide counsel


  • Forget the reason you feel stressed in the first place — you are being asked to do something important and you want to succeed
  • Let the negative voice in your head spiral out of control — talk to yourself in a logical, gentle tone
  • Project your stress onto others — speak in a calm, controlled way and others will too

Stress is something we’ve certainly talked about before, but it can be a major part of our lives, especially the surprise attacks. Get acquainted with your stress signals, and take a few deep breaths. There’s nothing wrong with talking to someone about what’s stressing you out. Keep a level head, re-define your stress, and remember that it doesn’t help to put your stress on others. You can’t truly prepare for every stressful encounter, but you can keep in mind the basic ways to handle it when they come.

How to Handle Stress in the Moment [Harvard Business Review]


  • I don’t think our friend from the Harvard Business Review has ever been in a truly stressful (i.e. life-threatening) situation.
    Real emergencies happen in places like roadside accidents and emergency rooms.
    Anything short of life-threatening, isn’t a real drama, just deal with it.

    In an actual drama, don’t waste your breath and thoughts on self-affirmation. The movies are wrong, the pilot in a crash-dive is neither hysterical nor having flashbacks, s/he is instead doing everything humanly possible to survive.

    Here are a few suggestions about reacting to truly stressful situations:

    1: If you MUST act instantly, trust your reflexes / instincts / training.
    2: If you don’t have to act instantly, focus and think through your options and your next move, twice.
    3: Decisive is fine, desperate is a problem. If the time is available think hard to find non-desperate solutions.
    4: Focus when making each action, even the small actions, fumbling will slow you down more than acting a little more mechanically than usual.
    5: Be steadfast, this is a life-defining moment and doing a good job of it is important.
    6: If the situation becomes extended, keep thinking, reviewing and refining your plan, your strategy, and your priorities.
    7: You’re only a life-saver if you don’t die, remember personal risk when trying to save someone.

    Personally I think everyone needs a personal near-death experience at least once a decade. Helps keep perspective šŸ™‚

  • “Just deal with it”?

    That’s very helpful for all the people who have to deal with non-life threatening but still stressful situations.

    You’re talking about completely different situations, as you yourself acknowledge.

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