Being Cool in Real Time Stress

Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA
Richard Citrin Ph.D., MBA

One of the most challenging parts of being resilient is staying in the moment when a stressful event is happening.

Examples of successful navigation almost seem heroic at times. A fire fighter running into a burning house, superstars like LeBron James sinking that last second jump shot to win the game or a news reporter detailing events from the front line of a war zone.

Some of these qualities may be hardwired into these first responders, professional athletes or journalists, but for the rest of us, we may find ourselves tensing up with even a mini-crisis like what might happen in a fast paced, high stress work place. Whether it is having to prepare a last minute presentation to your boss or responding to an acting out teenager, confronting acute and intense stressful situations are difficult.

What I generally see, however, is that most people do step up to these situations and handle them well. Some ideas for you to try:

  • Understand your mission: You have a job, its your responsibility and you are adult enough to take on the challenge.
  • Trust your instincts: Whether it is admitting a mistake or pushing back on unrealistic expectations, speak your truth.
  • Breathe: We tend to stop breathing when under stress. If there is nothing else for you to do but listen…make sure you are breathing
  • Keep to facts: Stress creates emotional responses for us and while imparting the importance of how you feel is vital, make sure it is accompanied by the data that supports your position.
  • Practice, practice, practice: Even if I have just a few minutes before a presentation, I’ll verbally practice what I am going to say so that I’ve gotten a little rehearsal in before the real event.

Nothing is more satisfying than making it through a challenging event successfully. Don’t be surprised if you are better at it than you think.

© Richard Citrin, 2014


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2 thoughts on “Being Cool in Real Time Stress”

  1. When we get overly emotional, the logical/thinking part of our brains (cerebral cortex) shuts down and the “fight or flight” portion takes over. Good advice to stop, breathe, and keep the end in mind.

    1. Dave, Thanks for your comment. I’m reading the bookFlow by Mihaly Csikszentmihaly in which he talks about the importance of learning to use our thinking brain to maintain focus on events around us. I’m all for respecting our emotional brain and using that data to help inform us but by using the simple techniques associated with mindfulness (like breathing) we increase our ability to deal with challenging situations.

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