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Manage Stress ‘in the moment’ during the workday

Work stress with all of its negative implications has become so prevalent, it is almost considered inevitable. But, it doesn’t have to be.

By understanding how stress works and learning some useful ‘in the moment’ coping strategies you can manage yourself differently even in high pressure situations and change the results you achieve.

Manage Stress 'in the moment' at workThese simple tips will help you to:

  • Stay calm and not ‘react’ in a way you might later regret
  • Choose your response rather than feel driven to ‘react’
  • Enjoy less anxiety and negativity
  • Build resilience

Manage Stress ‘in the moment’

A little stress may be helpful to get you going but prolonged or chronic stress is toxic and a sign that you need to move back to wellbeing. Today’s workplace is a challenging environment with endless activity, distractions, pressure. It is easy to get ‘overwhelmed’.

In a previous article, I explained how this pressure can cause an amygdala hijack in your brain, where the alarm system overrides your ‘thinking brain’ causing an immediate and overwhelming emotional reaction which can push you into stress reactivity.

But, when you understand what is happening and practice the simple skills below, you can manage yourself better ‘in the moment’ and build resilience in the longer term.

Manage Stress in the moment – Step Back from Reactivity

Notice when you have been triggerred. Can you?Manage Stress 'in the moment' at work

This takes practice because your habit is to be fully identified with your experience as it occurs, totally in the drama. Instead of thinking you are the difficult emotion ‘the rage’ or ‘frustration’; try noticing the tension building in your body, your heart beating, your breath shortening and give this your full attention.

It only takes six seconds for the brain chemicals that cause the alarm reaction to diffuse. So ‘catching’ yourself when you have been triggered and stepping back is vital.

Manage Stress in the moment – Step Back from Reactivity

Breathe consciously to self calm, pause and take a step back

Manage Stress 'in the moment' at work

The breath is calming and immediately starts to reverse the stress reaction. When you can give all your attention to just a few breaths, the heart rate slows, blood pressure drops, you gain an awareness of your body and muscle tension.

The mind clears, you question the accuracy of your thoughts and feelings. You see how reactive they were and have an opportunity to re-frame them.

Manage Stress in the moment – Step Back from Reactivity

Move your body

Manage Stress 'in the moment' at work

If you are still agitated, you may need to ‘take a bathroom break’ or a ‘short walk’ and just get some physical space. When, you move your body (especially when you are pay attention to physical sensation) you change your physiology – tense muscles relax as well as psychologically getting a break from the story your mind is telling you (which is probably perpetuating your agitation).

Choose your response instead of being compelled to reactManage Stress 'in the moment' at work

The equation E + R = O meaning Event + Response = Outcome is a powerful reminder that whatever the stressor, you have a choice in how you respond and this determines the outcome you will achieve.

So, even if the challenging event is outside your control; when you notice ‘your buttons being pushed’ (alarm mechanism):

  • You can either ‘react’ – interpret the event as disastrous and see yourself as a victim of circumstances. This happens when we are in ‘reactive’ mode, or on auto pilot. We blame something or somebody, ‘loose it’ or ‘get into a conflict’.
  • Or, you can manage your negative emotional state (anger, frustration, fear, upset) and choose a positive Response to improve the Outcome. For example, acceptance of the situation as it is. Asking yourself questions: Where do I want to go from here? What would be helpful? How can I get the best result now?

Reflect and re-frame



Finally, its a good idea to reflect later and identify your source of stress – ‘what triggered me?’, ’is there a different way I could have looked at this?/interpreted this? By become aware of your habitual often-negative patterns, you can change them.

And, of course when you change the way you look at things; the things you look at change!!

Manage Stress in the moment – Step Back from Reactivity

So, remember next time you feel yourself about to ‘react’

  • Stop and notice your physical sensation
  • Breath fully and consciously and create some space
  • Move if you need to, stretch and open your body
  • Choose how to act when you are calm – often doing nothing immediately is the best choice!

This blog was written by Joanne O’Malley, Mindfulness at Work.

We offer  Workplace Wellness Programmes including:

  • Mind Fitness and its relevance for all
  • Stress, anxiety and negativity: why, how, what to do…
  • Coping strategies when our buttons get pushed?
  • Powerless or powerful – your choice?
  • Resilience – How to build it
  • Keeping Mind & Body in an optimum state

Mindfulness at Work Workshops & Courses and Mindful Leadership & Emotional Intelligence Training.


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Joanne_large_transparentMindfulness at Work was set up by Joanne O'Malley to provide high quality Mindfulness Training. Research shows Mindfulness is effective to reduce stress, increase self awareness and deal more effectively with the demanding context in which we work and live... >> more


Thoroughly engaging. Beautiful in its simplicity. Returning to a 2nd course is an anchor for me and reinforces the benefits of meditation. I learned to put distance between ca…