First Course of Action When Stressed: Breathe! by Cindy Stradling CSP, CPC
As a leader, you’re bound to face crises and emergencies from time to time. It is human nature to react with stress when faced with crises, whether real or imagined. Over time, you’ve likely learned to take certain steps to ensure quick and proper resolution to the crises you face. However, you may be missing the all-important first step to facing any stressful situation. For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll simply call that step “breathing”.
While we realize that stress doesn’t likely make you actually stop breathing, it can cause you to act in a panic mode, that creates additional stress on your body and that may cause you to make poor decisions. “Breathing” in this sense means taking a couple of important steps.
1. Slow down and take a minute. This part of the process really does involve taking a physical deep breath and slowing down for a second. In a panic, you’re likely to overreact due to an adrenaline rush. Slow down the adrenaline by physically calming your body. Take a walk, head to a quiet place for a few minutes, or listen to some music. Use whatever methods work to help slow your heart rate and calm your mind.
2. Think the situation through. Sometimes, it’s helpful to consider the worst possible outcome in a situation. Often, when you realize what the worst possible outcome could be, you’ll realize that the “crisis” isn’t really a crisis after all. If the worst possible outcome is very serious, you’ll know that you’re justified in reacting swiftly.
3. Consider multiple options. There are almost always several choices in how to handle a situation. Taking the time to consider several options before you make a choice helps ensure you take the best course of action. When you reach this phase, it’s often a good idea to discuss the options with someone else. When you’re stressed, you may not see all the pros and cons of each decision.
Sometimes, there is no perfect answer to a stressful situation. It is important to accept your own decisions and move forward from them.
Stressful situations can paralyze leaders. However, when these situations are handled calmly and effectively, leaders build resilience and credibility with others. The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation, take a minute to “breathe” and see if you find that the situation isn’t really as stressful as you first imagined.