When that stress hits you can feel it in every muscle and every breath, whether it comes from work pressures, client deadlines, money issues, or just your typical L.A. traffic jam.
Stress can feed on itself if you don't find a way to tone things down. When you are stressed, you are more likely to pick an argument or become off-putting. Your productivity can drop like a rock, putting you behind and generating more--you guessed it--stress. It may cost you time, but you have to break the cycle and relax.
Pick up a book.
When things get too hot, I need to escape. An actual book is a great way to get me away from the heat. It requires no connectivity which allows me to distance myself from phones, email, and Internet, which are large conduits for stressful situations. Stories that have nothing to do with my work or life let me give my brain and anxiety a rest and simultaneously feel good about my activity, since reading is a noble act.
Focus on your wins.
Quickly flash on something you've done that was incredibly hard and that you still managed to pull off. That feeling of, "I've faced worse than this--and I've come through," can be incredibly powerful. Plus, it gives you a second to step back and gain a little perspective at a moment when perspective is usually in short supply. And if that doesn't work, smile. Studies show smiling makes it easier to deal with stressful situations. Just make sure you pick your spots; an irate customer may not appreciate your happy-seeming expression.
My go-to relaxation method was always to grab my guitar and wail away. However, I recently discovered transcendental meditation (yeah, I know, I'm several decades late to the party). By meditating for 20 minutes twice a day, I find that I am more relaxed overall, and that stress rolls off me--like water off a duck's back. Do I still get stressed? Sure. But not as intensely, and for shorter periods of time.
Don't get attached to the outcome.
When I'm stressed the first thing I do is focus on my breathing--usually it's fast and shallow. Taking in a deep, full breath does wonders. If possible I take a short break to distance myself from the situation. During this time I do something to take the stress off: jumping jacks, recite powerful affirmations, take in the garden, or use EFT Tapping (my secret weapon). Oftentimes simply stepping back helps us to put a different spin on things or feel less attached to the outcome. When you stop trying to control something (or someone) things just seem to work out.
Allow time to switch.
One of the greatest sources of anxiety for me is being late. I absolutely hate to be late, and if I am, I am completely off my game for the meeting, presentation, or event I am attending. If I am late too often during a given week, I know that I am overscheduled. To avoid this source of anxiety, I build time into my calendar allowing me to get from one event to the next. I especially follow this philosophy when I travel. I try to avoid coming into a city the day of a meeting and will only try to fly out the same day if I know I can leave the offices I am visiting with plenty of time to make it to the airport. Many of the companies I work with stack meetings back-to-back. Creating space in your day is a healthy way to reduce the anxiety that can build up when you are tasked to switch topics (or conference rooms, lines, location) too quickly.