We’ve all been there. Your boss schedules an emergency meeting on top of an already jam-packed day. A client calls with a last-minute project. And your new mattress delivery has been rescheduled for a week from Thursday (again).
Instead of letting a crummy call or series of unfortunate events set the tone for the rest of your day, try one of these tips to help you step away from the stress and move on.
Removing yourself from the situation, even for 10 minutes, is helpful. Roy Morejon, president of Command Partners, a Charlotte, N.C.-based digital marketing agency, takes his Fitbit Force and hits the stairs in his building. Climbing 10 flights allows him to clear his head while getting in some exercise, he says.
Leigh Steere, co-founder of Managing People Better LLC, a Boulder, Colo., management research firm, suggests clients "change state" after a stressful event before continuing with their day. For example, go outside and carefully observe something in the environment, such as the color of a flower petal. "If you are thinking about the specifics of the flower, it’s harder to continue to hold the stressful event in your mind," she explains.
Whether it’s a piece of really exquisite chocolate or a cup of chamomile tea, treat yourself to a little luxury. Lisa Reinhardt, founder of Wei of Chocolate in Phoenix, studied meditation in the Himalayas for more than a decade before returning to the States to craft organic chocolate whose branding incorporates meditation principles into the workday. "We instruct people to unplug for two minutes while letting the chocolate melt in their mouth without chewing it," Reinhardt explains. "Enjoy it, revel in it, totally abandon yourself in the deliciousness of the present moment, and when the last of the chocolate melts away, your breathing is deeper, your mood is transformed, and you’ve got that gentle smile on your face."
It might not seem like the most logical thing when you're buried under work, but taking the time to do something nice for someone else can really shift your mindset, says Caroline Adams Miller, a Maryland-based author and psychologist specializing in Applied Positive Psychology (the science of happiness). If you haven’t properly thanked a colleague for their help on a project, for example, go down the hall and thank them. "Altruistic behavior gives you the ‘helper’s high’ and there are many ways to do something generous or kind in a few short minutes," Miller says.
Another way to quickly rebound is to put a pen between your teeth and nod your head as you think of returning to a place of calm and resilience. Why does this help? The pen forces you to smile, and nodding has the same impact on the body as a smile, says Miller.
If all else fails and your mind keeps returning to stressful thoughts, write them down, Steere suggests. Provide a brief synopsis of what's stressing you out, why, and how you plan to follow up when you have more time—be it a conversation with your boss or a call to an angry customer, for example.
Then make yourself a promise: "Now that I have developed an action plan, I am making a conscious choice to set aside this stress and focus on my other projects."