Lucas Brenner » Articles » What Not to Do When Stressed

Seeing Stress as Unchangeable

Stress is just an emotion generated by our own thoughts. Thousands of years ago, a stress response was a defense mechanism designed to protect us from danger. In this context, stress is a good strategy because it alerts us and makes us able to fight. In everyday life, however, there are many situations that can be considered dangerous by our bodies, so we are permanently trapped in stress.

We must not allow ourselves to train our bodies to classify certain situations as dangerous. For example, if we allow ourselves to get caught up in our stage fright before every presentation, then the brain learns that such situations should be perceived as dangerous in the future as well.

Of course, you can't just turn off stress. However, it helps if you realize that stress is just an emotional reaction that our brain controls. It is not a law of nature that we must be stressed!

When you find yourself in a stressful situation, try mentally taking a step back and looking at your emotional response. This breathing technique can help you do that. You may not be able to shake off the emotion, but knowing that you are consciously above the stress response is reassuring. The stress can only take over and control you if you let it. If you choose a rational approach instead, you can actually make the stress work for you and use your increased awareness and performance to get your tasks done.

Skipping Breaks

Even if stress makes you more efficient and you feel like you don't need breaks: You need regular downtime. Everyone needs to recover to maintain performance and stay healthy.

This is especially difficult to implement in stressful situations because the body thinks it's a matter of life and death. In the past, it was impossible to take a break while being chased by a predator. However, situations are different today and you should force yourself to switch off and deal with something else.

In my article “Dealing with Stress Healthily,” I write more about how to best take breaks in stressful situations.

Reacting Emotionally

In stressful situations, one is extremely emotional and tense. As a result, you may show this stress to the outside world, for example through snide comments or outbursts of anger.

These emotional reactions should be avoided as much as possible. You should be careful both to continue to be friendly toward other people and to closely monitor your own decision making. You should not make emotional decisions while being stressed.

This point is very important because it determines how others perceive us. If you appear composed, continue to be courteous, and make rational decisions, those around you will conclude that you handle stress well. This is useful in both professional and private contexts.

Staying in This State Permanently

Last but not least, you should make sure that you are not permanently stressed. Stress is a useful reaction, but our body is not designed for permanent stress. If you are stressed for days, weeks or even months, it will affect your health.

That's why it's even more important to take breaks and switch off. You should also work on recognizing stressful situations and your emotional reactions to them, so that you can change them if necessary.

That said, it's perfectly normal to be stressed in certain situations. You will, of course, be unable to avoid some of the issues mentioned in this article from time to time. This is also normal.

To sum up: You should avoid stress as much as possible. If you are still stressed, recognize it as a purely emotional reaction that you can control. Take regular breaks and do not react emotionally, but remain friendly and make rational decisions. You can also find more tips on how to deal with stress in my article “Dealing with Stress Healthily.”