How to calm yourself when you're stressed out

- Between the work deadlines, and the pressure to keep up, many of us of seriously stressed.

Emory Healthcare internist Dr. Sharon Bergquist says that feeling of constantly being under fire can be toxic.

"Stress can affect every part of your body, everything, from your memory, to your heart health, down to your skin," Dr. Bergquist says.

Chronic stress can trigger a chain reaction, sending us suddenly into fight-or-flight mode.   

One minute we're fine, the next our adrenaline is surging.

We can't catch our breath, we're sweating, and our heart is racing.

What do we do to calm ourselves down?

The first step is breathing.

"If you can even, right then and there, just started taking some nice deep breaths," Bergquist says. "And, as you're doing it, you're focusing all your mental energy on the breathing."

That slow, rhythmic inhaling and exhaling can slow your heart rate, and lower your blood pressure, Dr. Bergquist says.

"What works well is deep breathing, the kind where you can actually envision the breath going in from your mouth or your nose, all the way down, filling your lungs and getting the belly breaths," she says.

Usually, the rush of adrenaline, and the anxiety that comes with it, will pass in a matter of minutes.

Until then, Bergquist says, there are a couple of other tricks to calm yourself.

"Most of the techniques are centered around distracting yourself, removing yourself from that stressful situation," she says. "Sometimes, you can physically step away.  For example, go outside of the building get some fresh air."

If you can't get away, try to think about something else, other than what's stressing you.

"Focus on an image that soothes you," Dr. Bergquist suggests. "If you need to, think of a joke. It will break that pattern of focusing on what's really getting you stressed."

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