Stress Reduction


I need some tips for in the moment stress reduction. I have techniques for overall stress reduction: exercise daily, deep breathing 20 minutes daily while listening to calming music, taking a bath, whatever. But what I really need is something I can do when I have a customer or a ten year old or an ex husband screaming in my face, because on any given day I feel like I am one panic attack away from a heart attack!

Side note: I woke up Monday morning having chest pains, which scared me. Not so much because I am old enough to have a heart attack, really, but because I run myself to the max and my body always feels ready to give up on me. Anyway, I went to the emergency room and they told me (after a battery of tests) that it was stress and anxiety. So that is part of the reason I am seeking tips; it is bad enough to land me in the hospital.

Thanks in advance for responses, everyone!!


–Samuel Shem, *The House of God *

Approach your primary care physician about this. The people in the emergency department don’t count. Their job is to treat the emergent/urgent issue until you can see a primary care person or the specialist whose job it is to get to the root of the problem. They weren’t saying that stress and anxiety aren’t a medical problem. They were saying that it wasn’t an issue treated by emergency medicine.

A vacation or retreat to re-set your body to something like calm would be a good idea. I’d suggest you go alone or with one person whom you find very relaxing to be around. It sounds like you’re doing the daily things, but those are the necessary foundation. It is difficult to summon up inner peace when you haven’t been working on the inner peace in the first place. If you are working on a peace deficit, look to addressing that during your “down” time.

When you’re in a calm state, one thing you can do visualize handling on-the-spot problems in a calm way, similar to the way that athletes visualize success on the field. You can imagine the difficult situation, you can imagine noticing your vital signs rising (heart rate, thoughts, shaking, tight throat, knot in your stomach, whatever you get), and then you can imagine taking a deep breath, claiming time to focus yourself, and then practice how you can stay calm while the others around you continue with their own private melt-downs. Practice in your mind returning to calm while they continue to escalate…because this is likely to be what they’ll do, at least until they realize they can’t stir you up any more.

The idea is to respond instead of react. In order to do that, you have to recognize the state when you’re going from rational thought to emotional reaction. You then attend to your own emotions gently, you recognize the agitation that the other person is choosing, you de-couple the agitation they use to manipulate you from your response. Then you can attend to whatever the problem is.

You have to be willing to bring yourself down while they go bananas, though. As long as you can’t be calm unless they’re calm, you are in the palm of their hands. They own you. Also realize that they will not like it if you reclaim yourself. IOW, if you try this “calm response” thing, they may get a lot worse before they get better. That is their problem. All you ought to care about is a) reclaiming your own serenity, b) addressing whatever it is that seems to be the problem and c) letting go of what is out of your control.

This is the kind of thing a professional can help you with, though. It takes practice, and finding a good “coach” for you will undoubtedly be a huge help. Some talk therapy to help remove that tight band that is always around your ribcage could be just the thing, too. (Oh, yeah, I’ve had it, that and the weight on the shoulders that never goes away. It is such an amazing feeling when you realize those have vanished. Wow.)


There’s no reason to put up with anyone screaming in your face.

To a customer: I understand how upset you are. I want nothing more than to help you, but I can’t do that until you lower your voice. Would you like us to continue this conversation right now, or would you like to wait a little bit before we move on?

To a ten-year-old child: I need you to get yourself under control before we talk. You have a choice, you can sit on the couch or sit on your bed until you’ve got yourself calmed down. You’re not in trouble, and there’s nothing wrong with having these feelings, but I do need you to dial things down before I can talk to you about anything. (I say something like this several times a week to my temper-prone 10-year-olds.)

To an ex-spouse, sent via email: Given the rancorous tone of our recent conversations, please do not call or attempt to have face-to-face conversations with me from now on. Please address all of your questions and concerns to me via email or text messaging. Thank you for your understanding and cooperation. Make sure your attorney gets a copy of this email. Walk away if he tries to engage you in conversation, and make a record of his attempt. Save all emails he sends. Dump his text messages from your phone to your computer, and save those too. Attorneys and judges love paper trails like these.


Until you can get things settled so that you do NOT have people screaming in your face, try these:

  1. Inhale deeply through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Besides the momentary distraction of concentrating on breathing, there are physiological advantages to this.

  2. Discretely pinch the flesh between your index finger and thumb. Either hand will do. This releases endorphins, and so it will also help ease a (stress-related) headache.


If possible, and if you don't already have one, I would suggest investing in a pet if you like animals. Studies have shown petting your cat lowers blood pressure. I know it helps me at the end of the long day to pet my cat or snuggle with my dog. Good luck :)


I recommend laughter!!! Sometimes when I most stressed, if I can think of something funny or make a joke it really lightens the load. I’ll give you a little saying I keep in mind and it always makes me smile in a tough situation. Take a deep breath and say to yourself as you breathe, “in through your mouth, out through your a**.” :smiley: I apologize ahead of time if you find this offensive, but it works for me.:stuck_out_tongue:


I use liberal application of good Nicaraguan or Dominican cigars and 15 year old single malt scotch, to relieve stress, but of course, your mileage may vary.....:D

Seriously, you need to find something that you enjoy that relaxes you and make sure you take the time to do it once in a while. It might be anything from needlepoint to soduku, but you definitely need "downtime".


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit