Categories
Self-organization

How to handle high-tension situations

The reality is, people are going to get angry with you regardless of whether you give them a legitimate reason to or not. You can’t really control how someone feels or reacts. But if you are looking for ways to diffuse a conflict situation, there are a few little tricks you can do to keep the peace.

There are certain types of people that you just can’t seem to stay angry with, and the big secret here is, these are people that don’t get easily angry themselves, author and life coach Jaya Jaya Myra tells Bustle. “Their general demeanor is always cool and flowing like water, not hot and fiery,” Myra says.

According to her, there’s a “universal law” you may be familiar with that talks about action and reaction. When one person is angry, it will often trigger anger in the person they’re interacting with. People who easily diffuse conflicts are careful to not respond to anger with anger.

“These are the sorts of people you just can’t get angry with, because your anger slips away and vanishes when they don’t react or respond to it,” she says. “People who have the ability to do this generally go with the flow, are not judgmental and generally stay in a good mood, regardless of what other people do.”

But as many of us know, it’s quite a challenge to stay cool when someone’s going off on you. So here are some small things you can try to diffuse conflict when someone is angry at you, according to experts.

How to handle high-tension situations

Image Source / Getty Images

It’s not easy to keep your cool when you’re angry, but it’s essential. After all, to be a safe person for those around you at work and at home, you must know how to maintain your composure even when you feel like your buttons are being pushed.

Being able to recognize, understand, and control your anger allows you to communicate more effectively. This, in turn, leads to stronger and healthier relationships, both in your professional and personal life. Here are our best tips for managing conflict, tension, and anger.

Identify (and Avoid) Your Triggers

Everyone has different “anger triggers” or things that commonly lead them to respond with anger. These triggers are unique to each person and are usually based on individual life experiences. For instance, if you were teased about your weight as a child, you may react angrily to comments about your weight as an adult.

Here are common events and situations that can trigger anger in most people:

  • A friend joking about a sensitive topic
  • A friend not paying back the money they owe you
  • Being wrongly accused
  • Cleaning up other people’s mess
  • Rumors or gossip
  • Violations of personal space

Know Your Body

Anger doesn’t usually just pop up out of nowhere. You’re not happy-go-lucky one minute and raging the next. Most people experience a number of physical cues that let them know when they’re upset. Common physical responses to an anger-provoking event include:  

  • Clenched jaw
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Tight shoulders
  • Shallow breathing
  • Sweating or shaking

Tuning into these changes in your body allows you to take steps to manage your anger. By recognizing your personal warning signs, you can use tools to reduce your anger before you say or do something you’d regret.

Breathe

Even if you’re already in an argument, it’s never too late to stop and take a deep breath. When you start noticing yourself getting tense, try to focus on breathing. The key is to breathe deeply from the abdomen, getting as much fresh air as possible into your lungs. Slow, deep breathing helps counteract rising tension and turn on the relaxation response. Your heart rate slows, blood pressure decreases, and your muscles relax.  

Take a Time-Out

Give yourself some time to calm yourself down. As time passes, you will be able to be more objective about the issues and to sort out the truth about the situation more clearly. So if things are getting a little too heated, excuse yourself for a moment. Get some water or go to the bathroom. You can even take a quick walk around the block.

The more time you give yourself to process your emotions, the less intense they are likely to be.

Listen Carefully

Active listening enhances communication between you and the other person. This, in turn, reduces the potential for misunderstandings. It also fosters empathy and reduces feelings of irritation before they get a chance to boil into full-blown anger.

Give the other person time to explain their view of the situation. You may have overreacted. The whole disagreement may not even be that serious once they explain.

Arguments usually start when a person doesn’t feel like they’re being heard. And they’re often resolved, not when both parties agree, but when everyone feels heard and understood.

Use Humor

Don’t take everything too seriously and learn to laugh—at yourself and at whatever anger-provoking situation you may find yourself in. Finding humor in difficult and frustrating situations can help put you at ease, both physically and physiologically.

Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, your body’s natural feel-good chemicals, and reduces the level of stress hormones (cortisol, epinephrine, and adrenaline) found in the blood.  

Humor also helps put everyday irritations into perspective. In the grand scheme of things, most problems are nothing more than minor annoyances and not worth your anger or tension.

Seek Help

If anger has been causing problems in your life and you’re struggling to tame your temper on your own, try talking to a friend or family member. Sometimes talking through an issue or expressing your feelings to that person can be helpful.

If you continue to feel overwhelmed, you might want to seek professional help. A mental health professional can get to the root of your anger and help you find healthy ways to deal with it. While you can’t completely eliminate angry feelings, you can learn healthy ways to express yourself and reduce the intensity of your negative emotions.

You might feel it most when sitting in unmoving traffic on your way to work, having a tough conversation with your boss about a missed deadline, or thinking about all the work you’ll have on your plate next week.

Tension makes you uncomfortable, makes situations harder to deal with, and contributes stress to your life, which can ultimately result in physical effects from headaches to heart problems.

We’d all be more comfortable, less stressed, and more capable of handling unpleasant situations if we felt less tension — or better yet, didn’t feel it at all. But is it even possible to reduce tension? Or is tension just a natural part of living?

Tension can take form as an immediate reaction, such as a moment of panic when the car in front of you slams on its brakes. But the important kind of tension — the kind that’s preventable — is tension that lingers, such as when you dwell on upcoming deadlines or in the middle of a performance review.

This kind of tension is rooted in anxiety, and there are specific, scientifically proven ways to remove it or reduce it in any situation:

1. Crack a joke.

Think of the humorous people in your life — the class clowns who always find the humor in a situation. They don’t seem stressed or worried very often, do they? That’s no coincidence.

According to a study in Heart and Lung, the simple acts of smiling and laughing can reduce anxiety (both in short-term situations and as a long-term disorder), as well as depression. If you’re experiencing a tense situation by yourself, smile — even if you don’t feel like it.

It will trick your brain into feeling happier and less tense, making the situation more acceptable. If you’re with someone else — even someone responsible for making you feel tense — try cracking a light, appropriate joke. It will probably make both of you feel better.

2. Breathe deeply.

Those deep breathing exercises you hear about aren’t superstition or old wives’ tales. They’re scientifically demonstrated to aid in relieving stress and tension in individual situations. Deep and attentive breathing exercises help the mind to focus away from the tense situation, and may play a role in regulating blood pressure, artificially signaling to the brain that a situation is calmer or more relaxing than it actually is.

In short, if you breathe deeply like you’re relaxing in the middle of a tense situation, you could fool your brain into thinking you actually are relaxed.

3. Worry — but for a set time in the future.

Most of us have a pattern of worrying. We worry, then think about how much we’re worrying, then worry about worrying, then go right back to worrying. We worry endlessly because there’s no structure, and even if we specifically try not to worry, we always go back to it.

The solution, according to a study in the Journal of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, could be scheduling a bit of designated worry time in the future. If you’re worrying about something, mentally schedule a time to worry about it — say 20 minutes — later in the day, or maybe the next day.

You’ll find yourself worrying about it less in the current moment, instantly relieving tension. Plus, when it comes time to actually worry about it — you may find all those anxieties have already passed.

4. Think like an outside observer.

Tension often sprouts from unreasonable or illogical emotions, such as fearing we’re about to get fired when we’re called into the boss’s office or worrying we won’t be able to handle a workload we’ve already tackled in the past. To prevent or ease tension in these situations, try imagining your situation as an outside observer.

Picture yourself as a fly on the wall, or as a close friend who happens to be in the room with you. What do you think about the situation? How do you feel about it? Chances are, you’ll be less worried, less critical, and less emotional overall. This will help you feel less tension and address your problems more objectively at the same time.

5. Think of something positive.

Negative self-talk is a major contributor to anxiety and tension. You might find yourself saying things internally like “this sucks” or “this is really uncomfortable,” but these thoughts aren’t observations of your emotions — instead, they create your emotions.

To create more positive emotions, aim for more positive thoughts like “this is an amusing situation” or “this will make for a good story later.” If all else fails, don’t think about words at all — instead, think of positive images, like kittens, or nature, or an ice cold beer, depending on your personal preferences.

The next time you find yourself wrought with tension in any situation, professional or personal, take a few moments to try one of these five strategies. Everyone is different; you may experience higher tension than other people, and you may find that some of these strategies don’t work for you at all.

If this is the case, I’d encourage you to remain patient, experiment, and keep trying old and new strategies until you find something that works for you. Like any mental exercise, reducing tension takes practice, so don’t give up just because you’re having initial difficulties.

Anna Johansson is a freelance writer, researcher, and business consultant from Olympia, Washington. A columnist for Entrepreneur, iMediaConnection, and more, she specializes in entrepreneurship, technology, and social media trends. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Free Book Preview: Coach ’Em Way Up

Situation 1: Jeff and Maria are co-workers at a company that lets employees set their own hours. Jeff usually saunters into the office about 10 a.m., while Maria is there promptly at 9 a.m. She often has to take care of Jeff’s customers due to his lateness. He rationalizes that all is OK because he stays until 6 p.m. to “make up his time.” However, his clients usually stop calling at 5 p.m. Maria is angry with Jeff and becomes irritable and frustrated with him. She takes it out on him in daily interactions and sometimes even in staff meetings. Clearly, their conflict is an issue.

Situation 2: Allen and Leo are both managers. In almost every staff meeting, they bicker. They try to cut each other off, they criticize each other’s comments, and they waste time that could be devoted to essential business matters.

In both of these situations, conflict results in a waste of time, energy and productivity. Are business situations like these rare? Or is this kind of conflict exclusive to large companies?

Hardly. Conflict is all around us, and it occurs in every office to varying degrees and with almost every employee.

So what is conflict?

If you ask the average person, the responses could range from a negative situation to an extreme dislike for another person. At the same time, others could define it as anger, distrust, antagonism or simply something they dislike. These are all negative views, and I find them too narrow.

I suggest that conflict does not need to be characterized as just negative. In fact, it can be neutral or even positive. Conflict can simply be defined as tension.

Tension can be good, bad or neutral. Just because two people disagree doesn’t mean their disagreement is negative or poisonous; it can simply be a difference of opinion. However, left unaddressed and allowed to fester or grow, that neutral tension can become negative and possibly harmful. Then everyone, including the organization, suffers.

Whatever definition is used, we can agree that most people don’t like conflict. Indeed, they go out of their way to avoid it. In many cases, people view conflict in terms of arguments, anger, hurt feelings or being yelled at. And no one likes those situations. As a result, when conflict arises, most people will steer clear of it or pretend it doesn’t exist. Nonetheless, it is real, and it may become problematic.

So how should you deal with conflict in your workplace?

  1. Address It Directly. When conflict arises, you need to raise the issue with the parties involved. You want to emphasize the need for your employees to address it. At that time, you can explain that negative feelings and thoughts can be handled in an appropriate manner that can actually make them positive and productive.
  2. Listen to Both Sides. Speak with each party separately to gain their perspective on what the tension is all about. Make sure that along with any emotional information, you discuss specific facts or events that led up to or inflamed the situation.
  3. Bring Both (All) Parties Together. Allow them to share their version of the events or issue. Often, this step will elicit issues or facts that the other party was unaware of.
  4. Find Common Ground. This is very important, because often each side has some concern the other party can agree with, and this will become the foundation that enables you to bridge the gap that separates the parties involved.
  5. Encourage Compromise. For the sake of working together, each person must be willing to give in a little. This step may take a while because the sides are already firmly entrenched in their own viewpoint or version of what should happen to resolve the issue. When this is accomplished, everyone will feel a little better.
  6. Confront Negative Feelings. The feelings and thoughts that arose during the conflict stage have to be worked out. Unless this happens to everyone’s satisfaction, the problem may go away for the moment, but the hard feelings or thoughts will persist, and then a repeat conflict might occur.
  7. Be Positive. Resolve to address future conflicts in a positive manner. The model, of course, would be similar to how this one is being resolved.

Based on the experience the employees just practiced, they should now have the skills and a process in place to turn negative conflict into positive tension that propels them to deal with future problems.

Last week, a friend of mine reached out to me to provide him professional feedback. I had worked with him a few months prior, and he wanted my real, honest feedback – of which I had plenty.

Feedback is always a tough thing to go through for both parties involved, but this was going to be a new level of uncomfortable providing feedback to my friend.

High-tension situations are almost unavoidable. It’s crucial to approach these situations in the right way in order to get exactly what it is you want.

Think about the last time you were in a high-tension situation. How were people acting? How were you acting?

It’s likely that there were people who were staying quiet and avoiding the conflict, and also people who were getting heated and obviously frustrated.

Not talking things out will most likely cause you to act them out. This can be very, very bad for your career (or even your personal life)! There are two ends of the communication spectrum: silence and violence.

Neither end is productive or beneficial.

Avoiding conversations by being silent won’t allow you to express your thoughts, ideas, or feelings. At the same time, arguing to the point that you get violent is also not effective.

I couldn’t ignore my friend’s request as he was definitely in need of feedback, but I needed to proceed with tact.

The goal is to find a middle ground – somewhere in between – where you’re expressing your thoughts and feelings but in a productive, non-violent manner. The middle ground exists in the form of dialogue – talking things out in a productive manner to work toward achieving the desired outcome.

Sounds easy enough, right?

We are often in situations out of our control and naturally go toward one end of a spectrum. As humans, our natural response to stressful situations is either fight or flight. It’s a natural reaction and it’s hard to truly control having these reactions, and so our communication naturally shuts down.

What you can control, however, is how you respond to these natural reactions.

Prepare yourself.

When you know that you are going to be having a tough conversation with someone, you must prepare yourself. When tensions get high, the conversation can immediately take a turn for the worst.

But, if you prepare yourself before going into a high tension conversation, you greatly improve your chances of having the conversation turn out how you want it to.

How do you prepare for a critical conversation?

You must know the outcome you want. At work, this could be things like: a salary raise, the ability to work from home one day a week, more management experience, etc.

In your personal life, maybe it’s getting your significant other to help you with dinner on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Whatever the situation is, know exactly what it is that you want from the conversation. It’s crucial to keep this at the forefront of your mind for the entire conversation so you don’t unnecessarily stray toward being silent or violent.

Another step in preparing yourself is to know what you want to say. Don’t go into a high-tension conversation or situation without knowing what it is you want to say. When we are unprepared to talk, we often start off by blabbing out the first thing that pops into our heads and this can make the situations worse or we don’t say anything at all.

If you know what you want to say, you’re less likely to start the conversation off on the wrong foot. Treat this just like any other high-stakes situation. Think about it- professional athletes don’t go out on the field without practicing their playbook for days or weeks before a game.

So, I needed to practice what I wanted to say to my friend, so I:

  1. Wrote out exactly what I wanted to say
  2. Practiced reading out loud by myself
  3. Simulated the conversation with a colleague at work

As I practiced, I tried to look at what I wrote as little as possible. Practicing like this made my actual conversation that much easier.

Prepare yourself and what it is that you want to say, and you’ll be able to influence the direction of the conversation, making it that much easier and more likely for you to achieve the outcome you want.

Finding middle ground to a critical conversation isn’t easy, but by preparing yourself ahead of time, you’re bound to make the conversation easier on yourself and significantly improve your chances of success.

What are ways you try to keep dialogue flowing during conversations? Let me know in the comments below.

Dominic DeMartini helps ambitious professionals improve their leadership and soft skills to transform and excel in their personal lives and work.

How do leaders maintain morale and momentum when members of their team are close to collapsing in frustration over the obstacles they face? Perhaps the issue is angry customers whose questions are hard to answer, or uncooperative peers from other groups who cause logjams and delay decisions. Team members might grumble and complain, or they […]

How do leaders maintain morale and momentum when members of their team are close to collapsing in frustration over the obstacles they face? Perhaps the issue is angry customers whose questions are hard to answer, or uncooperative peers from other groups who cause logjams and delay decisions. Team members might grumble and complain, or they […]

How do leaders maintain morale and momentum when members of their team are close to collapsing in frustration over the obstacles they face? Perhaps the issue is angry customers whose questions are hard to answer, or uncooperative peers from other groups who cause logjams and delay decisions. Team members might grumble and complain, or they might simply appear worn down, ready to drop the ball.

Sometimes leaders are frustrated or annoyed themselves. This is already taking too much time. The complaints sound like attacks, and it’s tempting to become defensive or seethe silently. Tensions are mounting.

Before tensions get worse, leaders should turn down the heat and get everyone back on track. They can use three simple communication steps.

Step 1: Empathize. Listen, and then show that you’ve heard by recapping how it looks from the team members’ point of view. Indicate that you understand what the people are going through. You know that times are tough, and circumstances are particularly difficult. Like Bill Clinton, you can feel their pain. This step is a cliché because it’s true, and it works. People calm down when they can tell their story and know that it’s heard.

Step 2: Offer support. Demonstrate commitment to lending a helping hand if the situation gets worse. Strategize with team members about what might be done to remove obstacles, while avoiding the temptation to jump in to do it yourself. Suggest one action that you might take to help if they need it. Empower them by backing them up — they can do what they think needs to be done, knowing that they have your support. Sometimes they will take you up on an offer to intercede, but often they will hold the offer in reserve.

Step 3: Invoke higher principles. Why are we doing this in the first place? In the heat of the moment, the only thing that seems to matter is the details that are plaguing people — often operational matters that seem like bureaucratic nuisances, like getting a form signed or meeting details nailed down. The swarming alligators make you forget that the goal was to drain the swamp. They’re tough to handle, distracting, and not very inspiring. To get perspective, zoom out to remind people of the vision, purpose, and principles that make the frustrations worth enduring. Lifting eyes to the prize can smooth tensions and inspire renewed effort.

Listen, support, and uplift. These steps are good practice even when times are not tense. When people feel understood, empowered, and guided by higher goals, tensions are defused and momentum restored.

The hiring manager asks how you’d approach a stressful situation. And your first thought is: You mean—like this job interview?

Clearly, you know that’s not the best way to start your answer.

So, you go with the next thing you think of. And while it sounds good in your head, well-meaning replies can actually raise red flags for interviewers.

Here are three common answers that make you look bad—plus better options.

1. You Say: “I Just Put My Head Down and Push Through It”

You think this answer will make you look like the non-complaining hard worker you are.

Unfortunately, it raises two red flags.

First, it makes it seem like you’re someone who wouldn’t think to loop in your boss, even if there was a problem. (Are there times when you could handle it on your own? Possibly, but this tendency can lead to mistakes that could’ve been avoided through proactive communication.)

Second, the interviewer may fear that you’ll push yourself so hard you’ll burn out. And odds are, if they’re asking this questions, there will be a demanding workload.

Instead Say

“I stay motivated by thinking about the end result. I’ve found that even in the midst of a challenging situation, reminding myself of my goals helps me take a step back and stay positive.”

2. You Say: “I Don’t Get Stressed Out”

To you, this answer shows that you’re able to control your emotions. Or, maybe you’re trying to say that you capably manage your workload.

But it could make the hiring manager worry that you have low self-awareness. They don’t want to hire the person who’ll be snapping at his colleagues or making rushed decisions—and not even realize he’s not at his best.

Instead Say

“I like to practice mindfulness [or some other strategy] to stay even-tempered.”

3. You Say: “I Delegate”

If you’re interviewing for a management role, you’re going to want to talk about delegating. But this is not the way to do it.

That’s because, if you’re doing it right, you’ll be thinking about giving meaningful assignments to your team in relation to overall goals, not your personal workload. No one wants to work for a boss who hoards projects until she feels overwhelmed, and then assigns them elsewhere to “manage stress.”

Instead Say

“I realize that, as a manager, my response to stress will affect my whole team. My goal would be to model what I’d want my team to do, so I’d openly communicate that there was a high-stress situation and ask if anyone had the time to pitch in and help troubleshooting.”

Yes, it’s ironic that you’d be asked how you cope with stress in the midst of a high-stress situation like responding to interview questions. And if it makes you feel any better, you will get points just for being composed the whole time! But if you can go beyond that and explain how you handle pressure at work—while sidestepping any common wrong answers—you’ll stand out from the other applicants in the best way possible.

How to handle high-tension situations

How to handle high-tension situations

The ability to experience and express emotions is more important than you might realize.

As the felt response to a given situation, emotions play a key part in your reactions. When you’re in tune with them, you have access to important knowledge that helps with:

  • decision-making
  • relationship success
  • day-to-day interactions
  • self-care

While emotions can have a helpful role in your daily life, they can take a toll on your emotional health and interpersonal relationships when they start to feel out of control.

Vicki Botnick, a therapist in Tarzana, California, explains that any emotion — even elation, joy, or others you’d typically view as positive — can intensify to a point where it becomes difficult to control.

With a little practice, though, you can take back the reigns. Two studies from 2010 suggest that having good emotional regulation skills is linked to well-being. Plus, the second one found a potential link between these skills and financial success, so putting in some work on that front may literally pay off.

Here are some pointers to get you started.

Intense emotions aren’t all bad.

“Emotions make our lives exciting, unique, and vibrant,” Botnick says. “Strong feelings can signify that we embrace life fully, that we’re not repressing our natural reactions.”

It’s perfectly normal to experience some emotional overwhelm on occasion— when something wonderful happens, when something terrible happens, when you feel like you’ve missed out.

So, how do you know when there’s a problem?

Emotions that regularly get out of hand might lead to:

  • relationship or friendship conflict
  • difficulty relating to others
  • trouble at work or school
  • an urge to use substances to help manage your emotions
  • physical or emotional outbursts

Find some time to take stock of just how your uncontrolled emotions are affecting your day-to-day life. This will make it easier to identify problem areas (and track your success).

You can’t control your emotions with a dial (if only it were that easy!). But imagine, for a moment, that you could manage emotions this way.

You wouldn’t want to leave them running at maximum all the time. You also wouldn’t want to switch them off entirely, either.

When you suppress or repress emotions, you’re preventing yourself from experiencing and expressing feelings. This can happen consciously (suppression) or unconsciously (repression).

Either can contribute to mental and physical health symptoms, including:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • sleep issues
  • muscle tension and pain
  • difficulty managing stress
  • substance misuse

When learning to exercise control over emotions, make sure you aren’t just sweeping them under the rug. Healthy emotional expression involves finding some balance between overwhelming emotions and no emotions at all.

Taking a moment to check in with yourself about your mood can help you begin gaining back control.

Say you’ve been seeing someone for a few months. You tried planning a date last week, but they said they didn’t have time. Yesterday, you texted again, saying, “I’d like to see you soon. Can you meet this week?”

They finally reply, more than a day later: “Can’t. Busy.”

You’re suddenly extremely upset. Without stopping to think, you hurl your phone across the room, knock over your wastebasket, and kick your desk, stubbing your toe.

Interrupt yourself by asking:

  • What am I feeling right now? (disappointed, confused, furious)
  • What happened to make me feel this way? (They brushed me off with no explanation.)
  • Does the situation have a different explanation that might make sense? (Maybe they’re stressed, sick, or dealing with something else they don’t feel comfortable explaining. They might plan to explain more when they can.)
  • What do I want to do about these feelings? (Scream, vent my frustration by throwing things, text back something rude.)
  • Is there a better way of coping with them? (Ask if everything’s OK. Ask when they’re free next. Go for a walk or run.)

By considering possible alternatives, you’re reframing your thoughts, which can help you modify your first extreme reaction.

It can take some time before this response becomes a habit. With practice, going through these steps in your head will become easier (and more effective).

If you’re trying to get better at managing emotions, you might try downplaying your feelings to yourself.

When you hyperventilate after receiving good news or collapse on the floor screaming and sobbing when you can’t find your keys, it might seem helpful to tell yourself, “Just calm down,” or “It’s not that big of a deal, so don’t freak out.”

But this invalidates your experience. It is a big deal to you.

Accepting emotions as they come helps you get more comfortable with them. Increasing your comfort around intense emotions allows you to fully feel them without reacting in extreme, unhelpful ways.

To practice accepting emotions, try thinking of them as messengers. They’re not “good” or “bad.” They’re neutral. Maybe they bring up unpleasant feelings sometimes, but they’re still giving you important information that you can use.

For example, try:

  • “I’m upset because I keep losing my keys, which makes me late. I should put a dish on the shelf by the door so I remember to leave them in the same place.”

Accepting emotions may lead to greater life satisfaction and fewer mental health symptoms. What’s more, people thinking of their emotions as helpful may lead to higher levels of happiness.

How to handle high-tension situations

The importance of stress management

In today’s fast-paced world filled with increasing demands, stress management is a life skill and a lifesaver. It’s also important to note that while the link between stress and high blood pressure (HBP or hypertension) is still being studied, stress is known to contribute to risk factors like a poor diet and excessive alcohol consumption.

How stress affects your health

In addition to the emotional discomfort we feel when faced with a stressful situation, our bodies react by releasing stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) into the blood. These hormones prepare the body for the “fight or flight” response by making the heart beat faster and constricting blood vessels to get more blood to the core of the body instead of the extremities.

Constriction of blood vessels and increase in heart rate does raise blood pressure, but only temporarily — when the stress reaction goes away, blood pressure returns to its pre-stress level. This is called situational stress, and its effects are generally short-lived and disappear when the stressful event is over.

“Fight or flight” is a valuable response when we are faced with an imminent threat that we can handle by confronting or fleeing. However, our modern world contains many stressful events that we can’t handle with those options. Chronic (constant) stress causes our bodies to go into high gear on and off for days or weeks at a time. The links between chronic stress and blood pressure are not clear and are still being studied.

Stress versus anxiety

Stress is a lifestyle factor and, to a certain extent, a fact of life. Each of us also has a certain level of anxiety. On the other hand, chronic anxiety and anxiety disorders are medically diagnosed conditions, which can be impacted by stress.

Fight stress with healthy habits

Learn to fight stress by making choices like talking with family and friends and making time for physical activity. These habits not only improve your health — they also rejuvenate your general well-being.

Reduce stress by changing your expectations

Give yourself enough time to get things done.

Time management works wonders for reducing stress. Don’t try to pack too much into every moment.

Learn to say “no.” Don’t promise too much.

Reduce the amount of tension by having a shorter list of items that must be done. This may require you to reevaluate priorities and make difficult choices, but everyone must learn to live within manageable limits.

Reduce stress by recognizing where you have control

You can’t control all the outside events in your life.

However, you can change how you handle them emotionally and psychologically. Try to learn to accept things you can’t change. You don’t have to solve all of life’s problems.

Think about problems under your control and make a plan to solve them.

You could talk to your boss about difficulties at work, talk with your neighbor if his dog bothers you or get help when you have too much to do.

Know your stress triggers.

Think ahead about what may upset you. Some things you can avoid. For example, spend less time with people who bother you or avoid driving in rush-hour traffic.

Reduce stress by taking care of your mood

Relaxing is important.

Even if you are busy, take 15 to 20 minutes a day to sit quietly, breathe deeply and think of a peaceful picture.

Spend time developing supportive and nurturing relationships.

We all need supportive and encouraging relationships. Invest yourself in developing relationships that build character and foster growth.

Give yourself the gift of a healthy lifestyle.

Engage in physical activity regularly. Do what you enjoy; walk, swim, ride a bike or jog to get your muscles going. Letting go of the tension in your body will help you feel better.

Limit alcohol, don’t overeat and don’t smoke.

Relaxing for short periods during your workday, at night and on weekends may help lower your blood pressure. Another great stress-buster is to get regular physical activity.

Reduce stress by practicing gratitude and joy

Practice gratitude.

Change how you respond to difficult situations, focusing on the positive, not the negative. Expressing gratitude to others can also boost your level of feeling good about life and reduce stressful thoughts.

Know what brings you pleasure and find ways to enjoy the experience.

Perhaps you enjoy volunteer opportunities or cooking your favorite foods. By taking time not only to participate in these activities but to intentionally enjoy them, you can build a satisfying life rather than hurry through your “relaxing activities” at a stressful pace.

With Digital Maestro AJ Kumar

How to handle high-tension situations

No matter how much you love your family, there’s always that one family member with whom you consistently disagree. Maybe it’s your Aunt Martha, who consistently harps on your weight or your marital status, or maybe it’s your Grandpa Joe – whose inflammatory religious or political views take center stage at every family get-together.

But while you can’t change your family, you can change the way you behave and the impact you allow their words to have on your mental well-being. To learn how to quickly and effectively diffuse these family tensions and improve the quality of your get-togethers, consider the following techniques:

Technique #1 – Identify and avoid triggering behaviors

In most cases, negative family interactions are triggered by specific sayings or behaviors. By identifying these connections and taking steps to avoid the triggering behaviors in the first place, it is possible to eliminate family tensions altogether.

As an example, if you notice that bringing up your government job is the trigger that launches your Grandpa Joe into a tirade about the overreach of big government and the current administration, you can choose to avoid this topic of conversation entirely. Alternatively, if you notice that your Aunt Martha uses comments on her own expanding waistline to transition to attacking your current size, try changing the subject before the conversation rolls back around to you.

Obviously, avoiding triggering behaviors and topics isn’t a totally ideal solution, as this may mean keeping parts of your life from the people who claim to love you most. However, if your family get-togethers escalate to the point where the tension of arguing over heated subjects is worse than the effort of keeping elements of your life private, you may find this approach to be the lesser of two evils.

Technique #2 – Choose to release your anger

Of course, in some situations, it may not be possible to identify or avoid triggering behaviors. For example, if you have a relative who’s proficient at turning even the most innocuous comments into perceived accusations, it may be impossible to isolate and avoid the specific topics that will lead to family tension.

In these cases, it’s up to you to choose to release your anger in a healthy way, instead of allowing it to dictate the experiences you have with your family. Just because family tensions have occurred doesn’t mean that you need to internalize them to the point where they affect your own judgment and the love you have for your family members.

However, in order to release your anger and approach tense situations from a more mature perspective, it’s vital that you remove yourself from the frustrating encounters until you can cool down. When you feel yourself getting flustered, excuse yourself politely and take a walk, retire to another room or simply sit in your car for a few minutes. Giving yourself space to breathe and work through the emotions you’re feeling – instead of taking your stress out on your family members – will make it much easier to release your anger before things boil over.

Technique #3 – Replace an angry mindset with positive ones

Another technique that’s vital to managing family tensions in a healthy, mature way is learning to replace your angry emotions with a positive mindset. Remember – you are the one who’s in control of your thoughts and emotions. Although your family members may influence these things with their own behaviors, it is ultimately up to you to choose how you deal with frustrating situations.

To learn how to swap out angry feelings with more positive ones – which will enable you to minimize tensions and protect your own mental health and well-being – try an anchoring technique that allows you to associate a positive set of feelings and emotions with a specific color, mental image or physical action.

Begin by calling up a memory when you felt peaceful, positive and in control of your emotions. Your goal should be to find a memory that represents the way you want to feel when handling family tensions – so whether that’s assertive, cool, collected or some other emotion, make sure the memory you call up is a strong one that helps you to relive your desired state of mind.

As you allow this memory to fill you up, begin pairing it with a specific “anchor.” This could be a physical action you take (for example, squeezing your thumb) or a mental image you create (a specific color or symbol works best here) – either way, the important thing is that you begin to call up this arbitrary signal alongside your desired mental state.

Practice calling up your chosen memory, pairing it with your specific symbol and then releasing both mental images. Over time – and with consistent practice – simply visualizing your anchor symbol should be enough to subconsciously promote the positive feeling you desire. Once the association is strong, firing off your anchor behavior in the face of family tensions will allow you to eliminate negative emotions and replace them with positive feelings that allow you to handle frustrating situations in a healthy way.