Work tends to be a high-stress place. But even when everything is going wrong—you realize you’ve been analyzing the wrong data for your report, your team member leaves their job in the middle of a huge project, your deadline is accelerated by two weeks, your boss wants you to build a last-minute feature right before launch—you can’t lose your cool.
After all, being a professional means rolling with the punches. Doing your job despite sudden changes and tough requests.
That doesn’t mean you have to be a robot, of course. Showing emotion at work is a good thing (within reason). However, when you need to quickly calm down, so you don’t blow a fuse in front of your entire office, use these three techniques.
1. Do a quick meditation
Have you ever tried to meditate while you’re freaking out? It’s almost impossible. You can’t stop thinking about the crisis at hand long enough to slow down your breathing and be present.
A great solution: Use Headspace. It’s a guided meditation app that has an exercise just for “sky is falling” moments, called the SOS exercise. Andy, the calm, soothing British founder of Headspace who narrates all the meditations, does a great job of bringing you into the moment and shutting down the anxiety. This app is highly recommended—and not just for when you’re having a meltdown, but as a lifestyle tool to help you avoid chaotic moments in the first place.
2. Head to the restroom
If you’re in a meeting, you should try to get some space. You don’t want to cry or yell in front of your peers. It might not be possible to say, “I’m going to take a quick break,” since that can reveal you’re heated. Instead, say, “I’ll be right back” (which most people know means you’re heading to the restroom or grabbing some water).
Then jump into an empty stall—or entire bathroom, if there’s one available—and count to 50. Splash some water on your face. Give yourself a pep talk in the mirror.
When you’re feeling back to usual, return to the meeting.
3. Do a body scan
A quick distraction can temporarily reduce your stress. Try closing your eyes (if you’re not around people) and mentally scanning down from your head to your toes. Think of each body part in isolation. What are you feeling?
By the time you’ve gotten to your feet, you should be feeling calmer. But if you’re not, no worries. Simply start at your toes and work back up so you end at your head.
Here’s a secret. Your coworkers—from the interns to the executives—are getting nervous, tense, frustrated, angry, and sad at work each and every day. Most of them are successfully overcoming these unproductive emotions. And now that you’re using these strategies, you will, too.