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    5-Minute Stress Fixes

    Annoyed by difficult people?

    We all encounter them: nosy neighbors, buttinsky relatives, rude grocery clerks. To insulate yourself from their irritating behaviors, first acknowledge how you're reacting (for example, your fists may clench while thoughts of how to escape race through your head). "Recognizing your emotions enables you to develop strategies for soothing them, which in turn delivers a sense of calming control," says Brantley. Start by rolling your wrists to alleviate any physical tension. To silence those mental SOS sirens, recite a calming self-affirmation, such as, "No matter how much she gets under my skin, I'll treat her with kindness." And have some good excuses prepared for escaping your next encounter, such as, "Sorry — gotta go. I'm expecting a phone call."

    Second-guessing yourself?

    Our minds are often plagued by self-defeating thoughts that start with phrases like "I can't," "I'll never," and "If only." The next time your inner critic pipes up, follow these steps to silence it: Close your eyes, breathe mindfully, and reflect on a time when you were surprised by your own strength (maybe it was when you gave birth or quit your job to find a better one). "Remembering past moments when you trusted yourself will guide you toward feeling comfortable with your decisions now," explains Brantley.

    Falling behind?

    Joy to the world? Not when you're last-minute holiday shopping. Instead of swearing that you'll never procrastinate again, try making a two-column to-do list, suggests Brantley. On one side, list the high-priority tasks in order of importance; in the other column, jot down the things that can happen tomorrow or the next day. "This will help you formulate a plan, and when you realize that there are things that can actually wait, your load will seem less demanding," says Brantley. As you complete each task on your list, cross it off with a colorful Sharpie. This visual affirmation of accomplishment is soothing, and learning how to tackle stress before it paralyzes you is your ticket to overcoming it.

    Originally published on November 6, 2007

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