Stress: How to not become flustered?

Stress. I’ve always been told that I don’t handle stress well, and I’ve admit that many times I haven’t. When I become overwhelmed, I have a tendancy to become “Flustered”. If a deadline is approaching on top of that, its like I’m back in second grade squirming over a math test that I forgot to study for. Its not a pretty thing. I don’t like it about myself; my coworkers don’t appreciate it. I recognise it, I want to work on it; I want to change it. I don’t want to become ‘flustered’ or be that guy who can’t handle pressure anymore*.

Q: How do I go about changing this? How do I regain control and stop this from happening when I feel it begining to start? Are there exercises I can do? Books that I can read? Techniques that I can learn? Or is this something that can only be solved by expensive and extensive therapy?

*A notable exception was when my father died when I became the rock of the family. But I guess that could have just been ‘shock’.

There are two things that are known to help with this sort of thing:

  1. Cognitive behavioral therapy - this is one of the few talk type treatments that has strong scientific evidence to support it for these types of disorders. A clinical psychologist specializing it this could help.

  2. Medication - certainly not uncommon and may be appropriate for you. A psychiatrist could prescribe this for you.

I am a stable bipolar person and I have extensive experience, both good and bad, with the mental health system. I would shy away from just plain talk therapy because it would be hard to address some kind of hard-wired personality trait via that method.

Not an especially popular choice among do-it-yourself types, but there are a number of effective drugs in a number of different classes which can help.

Obviously, I can’t take responsibility here for directing you to any particular choice, but any M.D. will be familiar with at least several choices available.

Since you mention it, exercise – of virtually any sort – has at the very least an anecdotal history which indicate its use as a palliative for ordinary stress, depression, and other, perhaps more modern, maladies. You may already regularly take exercise, but some people find walking as few as five miles each day is adequate to sustain a sense of well-being. If you’re not already active, a similarly modest program will certainly not harm you, provided you are essentially physically sound relative to the program of exercise’s parameters.

Deep breathing exercises help me.

If you’re capable of doing whatever is asked and in the moment, you’re just so flustered you can’t think–that’s what I do.

Go away some place. The restroom is find though some may think, “Eww!”

But sit someplace and breathe in thru your nose for a slow ten count and breathe out thru your mouth for a slow ten count. Repeat at least five times.

Remember its a sloooooooooooooow ten count either way.

I’ve found I go back with a clearer head and usually what looked so insurmountable when I was freaking out isn’t so bad at all.

(I have no problem with meds at all. I’ve taken them and will take them again! Woohoo for meds! But I’ve found doing this kind of thing helps enormously.)

These are great tips for managing a suddenly stressful situation that may pop up on you you without warning, but what about that deadline that is getting you all flustered?

Are you getting all uptight about it because you are putting off finishing the project and now you have that deadline to deal with? I know many people who do this sort of thing. The thing here is to alter your work habits so you don’t put off that work. Is the task that is due one really huge project? Don’t look at it as one huge daunting task to get done, but rather try breaking the task down into smaller tasks spread out over a longer period of time. Do you have a planner? Try scheduling each smaller task into the planner and then use that planner to help you remember what needs to be done when.

Of course this is presuming you are putting off tasks until the last minute.

If you are not doing that and you are just getting flustered as deadlines are approaching, perhaps seeing a counselor about this could be helpful. They are trained to help you find the root cause of your stress and help eliminate it, whether it is a rational thing or not.

Good luck.

Yoga or tai chi. Those things will teach you to meditate.

What I’ve always found helpful is a few good swigs of bourbon. Scotch works, too. Invest in a hip flask. And maybe take up smoking.

This will work, in the short term, if all you want to do is forget about The Badness. I know you’re joking, but once you get up to 12-16 units of alcohol just to get ready for work, it can become a real problem to manage intake during non-survival-critical hours of the day. Not to mention the brain damage and stuff.

While the OP is looking for factual answers, this is probably better suited to IMHO.


I had a conversation at work today with 2 people about one specific aspect of stress. They are both hoping to win job promotions and turned to me for some help because I do quite a lot of interviewing. They wanted to know hoe to “produce” in an interview without getting flustered. I have already set them some preparation tasks to help but today I told them about what I called “the Zen of the interview.”

Basically most people get nervous and stay nervous (their manifestation of stress) because they are not concentrating on what they are doing now (answering the question last asked) but are thinking ahead to “how I went in the interview.” This is true in most fields of human endeavour, if you are thinking about the past or the future rather than the present you are stressing yourself. No matter how hard you worry about the future you cannot affect it until it is the present. So if you concentrate totally on answering the question last asked you find that your resources become absorbed by the problem at hand and your anxiety fades away.

It is easy to see this process. You can be in a really vile mood but as soon as you are absorbed by something here and now that needs your genuine attention, you forget the petty annoyances/distractions.

The last line of the OP is an unsurprising example. Your absorption in dealing with your father’s death minute by minute left no room for your mind to play bullshit “what if” games.

People, thank you for these answers. Dragwyr, the deadlines are imposed by others and the projects land on my desk with 11:59 of the proverbial 12 hour clock expired. The accuracy of my results must be 100% every time or there could be legal exposures for the company, so there goes lunch-time singlemalt shots. Most days, the workload is easily manageable; its those once a year scenarios where the water is over my head that seem to be remembered though.

My company subscibes to an Employee Assistance Program. Maybe its time to give them a call.

I take beta blockers for tachycardia (rapid heart beat). One side benefit is that my fight-or-flight response (which is strongly geared to the fight side) is seriously muted. Maybe you should talk to your doctor about it.