A simple tool to reduce stress in the moment is to STOP-CALM-PIVOT, a 60 second technique proposed by Dr Evian Gordon who has had more than 30 years of experience in the field of human brain research.
The approach is to reduce stress by increasing calm.
Once you recognize you are in a stressful situation or have a negative thought you need to circuit break the stress. A strategy to do so is to:
Step 1: STOP
The best way to stop is to distract yourself and one of the fastest method is to think of a symbol that bears positivity, carries meaning for you (e.g. could be a tree, a geometric shape, a cloud- anything that has a positive association). Visualize the symbol.
Step 2: CALM
Calming is critical as it puts a brake on your stress system. The good thing is that you can calm yourself anywhere, anytime. All you need to do is diaphragmatic breathing. Take in a few deep breaths (approximately six breaths a minute). Breath through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Often three breaths are enough to calm. You can use the app MycalmBeat to guide your breath and the visualisation of your lungs breathing in and out helps you stay focused on your breath.
Step 3: PIVOT
Pivot to positive body language cues (e.g. genuine smiles, crossed arms, standing tall etc.) completes the stress circuit. Train your perception of these cues and become efficient in recognising them as it can enhance social interactions when you are more sensitive to such cues.