How do I quickly relieve stress while in a tense situation?
February 18, 2007 1:18 PM   Subscribe

How do I quickly relieve stress while in a tense situation?

Ah family troubles.

Suffice to day [without any henious backstory] I'm basically waiting for my sister to return home, after vanishing and leaving me with her kid for... oooooh going on 6 hours. Don't know where she is, the volume on her phone is turned off [but the phone IS turned on], and I don't know when she'll be back. I'm presuming sometime tonight, or according to her "later". Out of the blue, and completly by surprise, she announced she's going out on her first "date" in 10+ years, don't know who with. Even though Sister is mid-thirties, think Britney Spears as her intellectual, mental and social level role model and you've some idea why I'm currently pretty concerned as to just where the heck she is.

Whatever, I know I have no choice but to wait for her return as there is no other way to contact her. But my body isn't taking it so well. Already I've got:
a swollen stomach and a raised pulse. I know it's all down to stress, and I need a way to calm myself before I make myself really sick. In stressful situations like this, I get so worried I give myself diahorria and heaving, and I really can't have that.

So, if you've got a way to calm me down, please do tell.
Rational thought isn't helping, I mean, she IS coming home at some stage... it's just the *when* part. Already nephew is close to tears [he's never not known where she was] and ringing her every few minutes, and of course, getting no answer. So I can't just take 2 Solpadine and go to bed.

How do you get through stressful times?
posted by Chorus to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Breathe deeply. Try not to think about anything at all, or focus on the physical symptoms you're having and explore where (physically or emotionally) they're coming from. Or just count your breaths and focus on that.
posted by occhiblu at 1:25 PM on February 18, 2007


Friends for some distracting conversation. Lean on your friends and Rule 1 is to not problem solve - anything but...

I rely on exercise the most though.
posted by fluffycreature at 1:28 PM on February 18, 2007

Deep, slow breathing. Really. Breathe. Encourage your nephew to do the same.

When that's brought down the pulse and pushed back the panic a bit, ask yourself the question: is there any specific action you can take, right this minute, to address the situation? (Note: worrying, fretting, having hypothetical conversations/arguments with your sister for pulling this sort of shit, etc., do not count.) If yes: do it. If not: keep breathing. Put on some enjoyable music. Or, if the weather's not awful where you are, go for a walk.

If that doesn't work, fake it. Pretend to be calm, if just for the sake of your nephew. It might actually calm you down, but if it doesn't, at least it will reassure him a little.
posted by scody at 1:29 PM on February 18, 2007

seriously, focusing on someone else helps me. right now, focus on the kid. make cookies, or sundaes, or go out for ice cream. distracting the kid will help you distract yourself, too.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 1:31 PM on February 18, 2007

if your tummy is too upset for sugar, of course, you can play a game, or build a fort with blankets and pillows, too. those were just suggestions. whatever the kid's favorite thing to do it, i say throw yourself into it for right now.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 1:32 PM on February 18, 2007

Breathe deeply. Then concentrate on the fact that it is ten years since your own sister has gone out on a date and be happy for her. And give her another chance before you tell the world wide web that her intellectual equivalent is Britney Spears (you may be right, but it is not really our business, is it?). Then, breathe deeply again - breathing deeply always helps with stress.
posted by Elmore at 1:48 PM on February 18, 2007

Your sister's out on a date, so why not go out on a "date" with your nephew? How old is he? Take him shopping to a toy store, out to dinner at his favorite place, then to a movie, then to the arcade, then go for ice cream. Sitting around fretting and worrying isn't going to do anyone any good. Instead of seeing the situation as an imposition, look at it as an opportunity to have fun with your nephew.

I do not understand why you are so stressed about babysitting. Did she just drop him off unannounced? If you wanted to sit, why'd you allow that to happen? If she dropped him on the front porch and rang the doorbell, and drove away, you have a right to be angry at her (I would have called the police, frankly), but you just cannot allow your anger to affect your nephew.

Calm down, because your nephew is obviously taking cues from you and stressing out as well. Focus on his needs and on protecting him. You know she went on a date. Unless she went out with Charles Manson, I don't think you have anything to worry about.
posted by MegoSteve at 2:08 PM on February 18, 2007

Make for some quality time with your nephew. It sounds like he needs a good role model.
posted by Octoparrot at 2:10 PM on February 18, 2007

Green Eyed Monster is wise. Make it about the kid right now - you can rise above this and prove that you're a kick ass aunt/uncle and let the kid have the time if his life. Take something stressful and concentrate on making him happy. (Because it sounds like he's going to need you a lot in his life.)

I get the same way with stress. Meditation and deep breathing are usually my coping mechanisms, and I often cope by napping. (Which isn't good with him there, unless you can curl up somewhere, tell stories, get a flashlight under the covers and make it fun.) Right now you need to concentrate on something else and stop obsessing on what's making you upset (believe me, I know that's easier said than done). Please try to have fun and enjoy this time with your nephew, because he can probably sense you're upset, and that's upsetting him too.
posted by librarianamy at 2:14 PM on February 18, 2007

Tell nephew mummy's having such a good time, she's forgotten the time. There's obviously nothing wrong because bad news travels fast, hospital or police would have contacted you guys.

Apart from deep breathing, do it slowly, in for a count of four, hold for a count of four, exhale for a count of four, and if you like, get nevvy to play this game too, try a tensing muscles and then releasing them. Scrunch toes up as tight as you can, release, calves, etc. Shoulders is a good one.

99.99% of the time when someone's late, it's not bad stuff. It's a flat battery or a lost cell phone or whatever.
posted by b33j at 2:30 PM on February 18, 2007

Breathing is good advice but as we know not so easy. Try:
  • Pinch your nose closed, then release one side keeping the other side closed. Breath out, then in through that side. Close that side, open the other, repeat until you relax. (Warning: You may feel like a bit of an idiot doing this, it's normal.)
  • Focus on breathing to/feeling the breath in different parts of your lungs/body--breath in to your stomach (slowly) and out, then to your chest, and then to your throat. After you've done that a couple of times, put it together into one breath (stomach, chest, throat, then out throat, chest, stomach).
  • Skip worrying about breathing in, just focus on keeping your exhale long and slow, the inhale will happen.
Some other things... Make list, todo list, if-I-won-the-lottery list, whatever. Do times tables, or count in a foreign language if you know one (bonus if you haven't used it in years).
posted by anaelith at 2:34 PM on February 18, 2007

Sometimes it helps to feel in control. I would think about the thing that I can control: myself. I'd make a plan for when my sister came home -- I don't know how she will behave, but I can decide to have a calm tone, a brusque tone, an annoyed, "Just wait until I get you alone!" tone, etc., and I can decide what I will say. What if she doesn't come home until tomorrow morning? Maybe I will have a sleepover and warn her that next time I will call social services/the cops/mom. And then stop thinking about it. I have taken care of the only thing that I can.

Deep breathing can also be good for putting things in perspective: Something has happened that I don't like, and maybe I feel like the world is falling down around me, but look: my lungs are moving air in and out. My heart is moving the blood around. My cells are using the oxygen. The oxygen is made of little molecules, and they all look the same. There is order in the world. And on the bigger scale, I am breathing, and the earth is rotating, and the sun is moving, and the galaxy, and, wow, I'm pretty small, but I am still a part of those rhythms.

Then I think I would do something distracting and physical with my nephew (i.e. not TV), like playing a "how floppy can we make our bodies" game, or making aggression cookies.

Your nephew is learning how to respond to stressful situations, too, and you can show him how! What a cool teaching opportunity.
posted by ramenopres at 2:45 PM on February 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

Yes - go out for a walk with him, if you can.

If you have a car, go out for a little drive, maybe to go to the grocery store to get ingredients for cookies or something. A little errand. Leave a note.

She will be home, so it's just a matter of keeping yourself and kiddo happily occupied until then. Don't call her. Don't focus on bad possible scenarios. Just find something positive to do with this time: making something together, reading a good book, playing hide and seek, playing a card game, even watching an absorbing funny movie. Make warm milk for both of you.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:58 PM on February 18, 2007

I have often been in what seemed INTERMINABLE situtations, sometimes lasting for a few days.

I successfully navigate them by mentally telling myself that no matter what I do, time will pass and I'll soon be looking back on it. (This used to work for me for stage fright, too. Why sweat opening night? Once the curtain's up, in two hours, it's over.)

Part of your issue may be the inherent stress of being dumped upon by someone inconsiderate. After the glow of the date wears off Sis for a day or two, you may want to bring it up for gentle discussion and advance decline doing it again in the future.

People who are inconsiderate of you do not love you. They love themselves. It's one of the few ways you can be sure. I'd give her a pass on the excitement of first date in 10 years, but make sure she knew that her behavior was unacceptable to you (if in fact, it was).

Good luck. It'll be behind you before you know it.
posted by FauxScot at 3:07 PM on February 18, 2007

yoga and stretching works for me.
posted by singingfish at 4:02 PM on February 18, 2007


But seriously. Stress is in the mind. You are in a stressful situation, what do you do? Use reason (easier to say than do I know).

I always feel that acting stressed, nervous will MAKE THINGS WORSE. So I try to block out all that bad stuff, and thus send myself snowballing towards good, positive, nonstressful feelings rather than the other way. It usually works a treat (I'm a seriously unstressful person).
posted by 0bvious at 4:42 PM on February 18, 2007

Give him a a couple of double-shots of espresso and a puppy.

Actually, what works for me is to just not deal with it for at least one day, and after sleeping on it, I find that I have a much clearer sense of perspective than I did when my
emotions were ruling me.
posted by 4ster at 4:54 PM on February 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

take care of the kid, and he will take care of you. build something together, make a craft, go for a walk and play tag. bake cookies. breathe deeply and force yourself to smile.
posted by twistofrhyme at 7:30 PM on February 18, 2007

This works for me: Close your eyes and take a deep breath and hold. While exhaling, imagine that you have a bucket of white plastic numbers with velcro on the back and imagine sticking a number on a velvet sheet thats dangling from the ceiling, stare at it for a second, then remove it and put it back in the bucket. Do this starting from the number 1 to 10. This puts your brain in the alpha-level which will relax you.
posted by deeman at 6:53 AM on February 19, 2007

Any updates, Chorus?
posted by MegoSteve at 8:02 AM on February 19, 2007 [1 favorite]

calm your breathing. Come up with some affirmations: I'm being a loving sister and aunt, I'm helping my sister have her 1st date in 10 years, and repeat silently to yourself.
posted by theora55 at 1:10 PM on February 19, 2007

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