Managing Stress: The 48-Hour Rule

Mar 27, 2013, Written by Sue Miley

That tight feeling is pulling in your chest.  You feel a pounding in your head.  You are sitting at your desk looking around at your office wondering why you have this sudden irrational feeling of impending doom.

You concentrate.

Has something changed?  Did an event happen?

No.  I haven’t lost a customer.  The projects are moving forward.

We haven’t hired that person yet, but the position has been open and we are managing.

Nothing is different, yet I suddenly feel………

……uncontrolled anxiety

……deep depression

……or, complete and utter frustration.


If Nothing Has Happened, Why Am I Feeling This Way?

When we have extreme anxiety we usually want to do SOMETHING, ANYTHING, to fix it.

When we have depression sucking us in like quicksand, we want to go home, crawl under the covers, and escape.

When we cannot handle another mistake, delay, or low quality performance we feel this sudden urgency to reprimand, fire, or make sweeping changes to appease our frustration and anger.

These responses may just be a reaction to an emotion, not a situation.  And it could result in a much bigger problem in your business.

That is why I have a 48-hour rule.

If nothing out of the ordinary has happened, yet I am having a less than ordinary reaction, response, or emotion, then I MUST wait.

48 Hours Seems To Be The Magic Amount of Time

Usually unsubstantiated emotions and reactions go away within 48 hours.  And then I am thanking God that I didn’t react.

If you still feel the same in 48 hours, it may be your intuition that something really is wrong, and you need to explore it.

But within the 48-hour window, anything you do could either cause a real problem or, at a minimum, completely waste your time.

Fight Psychology With Psychology

Within the 48-hour window:

  1. Go through your evidence list.  Is there any evidence that how you are feeling is justified?  Did something happen?  Has the situation changed?
  2. If no, promise yourself that you will address it if you still feel this way in 48 hours.  Maybe even put it on your calendar.
  3. Tell yourself (positive self talk) that nothing has changed and this is just a feeling that will pass.  And if not, you can and will deal with it if it lasts.

I have found that most times it passes.  And there are many benefits to my 48 hour rule:

  • my stress level immediately goes down when I realize there is no evidence that my stress is valid.
  • I don’t impact my business or my team by prematurely acting on a feeling.
  • I build up evidence that most times it is nothing, and that my 48 hour rule is the best course of action.

If you are having these feelings of anxiety, depression or anger on a regular basis it may be a sign of a bigger emotional health issue, but for the occasional bout of generalized anxiety, this works well!

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Sue Miley

Sue Miley MBA, MA, LPC helps small business owners build successful businesses on a foundation of Christian values. After 20 years in business, and 10 years as a Christian counselor, Sue uses a combination of faith, business and psychology to help clients in business and in life.

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