Picture this:

You're sitting in a bank foyer, anxiously awaiting a loans officer. Your heart is pounding; you need the loan to grow your company with additional equipment. As each minute creeps by, you feel your anxiety building.

'What if I don't get the loan?' you think. Suddenly, your brain is filled with a dozen scenarios of doom and gloom for your business. Panic sets in...

Suddenly, the officer appears in front of you and replies, "We're ready for you..."

What do you do when you're stressed and filled with fear? Simple. You use five key strategies to help you instantly calm down and control your thoughts.

Stress has a bad rap. When we mention stress, most of us think of negative stress -lost papers, relationship issues, work issues, finances - the sky's the limit. What we don't think about is positive stress.

Positive stress may include: moving, new relationships, starting a new career, deadlines, coaches who push us past our comfort zones. Not all stress is bad but it may feel intensely uncomfortable.

Stress starts in the mind, followed by the body. When you place 10 people in a room and expose them to the same stimuli, they will react differently. This is because we're all hard-wired differently and we all come form distinct backgrounds. Our past is what we use to decipher if something is stressful or not.

For example, if you were bit by a large spider when you were seven years-old, you might have a huge fear of spiders. However, if you never had a bad encounter with spiders and found them interesting as a child, you may not have any fear of them whatsoever. The past dictates your stress level but you can break the stress habit.

When you control your mind, you control the stress. When you control the stress, you are more in control of your actions and the reactions.

Step One: Breathe deep. When you're faced with a stressful situation, the first thing many of us do is react. We react with emotion and the emotion often hijacks our thoughts. There's no way you can think rationally when you're deathly afraid of a spider in front of you; all you think about is how stressed you are and how you want to get the 'heck out of there'-pronto.

When you breathe deep, your breathing slows down and this in turn slows down your thoughts. When you slow down your thoughts, you have space and time to decide how to react ot something.

Recently, I tried an adventure activity called: Monkido. This is an extremely challenging physical course that involves being 60 feet above ground in trees. You have two lifelines which are attached to ropes and your harness and you climb across netting, ladders, swaying logs, zip-lines and more. I made it through all the tough courses and was in the black area navigating across swaying sideways logs. All of a sudden, my lifelines were tangled above and I had to back-track and I panicked. I was swaying 60 feet above ground and the stress was immense. I quickly told myself to 'breathe deep, slow down, concentrate...' My breathing slowed down, I focused and a strange sort of calm enveloped me. I slowly and strategically climbed across the swaying logs and made it to the other tree. Then I climbed across a tight-rope. This only happened because I became aware of my breathing, slowed it down, slowed down my mind and minimized my panic. Was I still scared? You bet your a#* I was but I was able to function and perform the act.

2. Step Two: Smile. The brain is designed in such a way that when you smile, you feel a sense of happiness. It's programmed in your DNA as a baby; when you smile, you don't feel stress. If your smile is authentic, it spreads to your thoughts. It's impossible to feel unhappy and stressed when you're smiling. So try this next time you feel the stress monster gaining control. You many need to fake it for a few minutes but your mind will follow your actions.

3. Step Three: Exercise. We're all aware of the importance of exercising for health, wellness and longevity but it's extremely important for stress reduction. When you move your body, get your heart rate up and have more blood flow to the mind and body, you decrease your stress. Stress hormones like cortisol, have a chance to be eliminated from the body and the good hormones like endorphins, put you in a happy state of being. It's extremely difficult to feel really stressed after you lift weights and do an intense cardio routine. Try it and tell me if you're still really stressed after working out.

4. Step Four: Mindset. The key to managing stress is managing your mindset and you can do this by the three methods mentioned but also by having a positive mindset. Are you a glass half empty person or a glass half full? Even positive people have things happen that challenge their beliefs but they do go back to being dominantly positive. Positive thinking will eliminate a lot of fears and stress automatically. If you find it hard to be positive, read books, listen to CDs and hang out with people who have a different, more positive mindset from yourself. Coaches, mentors and positive friends will make the difference.

When you apply these four key steps, you'll feel more in control of stress, it won't control you. And the next time you're faced with asking for a loan or dealing with pesky spiders, you'll conquer your fears and minimize stress instantly.

Author's Bio: 

Lisa Rickwood, BFA, CPCC, is a creative visionary artist, coach and author who helps corporations, companies and individuals minimize stress and overwhelm, increase productivity and be more innovative and creative. To get your FREE Instant Stress Relief Kit visit: www.escapethepace.com or go to www.StressBusterProgram.com to banish stress immediately.