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How to Manage Emotional Stress

Two methods from HSE Centre for Psychological Counselling

© Ponomariova_Maria / iStock

Many HSE students and staff have found it difficult to cope with their heightened emotions during quarantine while studying, working and managing their household at the same time. Mikhail Ponomarev, psychologist at the HSE Centre for Psychological Counselling, shared some techniques that can help you cope with emotional stress.


This method helps when you realize that you are feeling overwhelmed with upsetting thoughts and ideas, and you are not clearly aware of what is happening around you.

Breathe deeply, inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth. Look around slowly and pay attention to:

  • 5 things you can see;
  • 4 things you can touch;
  • 3 things you can hear;
  • 2 things you can smell (or feel 2 smells that you like);
  • 1 emotion that you are experiencing.
Read more

Five questions to discuss with yourself

ABC centering

This is suitable for dealing with stressful situations. The duration of centering practice can be 10 seconds, 30 seconds, or even 10 minutes, depending on the situation and your emotional state.

You can practice it while sitting or standing, during a conflict situation, or while preparing for a stressful or difficult situation. You can practice centering before important phone calls or personal meetings.

It includes three steps (А, В and С):

A — Aware

This is the first thing to do in a stressful situation. You need to return your attention to the present moment and feel it with all five senses: what you see, what you hear, what your body feels, whether you are aware of any tastes or smells. The most important thing is to focus your attention on your body.

Feel the ground underneath your feet, or the support of your chair if you are sitting; pay attention to your breathing. Scan your body, paying close attention to the reactions within it — what parts feel tension and what parts feel relaxed (stomach, back, face, legs). How are you holding your arms, shoulders, and jaw?


B — Balance

Pay attention to the position of your body and try to balance it. Feel your feet touching the ground, pulling you down, your back straightening and something at the top of your head pulling you up into the sky.

Swing back and forth, reducing the amplitude, until you feel balanced. Similarly, balance the body to the right/left. Now balance your attention in the same way, focusing it on your body, rather than on the object of stress.

C — Core Relaxed

Relax your abdominal muscles, straighten your back, and relax your neck. Relax your face — open your jaw, smile, and relax your lips, eyebrows, and tongue. Focus on your breath. Under stress your breath is shallow and frequent or even intermittent. Inhale and exhale, breathing deeply.

Author: Lena Vardanyan, April 16, 2020