Your boss just called to let you know they had to move the deadline for your presentation for the Board of Directors from next week to tomorrow.

And you don't even have all the data you need for it yet!

Dan Levy as David Rose on Schitt's Creek breathing deeply.

If this scenario feels stressful to you, that's because it is a high-pressure work situation that could make anyone feel overwhelmed.

But don't worry! These stress management techniques called the "4 R's" will help you manage high-pressure situations at work.

1. Recover

Stressors will come at you repeatedly, often multiple times throughout the day. Think of a few ways to recover during the workday and keep those in your back pocket for stressful work situations.

Things you can do:

Icon image of timer going from  1 to 0 Now

Icon image of a person with headphones and a music player listening to music In a few minutes

  • Go for a walk

  • Listen to music or meditate

Icon image of two people sitting down in chairs having a conversation Over a lunch break

  • Schedule a therapy appointment during your lunch break

  • Chat with a friend over lunch


What is another example of a strategy you can use in a few minutes to recover from stress at work?

2. Refocus

In high-stress work situations, especially those with close deadlines or immediate needs, after you take a moment to recover, it's time to refocus.

The process of refocusing is a stress management technique where you remove distractions and move your attention to the most important task.

DJ Khaled sitting down during a talk show saying

Most stress comes from worrying about the past or the future. One of the things that I love about being a surgeon is that it requires being entirely focused on the present, and on the task at hand. There is no room in surgery for the mind to wander and be stressed by regret or anxiety.

— Dr. Benjamin Domb, award-winning orthopedic surgeon and founder of the American Hip Institute

To refocus:

  1. Remain in the present moment

  2. Identify the most important work task

  3. Center your attention on the immediate task

3. Reframe

After you refocus, you have a better idea of the main issue you must tackle. But it can still seem overwhelming. Try reframing by visualizing and approaching challenges in smaller steps that will lead you to your goal.

In the earlier example, your presentation was moved from next week to tomorrow, and you are stressed because you don't have all the data you need.

You can use the stress management technique of reframing by breaking the task into smaller steps:

An icon image of a clipboard and pen with a sheet of paper with checklist items

Step 1

List out all the data points you need for the presentation.

An icon image of a magnifying glass hovering over an image of bar and line graph

Step 2

Determine whether you actually have access to some of the missing data but are still waiting for another department to send you theirs.

An icon image of two people smiling while talking on the phone

Step 3

Update your manager, then call the other department and explain the situation. Ask them (very nicely) to expedite the needed data today, since the board presentation was changed to tomorrow.

An icon image of three people standing on podiums, with the winner in the middle with their arms raised

Step 4

Pat yourself on the back because you just got all the data and are ready to add it to your presentation!

4. Reflect

You made it! After you get through a stressful day, take a well-deserved break. But after you have recovered from the day, take some time to reflect on what went well and what could be done differently if you re-encounter a similar problem or stressor.

A young woman sitting on steps thinking. Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Examples of questions to ask yourself when reflecting:

  • What went well and not so well in this situation, and what can I do differently?

  • Can I improve my work efficiency in case last-minute work issues arise?

  • What advice could I give my future self regarding similar situations?

  • What stress recovery plan or toolbox works best for me during stressful situations?

Let's Try It Out

It's the end of the day, and you just finished entering the data into the presentation you must give to the Board of Directors in the morning.

Then you notice your boss just sent you an email with a few slides they want you to add to your presentation that you need clarification on. Your stress returns tenfold.

Which example below would be the most effective way to reframe this new stressor?

Icon image of a person working at their desk on their computer with a clock in the background.

Example A

Step 1

Take a moment to breathe.

Step 2

Reformat the slides so they match your slide theme.

Step 3

It's the end of the day, so try to guess the purpose of the slides your boss sent and assume you know what it's for.

Step 4

Add the new slides throughout the presentation and clock out for the day.

Icon image of a woman sitting down at a table with her laptop talking with a person on the other side of the table.

Example B

Step 1

Take a moment to breathe.

Step 2

Walk over to your boss's office and ask if they have a moment to discuss the slides.

Step 3

Ask any questions about the slides and whether the information can simply be added to your pre-existing slides.

Step 4

Add the information from the new slides to your existing slides with related content.


Choose the best way to deal with the situation:

Take Action

Now that you've learned the 4 R's to manage stress in high-pressure situations at work, try using these stress management techniques to manage them:

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