You’ve got a plan. You’re on a path. Then, out of the blue — wham. A curve ball. I used to get all stressed out. Well, really, it was worse than that. Stressed out, yes. But worse, it was sometimes a full-blown panic attack with blood pressure off the charts. On one occasion, thinking I was having a heart attack or stroke, my husband loaded me into the pickup and we headed for Urgent Care. One nurse said I won the prize for the highest blood pressure that day. Great. Lucky me. Another one told me to go to my happy place to which I replied, “I don’t have one right now.” Seriously? They tell you to do that?

But, I vowed to not let that happen to me anymore. I’ve been put to the test many times, but it wasn’t until the curve ball this week that I can honestly say the strategies I’ve adopted and am now practicing are working! In reality, I think they have been working for some time because the full-blown panic attacks are a thing of the past. But it wasn’t until this week when I truly reflected on the curve ball and my reaction to it that I realized how far I’d come.

If you’re prone to letting those curve balls derail your emotions and your health, here are 5 things you can do to manage.

  1. Let go of control

This is a big one for me. A former boss and friend used to call me a “control freak” and my sister is always telling me to “let it go.” I didn’t realize the importance of this, especially for those events that are truly out of your control. Let’s take the weather for example. Have you ever scheduled a flight that was cancelled or delayed because of the weather? How did you react? I know how I used to react and it usually led me to a panic attack. But, here’s the thing. Do you really want to get on a flight that even the pilots don’t want to be on? Well, when you put it that way, no! You can’t control the weather, so why get all stressed out about it. Plus, I would rather be safe. And, I suspect you would too.

2.  Exercise

Aerobic exercise triggers the release of endorphins, potent brain chemicals that have the ability to relieve pain and stress, stimulate relaxation and turn bad moods into good ones. Over the long-term, if done every day, it can even combat depression. Simply put, the higher your level of endorphins, the greater your sense of calm and well-being. This doesn’t mean you have to train for a marathon, just walking 20 to 30 minutes a day can make a real difference in reducing stress. So, when you feel the stress levels rising, take a few minutes to get the body moving. It will do wonders.

3.  Meditate

Meditation can give you a sense of calm, peace and balance; all three contribute to your overall good health. When you meditate, you may clear away the information overload that builds up every day and contributes to your stress. You increase self-awareness, reduce negative emotions and increase your imagination and creativity. Meditation helps you gain a new perspective on the “curve ball” situation. People that enjoy walking often use that time to meditate and clear away any mind clutter.

4.  Assess and Adjust

For me, this is just another term for a rational decision-making process. When faced with any situation, it’s important to first make an assessment. Identify and explore options. Consider the consequences — the risks and opportunities. Excessive risks may cause you to eliminate an option and opportunities may cause you to reconsider an option you had overlooked or rejected. Evaluate your options against needs versus wants to determine importance. Once you’ve finished the assessment, it’s time to make a decision and adjust your path accordingly.

5.  Trust your “gut”

Neuroscientists call intuition “emotional tagging” which means our brains store emotional responses to each experience or situation we encounter. When faced with a new decision, our brain goes into the library of past experiences and looks for similar experiences or patterns. Those manifest as our “gut” reaction or intuition. It’s important to go through the assessment and analysis phase (the rational decision-making process), but it’s also important to consider your instinct’s insight and perspective. Perhaps Jeff Bezos said it best. “All of my best decisions in business and in life have been made with heart and intuition — not analysis. When you can make a decision with analysis, you should do so, but it turns out in life that your most important decisions are always made with instinct, intuition, taste, heart.”

So, my curve ball this week could have landed me in Urgent Care because the situation was very similar, and again, involved travel. Last time, it was thunderstorms and tornadoes. This week, it was a freak snowstorm. I was really looking forward to the trip, and I was very disappointed on a number of levels. So, I let go of my control over the weather — because I now accept I have none! I went for a walk to clear my mind (actually several). I considered my options and evaluated my risks and opportunities and then I connected with my “gut,” my intuition. I asked God for guidance. I made a decision, cancelled my reservations and put the opportunity wheels into motion. I was immediately at peace. So, bring it on curve balls. I’m ready.