There are easy ways to run from the stress. The list is long and familiar. Yet, no matter how much you medicate, party, shop, sleep, exercise, or whatever your run-away favorite is, at some point it's time to look at what's going on and come to grips with reality.

How do you prepare for change?

Yes, prepare. Think of it this way: the quality of your preparation will influence the quality of your responses. When you are fully prepared, you have options and possibilities that will keep you in the driver's seat for what's next.

When stress hits the hot button the tendency is to react in automatic, familiar ways. Not good. Old reaction patterns bring nothing but problems.

Doing what comes naturally keeps stress as the number one cause of interpersonal conflict and health issues at work. Think about it for yourself. When things don't go as you planned, what is your fist way of looking at the annoying or uncomfortable situation?

Our bodies instinctive choices are fight, flight or freeze.

Take a minute and track your personal reactions. Many blame and want to punch someone out. Others gotta get the heck out as fast as possible and find a place of safety. And still others do the deer in the headlights and simply can't move.

These instinctive choices don't offer much choice for a lasting solution. And they lead to the worst mistakes that keep us stuck.

Mistake #1: Shoulding: It's his fault, it's her fault, its their fault. They should have known better, they should have warned me, they should have fixed it. Stop it. Stop it right now. Don't count on anyone else to relieve your stress. It's your stress, no more shoulding. Learn to take responsibility for how you feel.

Mistake #2: Deciding: Time to pivot, yet not sure which way to turn. Deciding not to decide is a stress inducer. You are still waiting for someone else to tell you what to do. The longer you wait, the deeper the stress. This is how you waste tons of emotional energy hanging onto the past and hoping for a hero to take you into the future on their red cape.

Mistake #3: Ignoring: It often feels better not to know. Ignorance is bliss, that is until it becomes stressful. When we know it, recognize it and yet, ignore it there are often huge consequences. What we choose to NOTSEE can backfire and create ten times the stress when it can no longer be pushed under the rug.

Mistake #4: Rushing: Hurrying to get the situation over with by being impetuous without considering consequences down the line often makes you feel good for a moment. This leads to the "if-only syndrome" and lots of regret that makes stress a constant companion. Making a wise choice means preparing and planning the best move possible. It's all about the timing of when to move and when to stand steady.

The secret of "practicing safe stress" is to look at the extremes and then wait. Not long, just take a few deep breaths. Wait until you understand the consequences that lie at the extremes and make a choice. Stress is an ally and can help you get going in a positive way without making deadly mistakes.

Want more useful information about leadership? Get Dr. Lafair's weekly newsletter, today.