At one point or another, we’ve all felt stressed, upset, overwhelmed, angry, scared, violent, or anxious (if not all at the same time). And we know we’ll feel that way again.
For all those moments of increased heart rate, there are these effective ways to physically calm yourself (for everything else, there’s MasterCard). In times of crisis and hectic Monday mornings, follow these simple practices to make yourself feel better.
1. Leave the room. Remove yourself from the situation.
Every time you see, hear, smell, touch, or taste anything, your brain has to process that stimuli. It can only process so much before you’re either overstimulated or start to forget bits and pieces. By entering a new setting, you’ll be blasted by (at least) different visual, auditory, and olfactory stimuli. You’ll become more calm because you won’t be able to focus on the prior stressor(s) as much.
2. Clench your fists, but don’t hit anyone.
Sit in a chair. Clench your fists tightly for thirty seconds, then release for sixty seconds. Repeat. After a few minutes, you’ll feel so much more relaxed as this steadies all your body’s rhythms. Simple, yet effective.
3. Do this breathing exercise. Seriously, it works.
Breath in for three seconds. Hold for five seconds. Breath out for seven seconds.
If you were smoking a cigarette, you would inhale and then hold the smoke in for a few seconds before exhaling. Why? Because it gives your body more time to absorb the nicotine, increasing the high that smokers crave.
Oxygen does the exact same thing. By breathing in slowly and holding it in, your lungs are able to absorb more oxygen, thus allowing you to feel more relaxed. It also regulates and (depending on how anxious or upset you are) slows down your heart rate, which also makes you feel more calm.
4. Run, Forrest! Run!
Running heightens the production of endorphins in your brain, making you feel better — very similar to taking a shot of morphine. At the same time, you’re expending a lot of energy, which, in this case, appears as anxiety. So while (literally) running away from your anxiety, you’re also creating a natural high for yourself.
5. Close your eyes.
Closing your eyes effectively blocks everything out. Whether it’s a stressful situation or you’re just anxious from staring at a computer screen for too long, closing your eyes immediately negates all visual stimuli, allowing you to process everything else going on much more easily. Most would recommend closing your eyes for 15 minutes for best results at any given time. You could lie down to rest for your 15 minutes, or you could pair it with points 2 and 3.
6. Find your happy place — or the nearest Starbucks.
If you surround yourself with something you have positive associations with, you’ll begin to feel more calm. Go somewhere or do something that you have a positive association with, like drinking a hot cup of tea in your perfectly organized office, or going to that dive where you and your best friend would always hang out.
7. Drink cold water.
Even mild dehydration has adverse physiological and psychological effects. Ergo, drinking water regularly throughout your day will help you to feel more calm and to have clearer, more positive thoughts. If the water’s chilled, it will bring down your body temperature, which also helps you become calm.
8. Yell your heart out.
There’s a reason mommas everywhere let their babies scream and cry until they “tire themselves out.” Each of us can only expend so much energy before we’re just spent. So, worst case scenario, just go sit in your car and yell and kick and scream until you feel like you need a nap.
9. Don’t go with your first impulse.
A lot of people would tell you to always stick with your gut, or some other cliché. These people are wrong and not to be trusted. Your first impulse to feeling stressed or upset will always be a reactive response. Reactive is bad, and you really want to be proactive in any decisions you make or actions you take, especially when you’re not your peak self. So, withhold from your first impulse, and give yourself time to rethink your decisions.
10. Be your own wingman.
Positive self-talk your way to feeling better. Really, if you keep telling yourself you’re good at this, that things aren’t entirely your fault, or that whatever so-and-so said doesn’t matter, you will eventually believe it.
11. Smile already.
If you smile long enough, you will be happy. Actually, about 30 seconds will start the process. But it has to be a real smile, none of that fake “Hi Aunt Myrtle, I’m so happy to see you,” (but you’re really not) stuff.
12. Listen to music written in major keys.
We’re all familiar with playing certain songs or artists to make us feel better and calm down. The effects of music on emotions are well documented and surprisingly potent. So, listen to songs written in major (happy) keys rather than those written in minor (sad) keys.
Bonus tip: if you choose songs with slower tempos and fewer lyrics, you’ll feel calmer more quickly.
13. Create or remake your early morning routine.
For a long-term plan, create a solid morning or evening routine. For instance, get up 90 minutes earlier and use this time to read, workout, start that blog you’ve been putting off, grow a business, lead a study group — do something for you that will make you feel better and help to keep you calm throughout the day.
14. Write out your feelings.
Scientists still aren’t 100 per cent in agreement as to why writing out your feelings makes you feel better. But, on a neurological level, the research generally says that when you put a label to your emotions, as you do when writing them out, a portion of your brain is activated that actually inhibits the flow of emotions. So, if you’re feeling really angry, and you write down “I’m feeling really angry,” your brain will process “angry” and inhibit your anger. Pretty cool stuff!