I’ve talked a lot about anxiety lately– including Things That Happen When You See a Therapist as well as How to Find A Therapist. To see all of my anxiety posts, you can scroll through my “Mental Health” posts under the “Health” tab at the top. With all this focus on anxiety, we still haven’t really talked too much about how to combat anxiety and get calm.
So when NewLifeOutlook emailed me asking if they could write about some techniques to help you get calm, obviously I agreed. Eric provided some helpful tips on how to calm down when you’re feeling anxious, some of which I utilize myself when I’m feeling stressed. Hopefully these tips help you if you’re in need.
Got any tips of your own, or agree with anything listed below? Leave them at the end in the comments! And without further ado, I’ll kick it over to Eric to talk about how to get calm.
8 On-The-Spot Ways to Get Calm
The ability to relax and calm yourself during a stressful situation is an ability that seems to come naturally to some. They always seem to have a plan and never let worry get the best of them, while you feverishly work to find anything that works for you.
Since you do not have the innate ability to get calm quickly, you must work to build coping skills that break the pattern of stress and tension in order to let in feelings of peacefulness and control.
Here are the eight best on-the-spot relaxation skills to leave you calm.
Before you cringe or bemoan the fact that this list includes deep breathing, understand that this is just one of the natural ways to relieve anxiety that works wonders for many people.
When you hear “deep breathing,” you may think about people who have tried to convince you of its powers before, or how you already tried it with no success. The truth is that deep breathing is highly effective, but most people perform it incorrectly.
To begin your mastery, work to take a deep breath in while leaving your shoulders still. Let your stomach protrude as you suck in the air. After a brief pause, let the air escape slowly for a long exhale.
Exercise works wonders for many physical and mental health complaints, and as it turns out, it is even effective in calming your body and mind.
You do not even need to lace up your sneakers or go to the gym. If you are feeling tense or restless, try some dynamic stretches to burn off some energy.
Touch your toes or roll your arms forward to reduce some tightness in your chest. Doing jumping jacks or pushups shouldn’t be out of the question either — sure, you may look odd exercising in your work clothes, but it is better than feeling anxious.
Experiment with different types of exercise in different situations to find what works best for you.
Change Your Thinking
All day every day, thoughts are swirling through your head, making you anxious. Take control of your thoughts by inserting some positivity, or challenging whatever messages are contributing to your stress.
Some people develop mantras to improve their thought patterns. Mantras are simple phrases or sentences that you can repeat out loud or to yourself when their influence is needed.
Saying “I feel relaxed, calm, and in control” can work to modify your thoughts and change the resulting behaviors. Whichever version you choose, be sure to say it often to get the desired impact.
Listen to Music
A four-minute song can completely change your point of view, even when you’re stressed or anxious. Keep a positive playlist on your phone so the songs will be there whenever you need them.
Perhaps heavy metal is just what you need to find calm, or maybe you peace in a concerto. The important thing is you find music that reverses — rather than reinforces — your tension.
Again, experimentation will be necessary here. Some tunes will work better in certain situations than others.
Play a Game
Since your phone is already out after listening to music, you might as well open up your favorite app and play a few games.
People generally spend too much time on their phones, which equates to too much wasted time and distraction. In this case, a small amount of escape is acceptable.
Diving into the game will consume all of your attention and provide your brain with a needed break. During this time, you can find enough separation from your stressor to have a new, fresh approach.
Be sure to limit your time, though. There is a thin line between short-term escape and long-term avoidance.
Call a Friend
Your phone can play music and can help you play games as well. Another thing your phone can do is actually make a phone call!
So many people are just a call away, and even though they might not be able to erase your stress, they can be a friendly voice on the other end of the line. Start with people you trust and respect, and feel free to guide the conversation in any direction.
Talking about your anxiety isn’t a must since you can find calm by discussing last night’s game or the show on this evening. Once you hang up, you might find yourself with a new level of relaxation.
Avoid texting; the lack of immediacy can trigger increased anxiety as you wait for a response.
When you were a child, there was nothing more calming or soothing than being held by your mother. It seems unlikely that your mother can still pick you up and rock you to sleep, but physical contact will assist in your goal of relaxation.
Find a loved one to hug. If no one is available, give yourself a squeeze to replicate the experience. Otherwise, you can find a comforting piece of clothing or a pillow to hug or rub against your face. This physical contact can add feelings of calm and safety no matter where you are.
Have a Taste
Stimulating your senses is a great way to help you get calm. Music and hugs soothe your hearing and touch, while eating or drinking can target your taste and smell.
Having a glass of ice water can be calming. A piece of dark chocolate or your favorite fruit can accomplish the goal with a bit more flavor.
My having something to taste and smell, you begin to focus more on these and less on your tension. Of course, you must be careful to keep this under control — a large milkshake may reduce some stress in the moment but lead to other problems later.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol as well. Three espressos may seem like a good idea, but that much caffeine will only trigger more anxiety.
Eric Patterson, LPC is a professional counselor in western Pennsylvania working for the last 10 years to help children, teens and adults achieve their goals and live happier lives. You can find more of his writing on NewLifeOutlook.