When times get bad, don’t let them get worse. Fight off stress by arming yourself with these five ways to calm down, and start feeling good again.
Take a few seconds right now, close your eyes and take a couple deep breaths.
You can do this.
From how we work and think, to how we treat each other and even how we digest our lunch, stress keeps us from doing and feeling our best. Life being what it is, we can’t avoid stress entirely. We can, however, equip ourselves with ways to calm down and get back into the feel-good zone.
Here are five tips on how to calm down:
Although you may not have realized it, when you’re stressed out, your breathing changes. Instead of your typical, relaxed breathing, you start to breathe faster and with much shallower breaths. This hurried breathing puts your body in a state of distress. Your blood vessels constrict, your muscles tense up and your heart has to strain a little bit. It’s not a pretty sight.
So combat this response by becoming aware of your breathing, deepening it and slowing it down. As a general rule of thumb, you’ll want to inhale through your nose, and exhale though your mouth. If you’re looking for a little bit more direction, though, here are some deep breathing tips:
- Delayed exhale: Slowly count to five and inhale, then wait one or two seconds and exhale.
- Abdomen breathing: When you breathe in, get your abdomen to expand outward, instead of letting your shoulder and chest raise. This kind of breathing gets more oxygen into your lungs.
- Sighing: Try constricting your throat a little bit when you exhale, so you make a sound that sounds a little bit like a whisper. The sound can sometimes provide added stress relief.
When it comes to breathing for relaxation, slow and steady wins the race. Take your time, breathe and enjoy it!
Even if you don’t think yourself a very meditative person, there is a lot to be gained from taking a moment or two and focusing on your thoughts. From relaxing your muscles to lowering your blood pressure and even possibly increasing the amount of grey matter in your brain, the benefits of relaxing your mind through meditation are plentiful.
One mediation technique you can try is slowing your breathing, closing your eyes and listening to your thoughts. We have tons of thoughts a day, but many of them are re-runs. Take a moment to listen to them, see what keeps cropping up and draft up a plan to deal with whatever is bothering you.
If you prefer something more visual, you could also try the Quick Coherence technique. First, focus on your heart and envision it in the center of your chest. Then imagine your breath going in and out of that area. Once you’ve got that down, think of a time you felt really good and try to recreate the experience in your mind. This way, both your body and mind are at peace, and you’re putting yourself back in a positive mood.
Of course, there are a number of ways to meditate, so feel free to get out there and find out which kind works best for you.
3. Get physical and mental distance
You’re working on a problem. You’ve put in several days of tireless work and you still feel no closer to a solution. In cases like this, sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself and your work is to walk away and say, “I’ll deal with you later.”
This may counterintuitive at first, but by giving yourself that distance and not working on the problem, you’re actually putting yourself in a much better position to solve it. Giving yourself space not only helps you think more abstractly, but gives you time to collect yourself mood-wise and even could increase your creativity.
When you’re trying to get physical distance, here are a couple ideas for finding that space:
- Literally walk away. Leave your desk and go to the break room or anywhere else in the office.
- Go outside (if the weather permits it). Studies have shown that being in nature and seeing green and blue relaxes our minds. And if you’re near water, seeing and hearing it can also help.
- Go for a drive. Driving can be very therapeutic, especially on a road where there isn’t much traffic.
And here are some tips for getting mental distance:
- Indulge in a hobby of yours. Whether it’s cooking, writing, playing ukulele or crafting, take time to do something you really love.
- Try reading something new. Whether it’s a book or a couple articles in a field you don’t normally look into, this unfamiliar information will act as a breath of fresh air for your mind.
- Avoid social media. Although it’s a great distraction, in times of stress, it can further dampen your mood and increase your distress.
Whatever you end up doing, the point is to get some daylight between you and your work.
4. Get moving
We all know exercise is great for our health, but turns out, it’s equally great at calming us down. Physical activity releases endorphins, which boost your mood and make you feel more relaxed. Basically, although we know you’ve heard this all before, moving around is one of the best things you can do for yourself, stressed or otherwise.
If you’re looking for ideas, here are a couple of ways to get moving:
- Clench and unclench your fist. As small as this gesture is, it can really help put your body in relaxation mode. Just ball up your fists as hard as you can for one or two seconds, and then release.
- Go for a walk or run. It can be as simple as a loop or two around the office, going up and down a flight of stairs or taking a jog around the neighborhood.
- Go to the gym. Do some cardio or maybe some strength training. It just depends on how you’re feeling.
- Do yoga. Yoga exercises your mind and your body, and is a great way to relieve some stress even at the beginner level.
- Stretch at your desk. There are a number of ways you can get your body moving even if you can’t leave your desk.
And there are a number of other ways to get active, so find your favorite activity and get a move on!
5. Give yourself a pep-talk
You know the saying “I am my own worst enemy?” Well, that’s certainly the case when people get stressed out. Under duress, we all typically come down really hard on ourselves whether we realize it or not. Negative thoughts start looping through our heads, saying: “Why didn’t I start this sooner? I’m the worst at this. I’m so tired. This is just not my day.”
If phrases like these sound familiar, then you’ll want to put a stop to it right now. Instead, try practicing kinder, more encouraging self-talk.
If you’re wondering where to start, here are a couple tips for positive self-talk:
- Focus on what you’re good at: “I’m still excellent at…”
- Appeal to past experience: “I’ve gotten through worse things before. I can get through this.”
- Think of the end result: “Once I finally implement this new organizational system, my customers will have a much better experience on my site.”
- Stay positive: “I can do this! I can handle this. I am in control.”
- Be proud of the progress you’ve made: “I’m taking big steps toward my goal.”
- Put things in perspective: “I’ll still have a lot of people in my life who love and support me, regardless of how this project goes.”
With the right thoughts, you can become your own best friend when it comes to calming yourself down.
Although things may seem overwhelming, you’re more than capable. Take a couple big breaths, meditate, maybe look at some pictures of cute animals, do what you need to do and know that you’re going to get to where you need to go. And most importantly, remember: You have the power!
-Gracelyn Tan, Volusion