We’ve all found ourselves in that terrible predicament at some point or another – you’ve just received some devastating news or you’ve injured yourself badly and gone into a state of shock. Perhaps you’ve been under stress for a while and extreme anxiety has suddenly taken hold, or, even worse, you feel a panic attack coming on! Whatever the scenario – sometimes you need to calm yourself down – fast.
Here are some things you could try in order to calm down as quickly as possible:
1. Take a few deep breaths
Seriously. Deep, controlled breathing is the number one thing you can do to quickly relieve anxiety. When we are stressed out, we seem to take quick, shallow breaths. This reinforces the fight-or-flight messages to your brain. Breathing deeply and calmly disrupts that messaging, allowing you to calm down. Try breathing in for five counts, holding that breath for three counts, then breathing out for eight counts. Do this for five minutes – you will feel the difference.
2. Get outside
If you find yourself feeling anxious inside a stuffy, crowded place (e.g., on a bus, in a classroom or in a shopping centre), make sure that you get outside into the open air as soon as possible. A hot, stuffy space can increase feelings of anxiety and potentially bring on a panic attack. Fresh air will help you feel calmer, while the change of scenery can also interrupt anxious thought patterns.
3. Tap away
Ever heard of tapping? It is a combination of ancient Chinese acupressure and modern psychology that works together to alleviate stress on both physical and emotional levels. Tapping sends calming signals to the amygdala – the part of the brain where our survival instincts “live”.
The amygdala releases biochemicals which gives the body the physical and mental energy to “fight or flee”. The problem is, the amygdala is prone to releasing these fight-or-flight biochemicals during a stressful situation when your life isn’t in danger. When your throat constricts and your heart starts beating like crazy – that’s when tapping can be an invaluable tool for restoring calm quickly.
Here is a great little video explaining a basic anti-stress tapping technique:
4. Keep calm – and make your own mantra
What is a mantra, you may ask? It is a word or phrase that is repeated in meditation, often aligned with the breath. Repeating a mantra is a powerful, ancient spiritual practice. It is usually an affirmative statement with the objective of bringing about positive change. If you suffer from stress or anxiety, doing conscious breathing while repeating a mantra could have a hugely positive impact on your overall state of mind.
An example mantra could be this very basic meditation: Sit on a chair with your back straight and your eyes closed, hands resting in your lap. Breathing in, think the word “peace”, breathing out, think the word “calm”. These thoughts will penetrate your subconscious mind and help you to remain calm and at peace when feelings threaten to overwhelm you. Do this for five minutes a day, at the same time every day to start reaping the benefits.
Reframe your thinking
We live in tumultuous times and stress and anxiety are familiar feelings to most of us. Sometimes, an accumulation of stressors can give us the feeling of being pushed over the edge. And while there are measures we can take to control feelings of panic and overwhelm, the ideal would be to have the kind of lifestyle that will manage these feelings from day to day.
Some lifestyle adjustments, such as sufficient sleep, a healthy diet, moderate exercise and a regular, relaxing mind/body practice such as yoga can help to bring more calm into your life. If a particular situation is stressing you out, it can also be useful to ask yourself the following questions:
- Is this situation that I am worrying about really likely to happen?
- Are my thoughts about this situation rational (i.e., based on reason and logic)?
- Has this ever happened to me before?
- What is the worst that can happen? How will I handle it, if it does?
Just running through these questions calmly in your mind can help reframe your thinking regarding a potentially stressful situation or event.
If you have battled with feelings of anxiety or overwhelm for a long time, don’t hesitate to share your situation with a professional therapist. She or he will be able to advise you on practical ways to improve your feelings of anxiety, and also guide you in examining the root causes of your feelings. Remember, there are many resources like books, talks, videos and online articles out there that can help you to bring more peace and tranquility into your everyday life.
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