How to calm down
Everyday life can be rife with stressful moments: a delayed commute, a setback at work, the pressure of upcoming bills, parental duties feeling too much, or a fight with a loved one. Different circumstances on different days can leave anyone feeling wrung out for different reasons. And all this is piled on top of already-stressful conditions where the human mind is never at rest, always moving from one thought to another, and from one obligation to the next. Is it, therefore, any wonder that the mind struggles to calm down at the end of a stressful day, week, month?
When we pile acute stress, caused by specific point-in-time threats or scares, on top of chronic stress, or underlying feelings of anxiety and worry, both our mental and physical states suffer. The American Psychological Association has found that long-term stress affects every system in our bodies.
Learning how to calm down can help us manage those stressful moments and take care of our brains and our bodies. Specific exercises can help us get through periods of anxiety, worry, or frustration. Long-term, mindfulness meditation is a key part of maintaining a calmer approach to life and its myriad distractions and issues, helping us to replace stress responses with clarity. That is what meditation leads to — a calmer, clearer, more compassionate, more contented mind.
Combat Stressful Situations by Closing Your Eyes
Aron says that 80 percent of sensory stimulation comes in through the eyes, so shutting them every now and then gives your brain a much-needed break. She also says that she has found that highly sensitive persons do better if they can stay in bed with their eyes closed for nine hours. We don’t have to be sleeping. Just lying in bed with our eyes closed allows for some chill time that we need before being bombarded with stimulation.
During the MBSR class, we would take a few mindful sighs between transitioning from one person speaking to another. You breathe in to a count of five through your mouth, and then you let out a very loud sigh, the sound you hear your teenager make. I was always amazed at how powerful those small sighs were to adjust my energy level and focus.
Do This Monkey Stretch to Release Tension
In this exercise, you bring your hands (arms extended) in front of you, then bring the arms down. Then you bring your arms (still extended) to your side, and then down. Finally you bring your arms all the way past your head and then swoop down, with your head dangling between your knees, and you hang out there for a second. This exercise is extremely effective at releasing the tension we hold in different parts of our body.
Did you know that a 10-second hug a day can change biochemical and physiological forces in your body that can lower the risk of heart disease, combat stress, fight fatigue, boost your immune system, and ease depression? You can begin by giving yourself a hug. By squeezing your belly and back at the same time, you are again giving yourself proprioceptive input (letting your body know where you are in space), says Brukner, which can help stabilize you.
Take a Short Walk
Exercise can be a great stress reliever because it helps you blow off steam and releases endorphins. Even if you have just 5 or 10 minutes, moving your body for a bit will help. If you have more time or can take your walk outside, even better.
Walking with a good friend can be a nice way to find social support, and walking alone can provide you with some time to think, reframe, and come back to the situation with renewed optimism. You could also listen to music that soothes or energizes you (unless the noise wouldn’t help).
Taking a walk can bring you the benefits of exercise—both short-term and long-term—and as a bonus, it gets you out of the stressful situation temporarily. This can provide you with some perspective so you can return in a new frame of mind.
Relax Your Muscles
Progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) is a technique where you tense and release all of your muscle groups, leaving your body to feel more relaxed afterward. Just about anyone can do PMR, and with practice, you can fully release virtually all the tension you’re feeling in your body in a matter of seconds. This can help you feel calmer and better able to handle the situations in front of you.
Aromatherapy is another easy tool that you can use quickly. A 2020 review in the International Journal of Cardiovascular Sciences that looked at five different studies found that aromatherapy use, specifically lavender, was associated with decreased anxiety, depression, stress, and fatigue in patients with cardiovascular disease. You can simply light a candle or diffuser, enjoy the aroma, and see if your stress levels go down.