5 quick ways to calm down
I have 10 quick circuit-breakers for you for when you are feeling stressed out and overwhelmed. Five this week, five next week. Pick one or more of these to press pause on an impending freak-out:
1. Stop and breathe
This is such a cliche I must say I really didn’t want to even write it. In fact, nothing used to annoy me more when I saw it in an article when I was stressed and overwhelmed. “You don’t know my life!” I would inwardly rant, brilliantly adding to my (largely completely self-created) stress. The fact remains, though, it’s a cliche because it’s true. When we stop and realign our breathing by taking six good deep belly breaths, it calms our over excited nervous system and does actually create a mini break of calm. I know a heap of you are going “whatever” so luckily I have a load of other cool tips coming your way — read on. Don’t worry, one of them isn’t “drink more water”.
2. Ask yourself: What do I want to CHOOSE to do next?
The only thing you have to do is breathe. Everything after that is a choice. Might be a tricky choice. Might be a very boring choice. But it’s a choice, nevertheless. Reminding yourself in moments of stress that you are not trapped and you do have choice is a great stress circuit-breaker. It instantly puts you back in control when you feel out of control.
3. Pet an animal
(If you have one handy, obviously. I’m not advocating kidnapping cats or what-have-you.) Instant stress reliever. Animals are always “in the moment”, they respond directly to you in that moment. Animals are never worrying if they have left the iron on or if the bank manager will say yes. They mentally and emotionally exist in the here and now; and in the here and now, all is well. Animals can transfer that calming energy of present-ness and calm to you. Hence all the “cat cafes” that have started springing up to capitalise on their therapeutic benefits.
4. Remember a hilarious moment
This is one of my favourite ways to circuit-break stress. Just stop — for 60 seconds, stop — and remember one of the funniest moments of your life. There was this time when I was travelling in Vietnam and my travel buddy Chris put on this Vietnamese policeman’s hat and … well, okay, look, you kinda had to be there, but every time I think of that moment when I was cracking up on the side of the road so hard I could barely breathe, even a dozen years later it never ever fails to make me laugh. It lifts my mood instantly and the stress starts to dissipate.
5. Consider whether multitasking is helping or hindering right now
As I have discussed before, multitasking is a skill to be used judiciously. Sometimes it’s going to relieve stress, but used at the wrong time, with the wrong tasks, it will increase it. You can only do one thing well at a time. However busy and important you are, whatever you are doing is unlikely to be an actual matter of life and death. It may feel like it, in your head, but in reality, it’s just not. Take a reality check. Step back, get a bit of perspective. Are you carrying out heart surgery right now? No, thought not. Little of this stuff is truly life and death. It’s just life stuff. So stop. Prioritise. Start again.
The truth is, a very large proportion of our stress is self created.
It’s not about what’s happened in our life, or what someone has said to us — it’s about what we are choosing to think about what happened or what was said. Now that, we DO have control over. We can choose to be stressed about the traffic and let it ruin our day, or choose to think, “Well, that’s one of the facts of life about choosing to live in the biggest city in the country. Great restaurants and 28 beaches and the world’s best coffee — I get all the upsides too.”
We have a lot more control over how stressed we are than we recognise. All the above tips are pattern-breakers.
When you feel yourself heading towards stress and overwhelm, use them to break the habit and break free. Check back in next week for another five quick circuit breakers to help you prevent a meltdown.