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Ways to Calm Yourself Down
...How to calm stress anytime, anywhere...


By Lee Ridenour

As featured on Lifehacker
 
 

We all have felt stress before, or have times when we wish we knew how to calm down! No matter how confident and relaxed you are, you know what it’s like to be nervous before an interview, trembling before you are about to give speech, or cold and clammy when you’re about to pick up your date. Nearly everyone feels nervous over some issues, yet many never seek knowledge to learn how to calm down properly. Life is too short to go through it drowning in your anxiety. Learn how to calm yourself down!

The point of this article is to provide you with fourteen different ways to release your tension and calm yourself. Hardly anyone will actually notice that you are using them. My ways will not have you sitting in a meditation position on the floor, or chanting mantras to yourself to relax, so no worries. When you calm yourself these ways, your will not detach yourself from your environment, but instead integrate yourself in unison to it while you mentally move inward to obtain steadiness. You should not feel tired or detached. You should simply become “in the zone” as you calm down - Alert, focused and relaxed; your nerves at ease.





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1) Press-Up

This one is great for if you are waiting to give a speech, nervous in a group setting or sitting in an interview trying to think of what to say. To begin, put your feet flat on the floor. Put your hands on the arms of your chair. Brace yourself. Now, take a deep breath and push down with your arms and feet as you begin to exhale. Your body will rise. Lock your arms – let your torso hang from your locked arms while you finish exhaling - long and deep. Stay up there a bit as you calm down. Go limp, but remain locked in the “up” position. Now sit back down. You should feel like a noodle and everything is way cool.

2) Breathing

Breathing is absolutely crucial tool to learn to calm yourself down with. I recommend for everyone to do some in-depth research on proper breathing techniques and how to breathe powerfully with your diaphragm. Breathe in strongly and slowly through your nose as you expand your diaphragm. Your stomach should rise up and down, not your chest. Now, blow it out strongly and steadily through your mouth using your diaphragm. Repeat this several times.

3) Spread Legs

This one may not seem like much, but it has serious subconscious value for calming down. When most people are relaxed (particularly us guys) we have a tendency to spread our legs slightly and take up more space. If you are stressed, by consciously spreading your legs while sitting you will take up more space. Perform the action, and the calm feelings will often follow - notice yourself beginning to calm down simply from taking the action to begin with.

4) Slouch Slightly

Yes, slouching is bad for your posture. Slouching for years will curve your spine. Slouching for a few minutes will not. This is another habit most people demonstrate when they are relaxed and calm: They allow themselves to slouch. So, next time you feel antsy about how a situation will turn out, allow yourself to lean back your head and slide down a few inches. Once again, calm feelings will follow the action.

5) Power Hands

Powerful people are often calm, relaxed and comfortable in their ways and actions. When they sit around a table, they often do one of two things with their hands: Steepling, or the hands-behind-the-head. To steeple, put your elbows on the table, and steeple your hands in front of your face – like the bad guy does in the movie when he’s attempting to connive something diabolical. Think of yourself as the bad guy. You steeple your hands as you turn over your master plan inside your head, thinking of the ways in which you will win. For more of a “corporate” power / relaxation effect, lean back in your chair and put your hands behind your head, lacing your fingers together. This is how bosses sit when they are talking to people who work for them. Bosses in this position are usually calm. It has profound effects in allowing you to feel more powerful and relaxed.

6) Anchoring

This is an incredible psychological tool we will cover in more depth in our products. Your subconscious mind anchors certain actions / stimuli with certain feelings and responses. Psychological anchors and triggers are used everywhere. It is the reason behind many strong emotional connections. If you had a song played at your wedding, hearing the song played at a later date may cause you to cry. The emotional event was your wedding and you heard a song during it (the anchor). Thus, the song became tied to the ways you felt during your wedding. Upon hearing the song again (the trigger) you feel the same feelings again. Another example is if you became very ill once from a certain drink, it is possible to become sick simply from smelling the drink in the future. The emotional event was becoming very ill, and the anchor was the drink. Anchors are used in countless ways. To use them to calm yourself down, develop a specific anchor every time you are calm. My anchor is to place my hand palm down on my thigh. Every time I am relaxed, I do this, to reinforce the anchor. Then when I need to calm down, I simply fire the trigger (palm on the thigh) and my mind recreates the emotion tied to that anchor – which is being calm. Pick an anchor you do not use that much, such as touching your ear, or putting your hand on your knee. Do it whenever you are calm. When you need to calm yourself quickly, doing it is an excellent way to return yourself down to that comfort zone.

7) Kill Internal Dialogue

There are many ways to accomplish this, but here is one good technique: If you are talking yourself into a worrisome state, or worrying while talking to someone during a conversation (needing to calm yourself down quickly), put forth the effort to do this: Defocus your eyes and open your peripheral vision. Look at two areas ahead of you, a few feet to each side. Picture your conscious thoughts in those areas. Now, draw your gaze up from both points at 45 degree angles to meet in the high-center of your vision. Next bring the gaze straight down, so it is directly in front of you (a person’s face if you are talking to them). Now, picture your gaze coming straight back to your own head, as you return your consciousness to yourself. Not only does it help increase focus, but the simple cognitive effort required to perform the exercise will often calm down any nervous internal dialogue you are currently having.

8) Picture Method

This method is perfect to use when you can not escape the people you are with and you need to calm yourself down covertly. Find a picture of something that calms you down (there are plenty on the internet). This could be a picture of the ocean, a forest or a sunrise. For mine, I use a picture of a beautiful sunset in Ibiza. Print the picture on a small piece of paper. Carry the picture with you wherever you go, in your wallet or purse. I carry mine in my wallet and it helps me disguise it if I decide to pull it out to enter my calm “quiet place” when I am with others. Conceal the picture however you see fit. When you are stressed out, look at it and envision yourself in the picture. Describe it in your mind. When I go to mine, I feel the breeze and sand on my skin. I feel the warmth of the sun on my face. I hear the waves, seagulls and smell the crisp Mediterranean air. Make it as vivid as you can. Spend a few minutes focusing on how it feels. After you are calm, come back to reality and put away your picture, affirming to yourself that you can return to it if you need to calm down again. It will always be there for you. This method is truly a great way to break away from whatever is stressing you at the moment. In the movie Collateral, the cab driver uses the same method with a picture taped on his visor. Whenever he becomes stressed out, he simply flips it down and “takes a vacation” to calm down quickly. You can calm yourself down in the same way!

9) Centering

If you feel anxiety throughout your body, such as being self-conscious of yourself (hands, feet, or body position), this exercise can work in incredible ways toward causing you to calm down. Close your eyes. Take a few deep, long breaths: in through your nose and out through your mouth. Place your tongue on your front pallet, directly above the backside of your upper teeth- this is effective in stimulating cross-lobe integration (and relaxation) in the brain. Picture a point far in front of you. Project your thoughts there in your mind. Allow yourself to continue breathing and keep your thoughts there, until you are fully relaxed and have forgotten about clammy hands, sweaty feet, or mismatched socks. Once you are calm, slowly bring the point in front of you back closer to your head as you return to a fully aware state.

10) Reframe

So, something has you stressed out. First, ask yourself: Does it really matter? Are you feeling nervous over trivial issues? Most of the time, probably. It is incredible to watch the ways in which the general populace react and lose composure over the smallest sources of stress. Go to the supermarket – watch a couple argue over which bread to buy. Watch a mother scream at her child for pulling a box of cereal off the rack. You may think “Jeez woman… calm down!” In her mind though, such an issue is apparently losing her calm over. Watch someone throw a tantrum in the checkout line because an item is 10 cents more than it was labeled as. Are any of those things worth loosing your calm and freaking out about? I would say no. Everyone can work toward remaining calm during such trivial events. Some things are no-brainers (such as the supermarket examples). However, when you find or define yourself and purpose in Life, you will find that literally nothing except those things which pertain to your missions are worth becoming stressed about. I speak from experience: the only times in the last year which I have felt stress are when things which pertain directly to my purposes in Life have been threatened.

Aside from those ways, nearly anything can go wrong and yet I remain 100% calm. Why? Because unless it effects my ability to live out my purpose in Life, it does not effect my reality! In addition to asking yourself “does it really matter”, another solid reframing technique to calm yourself down is to take step back. See yourself in the third person. Move farther away and see your World and your place among humanity. Step back, further and further. See your Life. Move farther away and see the Universe and all of Creation. Realize your trivial daily stress is absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of existence (or your Life, for that matter)!

11) Write it Out

Many are able to calm down and find relief from stress by telling someone close about their worries. If someone is not available to listen and help them calm down, a journal works great. Keeping a journal has been proven to help reduce stress. Make a commitment to yourself that you will keep one for a month – you may begin to find yourself needing to calm yourself down during your day less and less! When keeping your journal, make your accounts as vivid as possible. The more descriptive your writing is, the less your mind will need to hang onto the recorded events. Another way to calm yourself is slightly shorter and sweeter. Carry a notepad and pen. If something in your day is causing you to lose your calm, write it out clearly on the paper, describing it in detail. Writing it out will help put it into perspective and force you to think about the root cause. Next, rip it into little, iddy-biddy pieces and throw in the trash or toilet. Disposing of it is symbolic of ridding yourself of the stress and beginning to calm yourself. Remind yourself where you sent it in the event that you loose your calm over it in the future.

12) Identify

Identify the true cause of the stress. Ask yourself: what is that is really preventing you from being calm? Is it the current situation, or something else in the back of your mind? Is the guy in traffic really pissing you off? Or, is the fact that you fought with your spouse before you left for work? In order to remove stress from your Life, you must be able to properly identify its cause. Problems may only be solved by addressing the root cause, not containing the effects. As a statistical problem solver for General Motors, I came to realize this: containments and fixes for a problem are inferior in effectiveness compared to addressing the root cause. You can contain a stress problem for years via using different ways to calm yourself down, but until you address the root cause, the stress will continue indefinitely. If you are having trouble remaining calm, work down the ladder to identify the root cause. Address that, and you will find much of your stress is merely effects of the root cause.

13) “Mow”

I was blessed to have been raised by a father with an incredible work ethic. I have prided myself in my die-hard ability to work a 100 hour week once or twice a year during a product launch. My father however, works 80-90 hours every single week. How does he calm himself down after work and remain stress-free? He “mows.” Literally, he does mow the lawn. He often stated how everyone must have their own “mowing” to engage in; lest they work themselves to death. After a long day, he would often mow the lawn and unwind in the process before going to bed; at which time he would be completely calm. It still provided him a sense of accomplishment and took care of something which needed to be done, yet at the same time provided a way to calm down. Everyone must find a “mowing” activity which they enjoy and commit themselves to engage in it when they are going through periods of stress. Be it dancing, drawing, jamming on the digideroo, playing the violin, beating the shit out of a heavy bag or gardening; any form of “mowing” is essential to reducing stress and serving as a real way to calm down.

14) Plan

Did you just find out you’re going to be expelled from your school? Did you just receive your two-week notice at work? Did you just find out your daughter totaled her car yesterday? You’re probably shitting bricks. Shit you no more. Now is the time to remain calm. Making a plan in stressful circumstances is key to getting your ass out in one piece. If you are driving down the road when something bad happens and you throw your arms up in the air, screaming, what happens to your car? If you are driving through Life and something bad happens, do not throw your arms up in the air and scream! Your Life will go in the ditch! Hold onto the wheel. Figure out how you will escape!

I test high in emotional intelligence. Thus, at any time I am usually experiencing some sort of complicated (yet positive) emotion. However, when something uncertain or threatening presents itself in my Life, I usually become much less emotional than I am typically. It is due to my realization that in order to escape any circumstance, I must remain coolheaded. I must see the situation in its proper lighting, devise an escape or damage control plan and execute it ASAP. Emotions may be used to fuel the execution of the plan, but not the conception of it. When you need to calm down after receiving shocking news, force yourself to go into objective, cool-headed, scientific planning mode and you increaseyour odds of succeeding one hundred fold.

 

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