No matter how zen our life is or how well we think we manage our emotions, there are certain instances where it's inevitable to have a reaction. During these times, it's more important to know some tricks that well help you calm down right away. We all know how hard it is to relax in the heat of the moment, but having a repertoire of tactics under your belt can help you manage your emotions as soon as you become upset.
"Because we cannot control our environment and the things that happen to us, we have to be able to control our reaction to them," says psychiatrist Gabriella I. Farkas MD, PhD over email. "Being reactive can hinder successful functioning in multiple contexts, from work to family and our social circles. Calming ourselves down on command comes very useful in high stress situations that require that we perform well. Whoever is less anxious in a situation has the upper hand; think negotiation, high stakes meetings, exams etc."
Knowing what to do ahead of time can help ensure you stay as cool and collected as possible, whether it's a moment of high stress, upset feelings, or unbearable anger. Here are 11 surprising tricks that can help you calm down instantly.
Deep breathing is essential to help you calm down, but sometimes, it's not enough. In this case, you can use box breathing instead. Imagine a box, and breath around the sides of it. This is a simple 2-second rotation of breathing in, holding, breathing out, and holding. Then repeat. "This works for 2 reasons," says Farkas. "You can't focus on two things at the same time, so by focusing on your breathing, you can't focus on what made you anxious. Making your breathing more even also changes the anxiety response on a physiological level."
2Clench & Release Your Muscles
Part of having a relaxed mind includes having a relaxed body, and you can help release tension by engaging in Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR). In PMR, you tense up different muscle groups — starting with your lower body and moving upward — and then let them relax. When your body is relaxed, it's hard to feel anxious. "This is the most effective way to become aware of when you are tensing up," says psychologist Deborah E. Dyer, Ph.D. over email. "You can then quickly relax your muscles any time because you know what that feels like from your practice."
3Do A Mini Workout
It might be the last thing you want to do, but busting out a quick workout can work wonders. "Crank out 15 push ups or jumping jacks," says psychologist Sonya Bruner over email. "When your heart is pounding from anxiety, it can feel overwhelming. Doing something physical helps to normalize the sensation that is occurring in your body." When you exercise, you also release endorphins, which are natural painkillers and mood enhancers, as well as reduce your levels of the stress hormone cortisol, according to Harvard Health.
Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present in the moment and focusing on whatever you are doing. "Focus on your breath and be keenly aware of where you are," says Dyer. "If your mind wanders — and it will — do your best to notice what the thought is and then simply let it go and return to where you are. By focusing on your breath and your immediate circumstances, it is a form of focus that pulls you into the present and away from your wandering thoughts, which are likely the primary cause of your stress." A review of studies published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found that mindfulness meditation is effective at easing psychological stresses like anxiety, depression, and pain.
Keep yourself busy doing a relaxing task such as coloring, doodle, or work on a puzzle. "Sometimes, doing something mindless is a great step towards being more mindful," says Bruner. "If you are picking the perfect shade of purple, or finding that last edge piece, it is hard to perseverate on whatever it was that was stressing you out."
6Sniff Some Lavender
The scent of lavender is more than just pleasing to the nose — it can also help relax you. Multiple studies show that the scent of lavender can help people feel more relaxed and less stressed. Inhaling lavender can even lower your blood pressure and heart rate, according to research published in the Journal of the Medical Association of Thailand. Keep some lavender essential oil with you during times you feel stressed or anxious.
7Listen To Some Music
Listening to music, especially slow, classical music, can have therapeutic effects, according to Psych Central. Calming music can have physiological effects, including slowing the pulse and heart rate, lowering blood pressure, and decreasing the levels of stress hormones.
8Utilize Your Pressure Points
Utilizing your pressure points can help have a calming effect on your body. This involves using the fingers to put pressure on certain parts of the body, including your shoulders, your neck, and between your eyes, which can help release tension and relieve stress, according to Livestrong.
9Catch Your Negative Thoughts
"Thought stopping is a skill that is very effective to slow down or stop catastrophic, 'what if' thinking," says Dyer. "If you have a negative, scary thought, first notice that you are thinking this rather than just allow it to continue unabated. In your head yell 'STOP' at yourself — imagine a red stop sign if you wish." Replace the negative, scary thought with a beautiful, relaxing image that you have created. It can be something like a memory of a beach vacation or a made up fantasy of being pampered in a castle.
10Think Of Something Funny
It really is true that laughter is the best medicine. Laughter not only cools down your stress response, but it also soothes tension and other physical symptoms of stress by stimulating circulation and aiding muscle relaxation, according to Mayo Clinic. Next time you're feeling riled up, consider watching a funny YouTube video or reminiscing about a particularly amusing moment in your life.
Grounding is an exercise that is useful for people who are panicking or feeling physically overwhelmed. "Grounding is becoming intentionally focused and aware of where you are in the moment by being focused on your five senses," says Dyer. Begin to focus on feeling your feet on the and notice the presence or texture of whatever is in your hands. Become aware of your senses and actively be in the moment and notice what's happening right now around you. What do you hear? What colors do you see around you? What scents do you smell in the air?