I’m always on the look out for tips and strategies for the best ways to calm down and achieve that (often elusive!) emotional balance which is why I’m delighted to be welcoming my guest today, Jade MacRury.
Jade is the founder of Live A Blissful Life and is sharing with us 7 ways we might be able to achieve that balance.
7 ways to calm yourself down
How do you deal with anxiety? Or rage?
You know the feeling, right?
Your heart’s racing. Your palms are sweaty. You breathe but the oxygen doesn’t seem to get to your lungs.
You try harder and harder but it’s not working.
Goosebumps sprout everywhere and your vision starts to dim.
You fight for every breath in your body.
You black out or you see red. And you can’t stop yourself from reacting.
Sounds pretty grim, doesn’t it?
I admit, that scenario’s a tad on the extreme side but, as someone who’s been gifted with a restless and anxious nature who is also prone to reactive anger, I can tell you that it happens and it’s more common than we think.
So, how do you deal with it?
Well, this list gives you 7 ways to calm yourself down when your emotions are doing a loop-de-loop inside you.
And practice these techniques whilst your still calm so it becomes second nature and therefore, easier to do when the situation calls for it.
According to Scott Dehorty, LCSW-C, of Delphi Behavioral Health, “Breathing is the number one and most effective technique for reducing anger and anxiety quickly.”
Extreme emotions like anxiety or anger have actual physical implications. That’s why you end up taking quick, shallow breaths that make you feel as if you’re not getting enough oxygen in your lungs.
This then causes a positive feedback loop in your brain and reinforces your fight-or-flight response.
If not disrupted, you end up hyperventilating and feeling dizzy, short of breath, nauseated or confused.
Luckily, you can reverse these symptoms by simply changing the way you breathe.
Anxieties gives you the following kinds of breathing that you can use:
Natural Breathing. You gently and slowly inhale a normal amount of air through your nose, filling your lower lungs. Then exhale easily. Most people find it helpful to try this kind of breathing whilst placing one hand on your stomach and the other one on your chest. As you inhale gently, your lower hand should rise while your upper hand stays still. Stay relaxed and concentrate on filling only the lower lungs. It’s best if you breathe this way all the time.
Calming Breaths. Take a long, slow breath in through your nose, first filling your lower lungs, then your upper lungs. Hold your breath to the count of “three.” Exhale slowly through pursed lips, whilst you relax the muscles in your face, jaw, shoulders, and stomach. Use this when you’re feeling especially anxious or panicky. And because this kind of breathing doesn’t come naturally, you need to practice, practice, practice.
Calming Counts. A bit more like meditation, you have to actually take some time with this one. Sit comfortably. Take a long, deep breath and exhale it slowly whilst saying the word “relax” silently – like a mantra. Close your eyes. Let yourself take ten natural, easy breaths. Count down with each exhale, from “ten” to “one”. This time, whilst you’re breathing comfortably, scan your body. Notice any tight areas, usually in your jaw, your shoulders, and your legs. Imagine those areas relaxing. Open your eyes again when you get to “one”.
2. Acknowledge your emotions
Many of us have been raised traditionally – meaning, we were punished any time we experienced emotions, especially negative ones.
The message given to us whilst growing up was insidious but widespread: don’t feel anxious, sad or angry – it’s not right. Or okay, if you really have to, you can feel it but never acknowledge it because you’ll be told to shut up, stay quiet, go to your room, you’re getting a time out. Worse, you might even get spanked for your feelings.
Study after study since the 1950s have shown that children who experience emotional manipulation and/or physical punishment have a higher risk of developing mental health issues as adults.
What does this have to do with keeping calm?
One very effective strategy is to acknowledge your feelings.
When you admit that you’re anxious or angry and that’s why your heart is racing like a horse going for the win at the Royal Ascot, you look straight at your feelings.
If you allow yourself to look at your feelings and not judge yourself as being bad for having them, you pave the way for the gentle release of any negativity you might be experiencing.
As Neale Donald Walsch said, “What you resist persists. What you look at disappears.”
3. Do a brain dump
Accepting our feelings is an important piece of the puzzle but it’s only a piece of it. We also need to figure out what triggered our reaction.
At the root of our inability to calm down is actually fear, which has a tendency to exaggerate anything that could go wrong. To the point where we even think that the “worse-case scenario” is also highly probable (to be honest, it very rarely is).
What can you do when you start experiencing this?
Get a journal or any notebook you may have and do a massive brain dump.
Write down everything that’s agitating you.
Avoid bullet points where you only write a one-word description. Flesh it out as best you can in all its gory details. Don’t filter anything out. Just keep writing. During this process, remember the one question you’re answering: What is it exactly that you’re most afraid of?
And once you’ve answered that question, answer the following:
- What’s the absolute worst that could happen?
- How probable are these outcomes?
- How long will things stay the way they are, if the worst were to happen?
- And if it did happen, what would you be prepared to do?
Once all these questions are answered, you are now set to making a plan.
I cannot even emphasise how important having a plan is, when you are swamped with fear. A plan means you don’t freeze when something bad happens because you know what to do.
This, in turn, helps alleviate fear-induced emotions. You cannot do without it.
“The Latin derivative for the word emotion ‘emotere’,” write Dr. Hil and Dr. Kim, “ literally means energy in motion.”
So, it doesn’t come as a surprise that one of the best ways to release negative emotions is to move.
Get your blood pumping.
Go for a walk or a run. Exercise releases endorphins, which boosts your mood.
Now, some scientists say that people who are angry should avoid actions that express that anger, such as punching because apparently it makes you feel good in your anger. Or something like that.
I’m going to have to disagree here as I personally found this to be untrue.
Going at it against a punching bag or screaming my rage off helped me release negative emotions and made feel instantly better.
Martial arts practice was particularly therapeutic.
When I was in my teens, I tried and enjoyed the harder martial arts – karate, arnis, capoeira, muay thai.
Now that I’m a bit older, I enjoy the softer but no less effective tai chi and qigong. I particularly like Lee Holden’s qigong course on Udemy.
One of the good things about exercising – especially when you’re doing something meditative, such as the martial arts, pilates or yoga – is the fact that they act as a preventative, lowering your propensity to anxiety or anger in the first place.
The benefits of meditation are many and varied. And you don’t even need to spend hundreds of hours sitting cross-legged on a cliff somewhere in order to enjoy these benefits.
Sometimes, all you need is to do the deep breathing exercises in number 1 above (especially calming counts).
If, like me, you need a voice to guide you then you might benefit from listening to guided meditations. There are a lot of videos on YouTube that offer what you need.
Seriously, the amount will probably make your head swim.
If you’re new to meditation, then I highly recommend these YouTube videos. No more than 10 minutes long each, they’re perfect for beginners and / or people who are so busy that they barely have time to shower (hello, parents!).
6. EFT Tapping Therapy
On the alternative medicine side is EFT (Emotional Freedom Techniques) Tapping Therapy, which “draws on various theories of alternative medicine including acupuncture, neuro-linguistic programming, energy medicine, and Thought Field Therapy (TFT)”.
Some people say that the only benefit this has is due to the placebo effect but based on my personal experience, I’ll have to disagree.
I follow along Brad Yates’ tapping therapy and I immediately feel better. Of course, the intensity of the relief I experience varies depending on the severity of my physical symptoms.
But it has yet to fail me.
The funny thing though is that I only really respond to Brad Yates’ sessions. I’ve tried a few other therapists and they don’t seem to work so well.
So, I always have his videos on hand and continue to recommend them to people who need help calming down.
7. Use a centering object
A centering object works much like loveys do for young children.
These are little things that can comfort you in times of great stress – like a stuffed animal, a reborn doll, a polished rock or a locket that you always have with you.
Keep them around so that you can always get to them when your emotions start getting out of control.
Personally, I have a nice silver necklace with a huge turquoise pendant that I touch when I start feeling agitated and it always made me feel better. I never even did it deliberately, having only just recently learned of centering objects.
It was just a favourite necklace and so I always wore it and my hand seemed to always go there when I needed comfort.
You don’t need to get something extra special. Although, some people seem to find great relief when they hold a stuffed animal or a specially made reborn doll in their arms.
But you could just as easily choose a smooth river rock, a piece of twig or even some of those stress balls that you can squeeze hard.
It depends on you.
Many of these strategies are things you can do in the heat of the moment but personally, I found that the best way to calm yourself down is to not get riled up in the first place.
How are you supposed to do that?
As best you can, avoid anything that might trigger such a reaction. We all have these – the little things that trigger massive reactions.
For me personally, it’s parents in some of my Facebook groups who casually talk about emotionally manipulating children or spanking them that gets me swinging from calm to chaotic and angry in one fell swoop.
How do I avoid this?
Now, I only join groups where they have trigger warnings in place or parenting groups that are aligned with how I parent. If I notice that a group I’ve joined doesn’t have either of these things then I either unfollow or leave.
Remember that sometimes, we really have to choose our battles and not try to win them all.
What about you?
What steps do you take to make sure that you’re able to calm yourself down?