Stress and overwhelming responsibilities are common challenges that can affect anyone. When you’re feeling overwhelmed or on the brink of boiling over, it’s important to have tools in your arsenal to quickly calm down. In this article, we share 10 things you can try to help you calm down in less than 5-minutes to help you find your center and stay grounded in the face of stress and chaos.
If you’re a family caregiver, a parent, stuck in traffic or just have a coworker that rubs you the wrong way, we are all faced with things in life that make us feel like we are at the boiling point. Often, these things are out of our control. Issues like traffic, long lines at a store when you’re in a hurry, a boss who is in a bad mood and even hormones play into our ability to manage stress triggers.
I encourage you to keep a few of these in your back pocket and try them out the next time you are feeling like you are going to do or say something you may regret. This world is full of agitators, but you need and deserve peace in your life, so fight to keep it!
- 4-7-8 Breathing: This is simple and can be done anywhere. Simply breathe in through your nose to the count of 4. Hold your breath for a count of 7. Exhale for a count of 8. This practice is known as breathing regulation and is helpful for both anxiety and agitation. Practice it for 4 rounds to start out and see how quickly you can regain your composure.
- Music: A study in 2007 showed that individuals who were exposed to classical music or more calming music of their choice felt a reduction in their anger and felt an improvement in their mood when they listened to music. The science is an increase in dopamine, a feel good hormone that is released.
- Dark Chocolate: This one is my favorite! When we eat dark chocolate (chocolate containing 70% or higher of cocoa) it contains a stimulant called phenethylamine (PEA) which triggers dopamine and norepinephrine in our brains, causing us to feel relaxed and even elated! This also reduces the stress hormone cortisol, helping to reduce our feelings of stress.
- Hand Massage: Something as simple as taking a few minutes to massage the point on your hand between your thumb and index finger help your body to release tension and bring you back to a point of calm. So if you can get a small amount of hand lotion and start massaging that area with your other hand, you would be surprised how the rest of your body will start to release anger, anxiety and tension.
- Sip Green Tea: This is due to the L-Theanine found in green tea. This in turn increases our levels of GABA, dopamine and serotonin in our brains. Plus, many individuals find just holding a warm cup in their hands and taking a moment is a sanctuary in itself.
- Make A Sanctuary: This one is especially for caregivers, parents or anyone who is constantly on the clock because you are responsible for caring for another person. There are times when you feel like you cannot take one more minute of the day and you feel like you may explode. I think we’ve all been there. So once you know your person is safe, sneak away and take 5! Be sure you have a place you have created where you can be alone, in silence and regroup. This could be in the basement, a bathroom, even a closet! Just make sure it’s a space that is calming and pleasant and that is JUST YOURS!
- Take A Walk: A quick walk helps diffuse your anger in several ways. The actual physical activity of walking will release endorphins, which will elevate your mood. Getting away from the situation will allow you to breath and regroup and the scenery can often be a good distraction. So take 3-5 minutes and take a walk when you are feeling anger creep up.
- Find The Sun: A few minutes of sun exposure boots our vitamin D levels, which help to fight anxiety and depression, but the sun also boosts serotonin, which helps to regulate mood. Depending where you live, the sun can also provide us with the feeling of warmth and comfort. So seek the sun if you are feeling your fuse growing shorter.
- Say Your Feelings Out Loud: This is tricky at times because I am in no way encouraging you to yell at the person who is causing your anger. The other thing to keep in mind is that WE are responsible for our own feelings. If I’m angry, that is because I have allowed myself to get that way, that’s on me. However, sometimes if you are able to express your feelings out loud and identify them and own them, it gives them less power. I would not recommend pointing the anger at another “You make me SO ANGRY ” rather, owning your feelings in a way that is true and authentic “I am SO ANGRY right now”. I know it sounds silly, but you’d be surprised how a feeling can lose its power when we bring it to the light.
- Snuggle Your Pet: This one has helped me more times that I can count. When I stick my nose in my dog’s fur and she leans into me (like she knows I’m about to lose my mind) it brings me down to a place of joy and peace faster than anything else. Again, this action is shown to increase serotonin and dopamine, giving us that immediate hit of good feelings we need in a moment of stress.
In conclusion, feeling overwhelmed isn’t uncommon, but it’s important to have tools to help manage it. The tools we shared in this article can help you quickly find your center and calm down when you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed. With regular practice, you’ll be able to use this exercise to reduce anxiety throughout the day. So next time you feel yourself getting stressed, pull out one of these tools and access more peace.