10 Ways to Calm Down
Updated: Dec 13, 2019
One of the things I get asked about most is this: how do I get out of my head and calm down? Often, the person who is asking feels restless about an upcoming event or decision. Sometimes, the anxiety may feel unprovoked and people want to know how to decrease their anxious symptoms. How can we get out of this spin cycle and just calm down? There are a few tools, or grounding techniques, that can be really helpful when you feel caught up in anxious thoughts.
1. Deep breathing. There are so many ways to do this. One of the easiest to remember and teach is box breathing. Breath in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds, breath out for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, repeat. Breathing is a powerful tool to calm down your nervous system. Deep breathing slows your heart rate and tricks your body into thinking you feel calm.
2. Feet on the ground. Sit down, take off your shoes, sit up straight, and feel your bare feet planted firmly on the ground. You may want to close your eyes as well. Notice how it feels to feel so sturdy and connected with the earth below you. Take a few slow, deep breaths. This posture helps us feel quite literally grounded, which can provide a sense of safety.
3. Go on a walk. Moving our body is so helpful when we’re trying to get out of our head. Try getting some fresh air and go on a walk outside.
4. Stretching. Keeping with the movement theme, try stretching. For similar reasons to walking, stretching gets our blood flowing to all parts of the body which can help regulate our nervous system, calm us down, and bring us into the present moment.
5. Listen to music. So many people go to music instinctively when they are feeling a wide range of emotions. Music can be a distraction or it can be just what we need to express how we feel in that moment. Either way, music is soothing to the soul. Make a playlist of your favorite songs that can bring you peace when you’re feeling stressed out.
6. Speaking. Talk to someone you trust about what you’re thinking and feeling. Talking through our stressors with someone who will listen can relieve a lot of our pent-up anxious feelings.
7. Play with animals or children. Is there a friendly dog or cat around? Go sit on the floor and pet them for a while. Is there a child nearby who would love nothing more than a few minutes of your undivided attention? Go participate in their play whole-heartedly, even if it is just for 10 minutes. These activities have been shown to increase our joy and calm our nervous system.
8. Exercise. Find a form of exercise that you can enjoy and make it a regular part of your routine. Exercise provides our brain with feel-good chemicals like endorphins and dopamine, which help relieve pain and stress. Exercise can also help distract you from your worries and provide more confidence. Many people report having a “clearer head” and feel less stressed after a workout.
9. Mindfulness and Meditation. Let the body and mind relax, breath deeply, and acknowledge, without judgement, how you feel. Acknowledge each thought and then let it go. Multiple studies have shown that mindfulness and meditation strengthen and support the nervous system.
10. Sleep. Honestly, sometimes you may just need more sleep. Sleeping a full 7-9 hours gives our body and mind the time it needs to restore and rejuvenate. You will feel better and think more clearly if you prioritize your sleep.