Often, you don’t realise that you have lost your calmness until the moment you’re late for work, you have forgotten your keys, you’re hitting the third cup of coffee—and it’s not even 9am. Luckily, there are simple and easy strategies you can practise to regain your control, on days when you have more important things to focus on.
When you feel like your thoughts are racing and you can’t think clearly, or you find yourself acting without thinking things through, it can be helpful to spend a few moments actively grounding yourself. If you are wearing high heels or tight shoes, remove them discreetly and place both your feet on the floor. Make sure your body weight is evenly divided and send all your mental energy down your body. Feel the solid ground under your feet.
These days, we simply have too much stimulation happening at once. Try to unplug and put away all your gadgets for at least five minutes and just be in silence without screens, phones, music, documents or other things that require you to take in new information. Rest in this space where you can process what is already on your plate, without having to take in even more.
When feeling stressed, it is easy to get caught up in what is right in front of you, and lose track of your values and what is really important. Journaling is a great and easy way to reconnect with yourself to instantly feel calmer. One great practice is to write in a stream-of-consciousness where you set a timer for 5 – 10 minutes and write continuously about what is on your mind until the timer beeps. Another simple practice for instant calmness is to write a list of what is worrying you, or what you have to remember. Keep the list close and add to it throughout your day. Remind yourself that you don’t have to think about these things right now, and that you will deal with them later.
Put away all your gadgets for at least five minutes and just be in silence without screens, phones, music, documents or other things
Connect with nature
If you have a lunch break or 10 minutes to spare, try to spend it connecting with nature. For maximum impact, go outside to get some air, feel the sun on your skin or take a short walk in a park or green area.
If going outside isn’t an option for you, you could keep a plant or flowers on your desk, a stone or seashell in your drawer, or even listen to soundtracks of birds or the ocean. Nature can help give you a break from the stressful environment and quickly calm you down.
Research on deep mindful breathing shows immediate benefits for your physical and mental health. However, you probably already know how relaxing and calming it feels when you inhale deeply, hold for a few seconds, and exhale mindfully. If you have five to ten minutes to fully devote to focused breathing that’s wonderful, but remember that this is a simple tool you can use any time, anywhere. Great places to stop and breathe are in the elevator, at the water cooler, in your car, or discreetly through your nose to calm yourself down during a busy meeting.
Spend some time alone
With population growth, urbanisation and the highly debatable efficiency of open space work areas, we rarely spend time alone any more. However, as with unplugging, spending just a tiny amount of time alone can work wonders on your body and mind, giving them a pause from overwhelming sensory stimulation and information. If you don’t have many places to be alone, try the balcony, the staircase, library or a coffee shop in your neighbourhood.
If you have 10 minutes to spare, spend it connecting with nature
Soothe your senses
Using your senses and stimulating them in a soothing way is a simple and flexible strategy to instantly feel calmer. On the go, try a drop or two of essential oil on your wrists, a piece of dark chocolate, or play your favourite song. If you have a little more time, create a visually relaxing environment, and give yourself a massage. Small and easy strategies like these can help a lot, especially over time when you form a stronger association between the sensory input and the relaxation response.
Move your body
Physical activity is great to relieve stress. And no, you don’t need to do a full workout. Even a few minutes of stretching, soft yoga or getting up from your desk to walk around the office can help you relax. In her TED talk, psychologist Amy Cuddy from Harvard Business School suggests that just a few simple tweaks to your body language can change your body’s chemistry and balance hormones.
The next time you feel your calmness fly out the window, try one of these simple practices. Only by experimenting with different tools can you find something that works for you. And don’t forget, when you’re in the need of a little extra feeling of control in your busy day, raise your arms above your head in a “winner” pose. The theory is, if you use your body as if you are confident and relaxed, chances greatly improve that you will be.
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