Hey pretty! I’ve been dealing with a lot of stress lately (aren’t we all, right?). And through the years, I went through many different ups and downs. Fortunately, even though it was hard, it made me so much stronger and I learned something new every time the storm has passed.
Being an anxious person and dealing with stress is like living in a “hard mode”. “It could be so much easier if I could just relax” – I’m sure many of us had a thought like this at least once in our life. But for an anxious person, it could be an everyday thing.
The good news is that no matter how hard it gets, you can help yourself. While you can’t expect to live in a perfect, just or worry-free world, you can learn to accept what’s happening and most importantly – be ok with it. You can adapt and stay strong through whatever life throws at you. Yes, you really can, even if you don’t believe it yet! You can be in a distress and still be happy. You can be patient. You can learn to calm down.
Here are my tried and true ways to calm yourself down. Let me know if you try any of them in a comment section at the bottom. Oh, and as always, if you would like to save this list to your Pinterest, there’s a perfect pinable image at the bottom. Let’s relax!
1. Breathe slowly.
When you’re stressed, you tend to breathe in short, shallow breaths and it creates even more anxiety. To counter that, try to breathe deeply and slowly for a few minutes. Use your belly to breathe – it relaxes the body even more thanks to the relaxed nerves in the diaphragm area.
Breathe slowly whenever you want to calm down, as often as you wish – it is one of the easiest ways to relax at least a little.
2. Try a guided meditation or visualization.
I swear, meditation changed my life. Guided meditations are very easy to follow even if you’re a beginner. By listening to a calming music or voice, you’re being told how to relax every part of your body, how to breathe, what to imagine and how to let go of what’s bothering you. If you want to try it right now, check out my favorite meditation guru Jason Stephenson on Youtube – his voice and narratives are simply amazing!
3. Do mindfulness exercises.
Mindfulness is a scientifically proven way to calm your mind down and become more resilient day by day. The main idea of mindfulness is to accept your feelings and emotions just the way they are. Let them be around, observe them without judgment (like you’re watching yourself from aside) and most importantly – bring yourself back to the present moment. Instead of living in your imaginary world, be here. You can do that by tuning into your senses – touching and smelling different things around you, paying attention to your breath, noticing smells, sounds and colors.
4. Reframe negative thoughts.
If you’re restless because something is bothering you, you’re probably thinking about it in a very negative way. It certainly does not help! Try to reframe your negative thoughts into something more positive. Here are a few tools that can help you to do just that:
5. Go outside.
If you’re sad, stressed or anxious, change your surroundings ASAP! Being in the same place means staying in the same mood. Go out, breathe in some fresh air, take a short walk to clear up your mind. When you’re back, do something calming again. Sometimes we need several rounds of calming activities because it takes some time for the stress response in our body to subside.
6. Take a warm shower or bath.
Warm water is like a therapy at your home so indulge in it for a quick calming session. You can also do some slow breathing or imagine how you’re letting everything go while you’re in your bath.
7. Accept the distress.
The more you fight those unpleasant feelings, the more they will stick around. Wonder if it’s true? Try not to think about a pink elephant for the next 60 seconds. You will notice that it’s pretty hard! The same thing happens with the thoughts you try to push away – they become intrusive.
Instead of fighting, allow those thoughts, feelings, and emotions be there with you. Imagine them coming into your room, staying there for a while… do not pay them more attention – just let them be there. They will leave, sooner or later.
8. Write it all down.
Another great way to get a relief is to simply spill it all out on the paper. Write everything – how you feel, what is bothering you, what you’re thinking… This is called journaling and I do it every day! It doesn’t solve your problems but it helps you to take off those racing thoughts out of your head and that’s something. Here are a few journals that you can download, print and start journaling right away:
9. Set up your worry/anger/anxiety time.
Instead of being restless all the time, decide on a small time frame to do that (like every day at 12:00-12:15). Whenever you find yourself worrying about something, write it down and put it away. Only take out those worries at the designated time – then you can worry as much as you like, but other times just put those worries away again. This method showed me that sometimes we worry about things that look completely ridiculous the next day.
10. Talk to someone you love.
If you have a supporting person who can listen to you, talking can help you to look at things from other perspective and become calmer. If you don’t have anyone to talk to, it’s ok! You can always try free services like 9 cups of tea where you can chat with a trained peer listener. I did that several times, it certainly helped and I am not ashamed at all!
11. Remind yourself that distress is temporary.
Every storm passes… Bad feelings or situations – they also pass. Some may take a little longer, but eventually, all things will get better. Stay patient.
12. Distract your mind.
Don’t let your mind go wild – give it something to do. Distract yourself by watching a movie, going shopping, taking a walk, doing your nails, reading a book… Your mind will certainly try to get back to intrusive thoughts and that’s ok – that’s what minds do! Just try to bring your attention back to the activity and notice small details in it.
13. Listen to an uplifting podcast.
My personal favorite is The Anxiety Coaches Podcast, led by an amazing Gina Ryan. I have learned so much about anxiety and ways to minimize it just from this podcast! Gina’s voice is incredibly soothing and she helps you to understand why you’re feeling the way you feel and what to do about it.
14. Download a calming app.
If you like apps, there are tons of calming ones that you can try at the app store. My favorite ones are for nature sounds but you can find great apps for mindfulness and meditation too.
15. Give yourself some time.
If it’s really hard for you to calm down, just give yourself some time. When a stressful situation happens, our body releases stress hormones and it takes some time for them to settle down. Don’t force yourself. Be brave, patient and eventually the stress response will subside.
16. Read about what’s worrying you.
I know this seems counter-intuitive but many times we’re anxious because we don’t understand things or possibilities for something to happen. For example, you may be afraid of flying, because you hear about a plane crash once in a while. But here’s a big picture – there are about 38 millions of flights happening per year. Out of those 38 million, only 10-20 flights have an incident so the possibility for your plane to fall is very, very low.
17. Check if your worry is based on the facts.
Similar to the previous tip. Always check your thoughts – are you thinking about real evidence or something that was made in your head? If you’re unsure, write down all the facts you have. Remember – facts are based on the evidence. Everything else is not a fact! This Thought Workbook can help you check if your mind is lying to you.
18. Plan your sleep hygiene.
Sleep hygiene, or things you do to have the best sleep possible, can determine your mood the next day. To relax before sleep, make sure your sheets are clean and comfortable. Have the last meal 3 hours before bed. Do some sleep meditation and turn off your devices an hour or two before sleep. If you can’t sleep, don’t toss and turn in your bed – get up, do something calming and then try again.
19. Eat a tasty (preferably – healthy) meal.
Eating is something our bodies enjoy and it can help you relax too! Eat something you really really like, especially if you find yourself losing your appetite due to stress. Don’t think about calories this time! Let yourself enjoy the food – you need this and there’s nothing wrong with having a bigger or richer meal once in a while.
20. Do a short, slow, easy workout.
Moving allows your body to release endorphins – positive happiness hormones. It also helps your body minimize your stress response faster thus helping you relax. Slow yoga is absolutely perfect at times like this, but you can also try Tai-Chi, Chi-Gung or simply walking.
21. Get back to the present moment.
Whenever you feel restless, check if you’re in the present moment or in other words – living now. Many times we are ruminating about things that have already happened (and therefore can’t be changed) or have never happened (which means we are worrying about something that isn’t even real or fact-based).
22. Do something monotonic.
Monotonic actions can be really soothing – think of a mother swinging the cradle and helping her baby relax. Try knitting, doing your nails, curling your hair… anything that involves repeating the same action again and again.
23. Cry it all out.
Sometimes we have an emotional overload and crying is simply the best way to release it. Remember – there is nothing wrong with crying. It doesn’t mean you’re weak. In fact, it really helps when there’s just too much of everything. So cry it out, wipe your tears and you may find yourself feeling a little better.
24. Look for a brighter side.
There’s a bright side to everything! If you feel down or angry, try to rethink the situation and find one positive thing about it. Here’s an example: I got into a terrible fight with my sister and it seems like we won’t be talking for years. BUT at least I don’t have to deal with her constant negativity anymore.
25. Counter it with gratitude.
Gratitude turns what we have into enough and is a perfect way to counter a lot of negative emotions. Be grateful for big things, be grateful for small – even having an air to breathe is worth appreciation. Read more about gratitude here: 5 ways to stay positive with gratitude
26. Look at your feelings and emotions from perspective.
If you want to calm down, it really helps to separate yourself from your emotions. Sometimes we suffer because it feels like our emotions are an inseparable, physical part of us. For example, after a breakup, you may feel like someone “stabbed you in the heart”. But if you look at yourself from a third person perspective, it may feel less painful.
Imagine watching yourself from aside and your feelings – floating around, but not being a part of you. This helps you to understand that your pain or your fear is not you. You are you and those things are just emotions – they come and go. All the time.
27. Let in some fresh air.
Sometimes all we need is a fresh breeze to feel calmer and more present. Open the window, go to your balcony and breathe in some fresh oxygen – slowly and deeply.
28. Check if your thoughts are logical.
People often get stuck in unhelpful or illogical thinking patterns, called thought distortions. You can take a look at them here: Cognitive Distortions. Basically, distortion is your brain lying to you. Whenever you catch yourself stuck in overthinking, check for these distortions in your thoughts. After you’ve spotted one (or a few), reframe your thoughts to a more logical version.
29. Light some candles.
Candlelit atmosphere helps to create a calming mood. Just make sure to put your candles on a safe surface and never leave them burning if you know you may fall asleep.
30. Imagine yourself as a strong woman and act like it.
Our mind controls everything in our body, including our feelings. If you want to calm down, be more confident or express any other quality, imagine yourself being someone with those qualities and then act like it. It may feel weird at first but soon you will fool yourself (and that’s a good thing!).
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I hope you like this list! And here’s the promised pinable image:
Good luck, and stay shining!