Ways to Stay Calm
By Paul Rothbart
In moments of high pressure and stress, people are advised to stay calm. It is very good advice, but certainly easier said than done. Though not easy, it is a worthwhile ability to develop. Getting through a tough time and coming up with solutions to difficult problems is much more easily done if you don't lose your cool. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help stay calm in the face of duress. Here are some to try.
Acknowledge Your Condition
This is a variation of the old, "admit you have a problem." Be aware of any anxiety or anger. Feel the emotions. Label them. Sometimes they will begin to diminish just by the awareness. It is helpful to know exactly what you are dealing with. Then a plan can be made to restore calm.
Stress and anxiety cause us to take short, rapid breaths. To counter this, focus on breathing a long, slow inhale, hold for a second, and then a long, slow exhale. Rapid breathing triggers the fight-or-flight response in the brain. Slow respiration, on the other hand, has a calming effect. As you get better at calming breaths, try to make your exhale twice as long as your inhale. Breathing is probably the most natural thing humans do and can be very soothing.
Question Your Thoughts
Stress often causes panic. Worst-case scenarios flood the brain. Examine these thoughts in detail. Is that the most likely scenario? If something doesn't work out as planned, what will happen? How can that be dealt with? Things are seldom as bad as they seem at first glance. Keep asking yourself, "what's the worst that could happen if ...? " Follow that question all the way through the possibilities. You will become aware of the fact that the worst-case scenario is the least likely one and that will be calming.
This is a powerful tool. After calming down with slow breaths, close your eyes. Picture yourself calm and completely in control. Imagine your body completely relaxed and you being calm and cool in the stressful situation. The body follows the mind and seeing yourself relaxed will bring about the physiological changes to make it happen. Remember how feeling calm looks and feels. By building a strong mental picture of calm, you can use it anytime you feel stressed.
There is no avoiding stressful situations. They are going to happen periodically. You have little control over that, but you do have control over your body and brain. Use these techniques when feeling anxious or angry to calm down so you can deal with things with a cool head.
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