They say you can wake up on the wrong side of the bed. But some days it can feel like you woke up on the wrong side of calm. And who can blame you? These days life seems to have gotten more complicated, stressful and chaotic, making it more difficult to feel peace and calm. Let’s be honest, two minutes viewing the news is enough to make most feel panicky!
But there are things you can do each day to get yourself on the right side of calm. Here are three:
Most people are shallow breathers, meaning they take small, short breaths. But did you know shallow breathing is actually part of the “fight or flight” response? It’s an evolutionary adaptation designed to keep us safe from danger, like that angry sabertooth tiger chasing us. When faced with danger, our heart rate speeds up and we breathe faster in order to get more oxygen for fighting or fleeting.
However, our bodies don’t recognize real danger (the tiger) from modern day danger (that stack of bills). So, we spend most days breathing like our life depends on it – which in turn keeps our bodies (and minds) in a constant state of heightened arousal. And not the good kind of arousal!
One of the fastest (and best) ways to calm yourself is to slow down your breathing. Some scoff at the idea that breathing deeply and slowly will do much of anything. Typically, those same individuals haven’t tried it and the ones that have understand the incredible calming affect it can have on you.
If you’re someone who is normally a shallow breather, then taking slow deep breaths may feel awkward at first, possibly uncomfortable. I guarantee, if you stick with it, after a week or two you will notice the benefits and it will begin to feel more natural.
Get Familiar With Your Acupressure Points
There are key acupressure points located on your hands, face, and head. These points are near bundles of nerves that once massage or tapped, can help relax your entire nervous system. This is why we instinctively rub or forehead and temples when we’re feeling stressed.
You can subtly apply pressure to the meaty part of the hand between the thumb and forefinger when in a stressful meeting, at the airport, or at any public setting when you feel you need to calm down and don’t want to call attention to yourself.
Focus On the Positive
The night before you fall asleep, think about three things that happened that day that you are grateful for or that went well. They can be small things like you found a parking spot in the always busy post office or big like your son’s ankle was sprained – not broken.
Feeling happy and grateful will naturally calm you down and give you a different perspective on things. And, doing this exercise night after night will train your brain to be more positive. Furthermore, this is more likely to induce a more restful sleep filled with positive dreams.
Additionally, upon waking up, write down three things in a small journal for which you are grateful. It can be anything from the coffee you are about to drink or your loving spouse who has it ready for you. Most people find this is super easy to do – for the first week. After that it becomes hard to think of things and this is when most people quit. But don’t. The harder it becomes, the more you have to think, the more effective it will become. As you do this, you are creating new neural pathways in your brain. Essentially, new patterns of positive, grateful thinking that will do nothing but help you feel better.
Life is too short to spend it struggling with anxiety. If you find yourself in the midst of a “the struggle” too often, find a skilled therapist you connect well with to help you go From Surviving To Thriving.
James Killian, LPC is the Principal Therapist & Owner of Arcadian Counseling in New Haven, CT where they specialize in helping over-thinkers, high achievers, and perfectionists take control and move From Surviving to Thriving.