CALM DOWN! But How?
10 Simple Ways to Grow a Calm Habit!
Modern life can be stressful and a little bit of stress every now and then helps us to get that task done, meet that deadline or do whatever we need to do at our best. The important thing to remember ‘a little bit of stress’ is good, too much and too frequent stress has the reverse effect, it slowly undermines our well-being, our self-esteem and physical well-being.
Sometimes we are unable to escape our stressors or maybe a situation has become a regular stressor. Here are ten great ways to calm that stress habit and build a calm habit in its place. Try them all and then pick the ones to suit you and your well-being. Remember stress burns more energy and motivation than it takes to do one of these exercises to calm yourself.
Positive thoughts help reduce stress by directing your brain onto something that is stress free. Your brain when stressed is more likely to worry, dwell on negative thoughts and increase the stress so you need to give your brain a push in the right direction. Any positive thought to redirect your focus will do however when things are going badly this can be hard to do. So when you are not stressed decide on what your positive thought will be, carry a picture or note around to remind you and get into the habit of stopping and thinking about it whenever you feel stressed. The feel good feelings will overtake your negative feelings and help you lower the stress. It is fact we cannot be two things at once both negative and positive so opt for positive!
Appreciate What You Have
Take time to contemplate what you are grateful for in your life. Make a list of all the things you are grateful for in your life, people, things, places whatever makes your life easier, better. Regularly visit this list to remind yourself of the good things, this pondering on the things to be grateful for triggers feel good feelings in your brain and reduces the stress hormone. Research shows that people who daily work on a gratitude attitude experience less stress, more calm. Some people find it helps to make a daily gratitude list, spending a few minutes each day listing all the things that they are grateful for in that day. Whether it’s a daily list or an ongoing list start building that grateful attitude and feel the difference.
Dump the ‘What if?’ Habit
Stress, worry and negative thinking love the ‘what if?’ way of thinking. This is your brain responding to the stressful feelings you are experiencing trying to figure out what needs to be done. Thinking through a real problem with real options to solve it is empowering but pondering on the million and one things that could happen BUT HAVEN’T only achieves more stress and all the negative feelings that go with it. So whenever you feel yourself caught in a worry or negative thinking loop. Just remind yourself all you are doing is building stress, making yourself feel worse and diverting your brain from its natural ability to feel calm. Then direct your brain to carry out one of the ‘calming’ exercises in the list.
Switch Off or Down that Critical Voice
As soon as you realise your brain is running a critical voice, nagging you, pulling you down don’t fight it notice and play with it. Try turning the voice in your head into a cartoonish voice, like Mickey Mouse, or give it a funny accent, anything to make it sound funny, not so serious to you. Or you could imagine turning the volume right down so you can no longer hear it properly and then switch it off. Consciously direct yourself to focus on what’s around you by just by labelling everything you see for example desk, computer, person, book etc. then refocus back to what you are doing having broken the stress builder habit. Every time you do this you slowly build up your calm muscle.
Disconnect from the world regularly
Regular time out helps keep your stress intermittent and therefore lowers its negative impact and the opportunity for a consistent stress habit to build. Mobile phones, email and social media make us contactable and interruptible all day and night, every day and night. Research is showing this is upping our stress levels. So start having breaks from being interrupted. Switch off your phone, leave the email or social media alone for set times each day allowing you to focus on what you are doing and really engaging with your now. Just switching off for a short while gives us back that feeling of control and ability to be in the now rather than being distracted by some other person’s agenda.
Limit Your Caffeine Intake
Caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline, the source of your stress response. It’s not a short burst either it puts you in that fight or flight mode for longer than is good. This level of stress can cause you to react to your everyday life from fear and an emotional base rather than thinking things through and behaving in a way that will maintain calm to solve issues and problems. Remember caffeine is not just found in coffee so start being aware of how much caffeine you are taking each day and just try slowly reducing to see if it helps.
Sleep and More Sleep and Rest
Sleep is a really important one to reduce your stress levels. Making sure you give yourself enough time to relax and then sleep is really important. Cutting corners on sleep and relaxation is a major no no as sleep is essential to give the brain time to recharge. If you are having problems getting off to sleep because of stress then it can become a vicious circle. Try giving yourself enough time to relax before going to bed doing something that doesn’t stimulate your brain. If it’s a real problem start a new habit such as mindfulness meditation or self-hypnosis exercises to reclaim that ability to relax and sleep. Meditation and self-hypnosis will help redress the balance and start to rebuild that relax and sleep habit if it has left you. See my mini meditations blog or self-hypnosis exercises in my blog and book ‘The Seven Keys to Success, Happiness and Well-being’ available on amazon or through my website www.chapwellmethod.com
Reframe Your Outlook
Your thoughts create your reality. Stress and worry are boosted by our thoughts. It’s easy to think our thoughts are facts but they are only our perceptions, what we think is not necessarily the facts! Our thoughts maybe mixed up with all sorts of ‘ego busting’ tricks and fears. There are a lot of things that are beyond our control but whether we react or how we respond is totally up to us. To spot this reactor way of thinking start reviewing your stress triggers, really try and step back and view what is happening, is your reaction appropriate to trigger or are you piling on a load of other hurt and feelings and reacting. Next time a stress trigger sets you off, maybe look and review what is really happening, imagine you are someone watching, detached, how would they respond?
Getting into the practice of being in the moment with your breathing will help you calm down any stress, no matter the cause. So next time you find yourself feeling stressed just stop for a moment. Put your hand on your belly and focus on taking 3 slow, even belly breaths. Notice your hand rising on your breath and falling on your out breath. This quick and simple exercise will break the stress pattern building, do as often as you can and want.
Build and Use a Support System
When you feel like you’re losing control and stress is winning it’s natural to try and take back control by doing everything yourself, refusing offers of help or support from those you know care or could help. To be able to cope and look after yourself and your calm factor you need to be able to ask for and accept help. For many copers and stressed people this is hard. So from now on get into the habit of accepting help even if you are not stressed, this will make it easier for you to get that help when you need it. If you are someone who is happy to offer help make sure you ask for or accept help to the same quota each day. Even if it’s just calling a friend and asking them to tell you something nice to cheer you up get into the habit of being both helper and helpee. Try not to just use you friends to moan about things ask them to help you relax, chill or laugh.
Laughter and more Laughter
Get a regular dose of laughter and fun in your life. This simple activity dissolves all those stressors running around your body and mind, lifts your mood and mind. Stock pile DVDs of your favourite funny, films, series or shows or make a regular date with those whose company makes you relax and often enjoy laughter with, it’s so beneficial, try it and see. Make it a regular habit to indulge in some laughter and enjoy releasing all those stressors.