Many of us struggle with stress and anxiety stemming from a variety of small and often unpreventable factors. You’ve probably developed your own strategies for calming down, yet there may come a time when your go-to methods simply don’t work anymore. When this happens, it can be difficult to find new coping mechanisms.
To help stimulate new ideas for keeping your cool, here are three approaches to consider for maintaining a calm state of mind.
Pay Attention to Your Body
Often, without realizing it, your body language can actually prolong anxious thoughts. For example, habits like tapping your foot, fidgeting your fingers, and biting your lip can signal to you and others that you are anxious. While these may seem like a natural way to express some of that nervous energy, they can also elevate your heart rate and contribute to a panicked response.
In some cases, spending a lot of time expressing reserved body language like crossing your arms, hunching forward, or anything that causes you to take up a smaller amount of space can also contribute to a cycle of stressful reactions.
Fortunately, if you can acknowledge these reactions and take on anti-stress body language, you can actually help yourself to calm down. Next time you notice yourself expressing nervous body language consider doing one or more of the following:
Roll your shoulders back.
Aim your chest and forehead upward.
Breathe slowly and deeply.
Relax your arms by your sides.
If the space allows, raise your hands above your head in a V-formation, as if you had just won a race or other competition.
Take a wide stance and place your hands on your hips with your elbows out to the side. If you have time, holding either of these last two positions for several minutes can help rewire your body’s natural chemistry to be calm and confident.
Try Natural Remedies
Because we’ve designed a world in which we rely heavily on technology, it can be easy to neglect our natural needs. For example, many of our workplaces, social gatherings, and entertainment options allow us to stay indoors for most of our daily lives. However, spending even a small amount of time outdoors can do wonders for our mental health.
You may have heard someone use the phrase “a breath of fresh air” to describe a positive change in their lives, yet this metaphor is rooted in a biological truth. Without proper circulation our homes and offices force us to breathe the same stale air, yet spending a few minutes outside taking deep breaths can increase the amount of oxygen your body absorbs. With more oxygen, you’ll have greater clarity of mind and overall energy to sort out the things that are stressing you out.
While we often talk about the negative effects sun exposure can have on our skin, finding a healthy balance can improve your mood. Sunlight triggers the release of a hormone known as serotonin, which helps people feel calm and focused. People who don’t get enough exposure to sunlight may have lower levels of this hormone putting them at risk for seasonal depression.
In addition to spending some time outside, you might take advantage of our ability to distill certain elements of nature into useful products. You probably have at least one friend who is obsessed with essential oils. Whether you’re curious or outright skeptical of their effects, it may be worth giving essential oils a chance in order to reach a calmer state of mind. Oils derived from lavender, peppermint, rosemary, chamomile, and wild orange are all good choices for combating stress, anxiety, and depression.
You might also consider experimenting with other natural remedies. For example, kratom is a product made from the leaves of a tropical tree from Southeast Asia, and in some instances it has been shown to have positive effects in treating stress and anxiety. However, because continued research on kratom is needed to determine the full effects, interactions, and benefits it might offer, you should be cautious when experimenting with this and many other natural products that have not gone through extensive testing and regulation standards.
Change Things Up
Everyone gets stuck in a rut at some point in their life, and too often, we allow ourselves to feel trapped in stressful or dissatisfying situations. Many stressors associated with our life circumstances may seem out of your control, whether this refers to your housing situation, relationships with loved ones and friends, time spent on hobbies, or the way you earn money.
If you are suffering from anxiety on a regular basis, you might not even be aware of the exact triggers. I’d encourage you to pay attention to moments when you are stressed and try to track down what sent you down this negative thought pathway. It may help to keep a list or even a journal. Once you’ve identified recurring stressors, you can can take a step back and examine ways you might make small or major changes.
For example, many of us feel stress related to our jobs. Perhaps one area of your job is particularly problematic, such as a particular task you regularly have to complete or a coworker who doesn’t respect your ideas. In these cases, you might speak to your supervisor or a human resources specialist in order to better tailor the position to your needs.
In some cases, however, it’s important to know when to cut your losses and move on completely. Fortunately, the digital age allows for people to find a number of pathways to earning a living. Trends within the gig economy could allow you work for yourself, keeping a more flexible schedule and enjoying greater power to determine the nature of your job and how that balances with other aspects of your life.
Keep in mind, you may have to make sacrifices in order to design a happier context for yourself. Still examining factors related to your employment, perhaps you’ll make less money in a new job, yet you won’t be doing work that saps all of your time and energy.
Or perhaps you decide to move into a smaller home or apartment on a different side of town or a different city altogether. You may have less space to work with, but maybe you’ll be closer to friends, family, or have better access to local parks and attractions.
Again, it’s important to carefully consider the consequences of small and large changes you might make. Taking a risk can help you lead your best life, but without proper planning it could backfire. It might be a good idea to talk with people you trust about your plans. While there may be naysayers among the people you talk with, you’ll probably also find people who will support you as you seek to make positive changes in your life.
Unfortunately, our lives can’t be easy and happy all the time, and daily stresses are inevitable. However, you don’t have to let stress rule your life. You have the power to choose how you react in these moments. By paying attention to your body’s responses to stressful situations, aiming to expose yourself to the healing powers of the natural world, and considering areas in your life that could use an adjustment, you can find and maintain a sense of calm more often.