10 Strategies to Try for Instant Calm
Updated: Jan 18
Your boss in on your case again? You made a mistake in one of the reports and now have less than 3 hours to fix what took you 3 days to write. Or perhaps there’s illness in your family, and you’re currently a mixed bag of worry, concern and the need to stay strong. Maybe you’ve been having free-floating anxiety for days; you don’t know why but you feel panicky all the time. You need to find some instant calm, or else you’ll be debilitated for hours, even days.
What works to wind down differs from person to person, and some feelings of anxiety are more difficult to manage. But there are some quick and simple ways to feel calmer which you can try and maybe add to your coping toolbox.
Consider the following 10 Simple Ideas to Feel Instant Calm:
Breathing exercises. When you’re in a panic, your heart races and your breathing becomes labored. So go for rhythmic breathing; inhale slowly through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. Breathe using regular intervals e.g. pause for 3 seconds in between each inhale and exhale). Imagine the oxygen nourishing you with every breathe you take, while the stress leaves you with every breathe you exhale.
Think of a serene place. Visualization is an instant way to feel less anxious. Imagine a peaceful place: this could be by the beach, the top of a mountain or watching the sunset with someone you love. Focus on the details. What colors do you see? What sounds do you hear? If you can transport yourself into a place where you’re not just physically but emotionally safe, then you’ll have a better chance of controlling your emotions.
Splash Water on Your Face and Neck. Have you heard of the Mammalian Dive Reflex? Mammals naturally relax when diving deep in water. You can trick your body into thinking you are diving by immersing your face in cold water or splashing water on your temples and neck.
Self-talk. Soothe and reassure yourself during times of crisis. Sample self-talk includes: “You can do it!” , “It’s going to be alright.” , “It’s okay, bad things do happen sometimes.” If you can debate with that irrational voice in your head (e.g. “Oh, I am in so much trouble.” Be the mental Zen guru that you need.
Pray. Tap into your spirituality for much needed guidance. The Prayer of Serenity, which emphasizes accepting things we can’t change, is a simple way towards stress management. Surrendering our life and our work to the Divine can help keep our anxiety in check.
Think of how you survived your last crisis. Hey, you didn’t get to your age without acquiring one or two problem-solving smarts! Think back to the last problem you encountered; what strength did you draw upon to weather the storm? Who were you able to rely on for help? And remember how things all worked out in the end?
Sweat it out. Stress and anxiety are physiological responses. Basically, when we feel attacked, our body is geared towards immediate action: either to fight or flee. But since we’re no longer in the jungle (and you can’t just lunge at your nasty officemate from across the cubicle now, can you?), you need to find ways to expel all that energy and adrenalin rush. Exercise to release the tension. Run a few laps; punch a few pillows.
Reframe thoughts about your anxiety triggers. Knowing your enemy is already winning half the battle. So start an anxiety journal: list down thoughts or situations typically trigger your anixety. Then, reflect on the way you think about these triggers. Are your ways of thinking helpful? Are there other ways of interpreting the situation to limit its impact? Thoughts like "Why does this always happen to me?" or "I will never be good enough" for example can trigger thought of anxiety, but they rarely have solid basis in reality. More self-compassionate reframes like "Everyone's got a bad day" can make a huge difference.
Give yourself time to freak out. Feel like screaming a bit? Want to start throwing stuff? Okay then. Set the timer for ten minutes and throw a tantrum. As long as you don’t hurt yourself or anyone else, there’s nothing wrong in giving in to the panic. But afterwards, go back to the real world. You can schedule another 10 minutes of outburst in a day or two.
Perform a ritual of symbolic release. Lastly, try some Eastern meditation techniques. Channel all the tensions to your clenched fist, and release them to the universe when you’re ready. Or write all your worries and burn the paper. You can even hug a tall tree to get rid of all your negative energy.
BONUS: Try some grounding exercises. Distract your mind from the rumination by focusing on your environment using your senses. Example: Focus on 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can touch, 2 things you can taste, and 1 thing you can smell.
Calm is an internal state and it can be achieved by beefing our coping resources. But if you feel that your anxiety is too intense, is debilitating, or creating dysfunction, it would help to seek a consultation with a mental health professional. You may have an anxiety -related condition that could benefit from medication and/or psychotherapy.
CPPS offers counseling and psychotherapy for anxiety. For more information about our services, you can message email@example.com.