Ever heard the saying – ‘we’re our own worst enemy’? Well, when it comes to calming ourselves in times of heightened stress and anxiety, for most of us, this statement couldn’t be more true.
When our body and brain sense stress in our environment, our amygdala (our core processor), sends signals to the body to react to this stress in an effort to keep us safe.
This is a great mechanism to have as it keeps us alert to the environment around us. However, our thoughts are part of our environment too, and when they start chattering away – giving us all kinds of ideas and feedback (often negative), then this too can create a state of stress in the body. When we let the constant stream of commentary run about what we have to do and what we’re doing wrong, our brain gets the signal that it’s under attack and needs to protect us from the threat. This ignites the stress response the body and further fuels those feelings of stress and anxiety.
This is not saying that all stress is bad. There is such a thing as a healthy amount of stress to keep us moving and responding to the world around us. It’s when the stress becomes constant and starts to interfere with our quality of life that we need to address why this stress is occurring and how we can reduce it.
Self-calming is a technique, much like mindfulness, which encourages us to pause when we can feel ourselves becoming stressed or anxious, and redirect our attention to our breath, or another activity that helps us to move away from a state of stress.
The next time you find yourself becoming anxious, or over-reactive to stress or anger, try one (or all) of these strategies and see if you feel calmer as a result.
When you can feel your heart rate increasing, or your thoughts racing, pause and remind yourself to focus on your breath. Give your full attention to your breath and notice how your thoughts and heart rate begin to slow down. Making a habit of doing this in non-stressed times will also help to strengthen this habit when you need it the most.
2. Take a break
Yes, it’s that simple. So often we have so much going on, and so much on our to-do list, that we keep ourselves in a perpetual state of doing. When you feel yourself getting anxious or agitated, it’s your body saying it needs a break. Let it be a reminder to take yourself for a walk or simply step back from whatever you are doing and give yourself a chance to reset.
3. Get Moving!
Whether it’s a walk around the block, a stretch at the desk, or a little dance in the hallway, move your body and shift your attention from your thoughts to your actions. Often when we get moving, we get out of our heads, and into a more present state of mind. This automatically interrupts the train of unhelpful thoughts or the mounting stress from the task at hand and helps the brains’ regular functioning kick-in and clear out the state of threat.
If you would like some support to work through these strategies or others with an experienced mental health professional, then browse our team below and find the right person for you.