I think it goes without saying that we are all well-acquainted with stress, so how do we keep it from becoming our new normal?
Many of us have become so accustomed to going through our lives with our anxiety meter on high that we forget we don’t have to live this way. That’s why we put together this list of 15 easy, effective ways to reset your mind and keep yourself calm. Take a few minutes for self-care right now and give them a try!
1. Talk some logic.
We can admit that our anxiety is often the product of our own irrational thoughts. Whether it be following an endless trail of “what if” scenarios or trying to control things that are out of our control, we’re just accelerating our stress.
Instead, try to combat these thoughts with questions like: “What are things I can control?” and “Even if that does happen, what can I do to handle it?” Remind yourself that you are capable of facing whatever needs to be faced and then control what you can control.
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2. Take a breath.
In fact, let’s do it right now. This is called the 4-7-8 technique. Take a deep, quiet breath in through your nose for 4 seconds. Now hold that breath for 7 seconds. Finally, exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds.
When we’re stressed, we often take quick breaths without even realizing it, which then translates to our brain as a fight-or-flight response. Replacing these with slow, deep breaths sends oxygen back to our brains and helps us focus, calm down, and reset.
3. Picture yourself calm.
Growing up, whenever anyone would get angry or panicked, my uncle would always say, “Picture your brain. Now picture your brain floating on calm ocean waters.” It sounds humorous, but when we stop to visualize ourselves as calm and relaxed, our brain naturally follows suit, relaxing our body along with it.
4. Turn on music.
Ah, music. Few things tap into our brain centers more quickly than a song that is familiar, exciting, or soothing. Take this as an opportunity to turn on your favorite playlist or album and disconnect for a bit.
5. Chew that gum.
Yep, you read that right. Go grab yourself a stick of gum.
Chewing gum has been shown to increase blood flow and literally reduce cortisol levels, resulting in additional focus and less anxiety. One study even suggests that it can improve short-term memory!
6. Shift your focus.
What is your absolute favorite distraction? Whatever it is, go do it. Grab yourself a latte, lose yourself in a bookstore, or go on a beautiful drive. Change your focus and come back with a renewed mindset and fresh perspective.
7. Put pen to paper.
Journal your thoughts, grab a coloring book (seriously!), or simply find a blank page and doodle. Doodling or switching up your handwriting, which is known as graphotherapy, is actually a proven method for quitting bad habits and adding positive changes to one’s personality. Get those negative thoughts out of your mind and put them down on paper.
Give yourself permission to chill out. Take a minute and notice your body — are you tense? (I’m guessing the answer is yes.) Now take a deep breath, let it out, and relax every muscle in your body in the process.
If you’re looking for something a little stronger, set aside some time for restorative yoga. Allow yourself 30 minutes to stretch your body, release tension, and let go of the stress you’re carrying.
9. Get outside.
Low levels of vitamin D are usually directly linked with heightened levels of anxiety. Take a minute to get out of the fluorescent lights and into some fresh air. Go somewhere familiar that instantly fills you up, or try going somewhere new with lots of nature and sunlight.
You’ll not only get in your daily dose of vitamin D, but I bet you’ll also find a new perspective on what was burdening you!
10. Fuel up.
We can often get so wrapped up in our workday or to-do list that we don’t even realize we haven’t stopped to fuel ourselves. Getting enough hydration is absolutely nonnegotiable. The only way you can get through your day productively and with a balanced mind is by filling yourself up with the right nutrients along the way.
11. Be grateful.
There is a proven link between gratitude and positivity, but why is that exactly? Gratitude has been shown to reduce our cortisol levels, improve our heart health, and give us better sleep. Sounds pretty good, right?
Not only that, but it has even been shown to give us better emotional awareness. All of these benefits leave us with added energy, joy, and productivity. Not to mention, they give us a moment to remind ourselves what we’re grateful for. Win-win-win!
12. Play with your pet.
We know even without scientific evidence that our pets make us happy. But there is actually scientific evidence to prove it! Playing with pets has been shown to increase our dopamine and serotonin levels, which makes us happier and more relaxed.
Plus, the added companionship, routine, and physical activity our pets add to our lives. And bonus — playing with their favorite human will make their day, too!
13. Laugh out loud.
Yes, you can add laughter to the list of things that reduce cortisol levels. According to Mayo Clinic, it also increases our endorphins, aids muscle relaxation, and shoots extra oxygen to our organs and muscles.
Even if you’re not feeling it, try to sneak in a smile. Better yet, turn on your favorite movie or have a friend send you a meme and get the laughter going. You know what they say — it really is the best medicine.
14. Strike a Superman pose.
Here’s a little tip from our favorite doctors over at “Grey’s Anatomy.” (The doctors may not be real, but this tip certainly is!)
Stand up and get in a Superman power pose. Yes, I’m serious. If you are stressed about an upcoming task or are about to do something that scares you, take a minute and take up space by putting your shoulders back and taking a deep breath. Stand like that for a couple minutes (or until people start to stare). It’ll reduce your stress hormones and replace them with an added dose of calm and confidence.
15. Find a comfort object.
Last but certainly not least, keep a comfort object nearby. This can be a special necklace, a framed photo of a loved one, or even a stuffed animal. Whatever the item may be, keep it nearby to soothe and ground you in stressful moments. Whenever you feel your anxiety rising, simply reach out for that object and allow it to calm you in the moment.
Hopefully we’ve given you some good ideas to keep in your back pocket the next time your stress is getting the best of you.
Share these tips to give someone in your life an extra dose of relaxation!
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