Staying Calm in the Midst of Stress and Chaos

Knowing how to stay calm is a life-saving skill and much easier said than done.  As a trauma survivor, I am aware that my nervous system can go into a "flight" mode quickly and I immediately start to panic and worry. One thing is for sure--staying calms tends to deteriorate for me quickly under stressful or distracting conditions.  I have to practice my calming skills with diligence in order to stay regulated.  

Can you imagine being calm and peaceful at all times?  How would your life change? A greater ability to manage one’s emotions is invaluable!

Some suggestions to keep calm under pressure:

1.     Start your day being calm and make every effort to stay that way. A calming morning ritual, performed religiously, will get your mind and body in the proper state. Then the only real task is staying that way throughout the day.

·       A good morning often results in a good day.  I start mine with a quick breathing exercise, stretching and a 10-15 minute gentle yoga practice. 

2.     Monitor yourself. Continuously monitor your reactions to stressful events. How do you feel physically? What thoughts do you have? Do you use self-talk? Notice everything that has changed. Simply stated, practice mindfulness.

3.     Bring yourself back to your calm state. If your self-talk has become negative, take control and stop it. Turn it around and make it positive. If your heart is beating faster, take slow, deep breaths and relax.

·       Think positive thoughts and focus on solutions. Take action and avoid worrying.

4.     Remember that it’s not all about you. Avoid assuming that a negative event says anything about you. If someone gets snippy with you at work, it might just be a symptom of trouble at home. People do things for lots of reasons that don’t involve you. It’s common to take things personally, but it’s often inaccurate.

5.     Find some healthy coping habits. Many of us shop, drink, or eat when we’re stressed. That’s a good way to end up poor, drunk, and overweight, all of which can add their own stress. Develop some new habits that are actually good for you. Yoga, meditation, and exercise are just a few suggestions.

6.     Eliminate clutter from your environment. This includes all types of clutter, including excessive noise and other distractions.

·       Turn off your social media and email notifications. Keep your work areas clear of clutter. You’ll feel calmer and less stressed.

7.     Get enough sleep. It’s much easier to remain calm when you’ve had 7 hours of sleep rather than only 4. Sleep helps to reduce the stress in your mind and body. Being well-rested also allows you to handle stressful situations better.

·       Even if you’re super busy, you’ll usually get more done if you maintain your normal sleep schedule.

8.     Ask yourself questions. Questions can determine our focus and influence our actions.

·       Is this really going to make a difference? Does it matter? Is the other person overreacting? Am I overreacting?
·       Am I stressed about the past, present, or future? The past is over, and the future hasn’t arrived yet, so focus on the present.
·       What can I do to turn this situation around? Is there an outcome that will make everyone happy?

9.     Take a break. If you’re unable to remain calm, give yourself a few minutes to regroup. Some time alone can have positive results.

Staying calm in challenging situations can be difficult, but it’s a learnable skill. Start with less stressful situations and test your ability to stay cool, calm, and collected.  In time and with practice you will find yourself less reactive to stress.