How to Calm Down When Life Is Too Much

Adebolanle Ade, MSW, RBT
March 31, 2020
Reduce stress in life

Being worried and stressed out is a normal part of life. Work, family responsibilities, financial challenges, or even health issues can leave you feeling eternally stressed out and living in survival mode. A little stress is good for you, but when you become overwhelmed with life’s demands, your ability to perform suffers immensely.

Staying calm in the middle of a crisis is more important than you think. Research has shown that a major difference between high performers and low performers is the ability to handle their emotions and stay calm under pressure. High performers can stay on top of their emotions and remain productive. Learning how to stay calm when life gets too much and remain in control of your life is possible with the help of these useful tips.

Breathe

You probably hear the phrase “just breathe” all of the time, but, it happens to be that a lot of people forget to breathe when under pressure. Breathing is the most effective technique for reducing negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, worry, etc. When you are feeling stressed out or angry at life, taking a quick shallow breath sends a positive signal to your brain, telling it to calm down. Essentially speaking, taking deep breaths in the middle of a crisis helps the brain know that it is actually okay, causing a positive feedback loop to begin. This reinforces your fight-or-flight response. 

In order to be able to regain some balance, you can practice breathing exercises. Take long and deep breaths from you nose, drawing them into your belly. Then exhale slowly through your mouth, allowing your belly to be emptied once again. It only takes about four to five deep breaths to feel a little calmer. There will be more oxygen flowing through your body, enabling everything to run more efficiently, including your brain. Kids can also practice breathing exercises such as counting backwards from ten, counting from one to ten, or blowing slowly (blowing bubbles is also an option).

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Admit That You Need to Calm Down

When your fight-or-fight response (AKA sympathetic nervous system) kicks in, adrenal glands trigger the release of adrenaline and noradrenaline. These hormones cause your body to start reacting to fear, which includes a faster heart rate, a tense body, dilated pupils, and the readiness to take action. Allowing yourself to say and admit that this is a reaction to the way you are feeling will help you calm down and challenge your thoughts.

Giving labels to how you feel and teaching children to do the same makes the situation easier to address. One can make irrational decisions when in a fight-or-flight mode, so it is important to acknowledging your feelings. This will help you see things in a clearer manner. Teaching a child that having these emotions are a normal part of life will make them more open to talking about them with their parents.

Walk Away

When you’re fighting for something or someone, you have to ask yourself whether the result is worth it. Some victories bring more misery, and some battles simply cannot be won. Half the time, situations are best handled over time. When you feel that you are too stressed to handle a situation right then and there, walking away from it will allow you to calm down and readdress it later if need be. Not all situations must be tackled, so you have to look at every fight you’re in and wonder whether walking away would be better.

Some people will bring more stress into your life. Accept that not every situation and relationship is meant to be and know when to move on. Don’t be afraid to start over since it will help remove the unnecessary stress in your life. At the end of the day, your health and well-being should be your priority.

Teach your kids to walk away from situations that will cause them to lose control. Let them know that it takes more courage to walk away from a fight than to stay and fight. Remind them that when they get mad but manage to control their feelings; they have won.

Drink Some Water

All of our organs, including our brain, need water to function properly. We become overly stressed and edgy when we are dehydrated. Drinking water can help reduce the intensity of anxiety. A 2009 study at Tufts University found a clear link between hydration and moods. Scientists found that student-athletes who were just mildly dehydrated reported feeling angry, confused, tense, and fatigued. Then a 2012 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that dehydration could influence one’s moods, energy levels, and the ability to think clearly. The young men in the study experienced fatigue, tension, and anxiety when mildly dehydrated.

Practice Muscle Relaxation Techniques

Progressive muscle relaxation technique is a type of exercise that will help ease the tension in your body, leaving you less stressed. This can be practiced at home; even kids can do them. This technique focuses on different muscles of the body, helping you relax them individually. If done properly, progressive muscle relaxation can release all the stress in your body in a couple of seconds.

Think it Through

Having a mantra to use in crisis situations can help you think it through before acting. Asking questions like, “will this matter to me this time next week?”; “how important is this?”; or, “am I going to allow this person/situation to steal my peace?” will help bring you back to the center. You will then be able to shift the focus of your thinking and challenge any irrational thoughts.

Some other tips include:

  • Taking a walk
  • Writing down the stressful event
  • Getting some fresh air
  • Exercising
  • Engaging in yoga
  • Meditating
  • Eating
  • Dropping your shoulders
  • Listening to music

If you find that you must address the situation in the moment, practice a few of these calming down techniques first, in order to help you stay calm while taking control of the difficulty.

Address the Situation

If the situation is something that should be addressed, go ahead and address it. After you have practiced these relaxing techniques, you are now more likely able to handle the situation better than you were when you were excessively anxious. Bear in mind that the situation has caused you to be stressed before, so keep your emotions in check, focus on the positive, and repeat these steps until you have successfully addressed the event.

If you suspect that you or your child might need extra help in handling anxiety and excessive worries, talk to a mental health professional or organization to find the assistance that is right for you.

Adebolanle Ade, MSW, RBT

Adebolanle Ade is a Mental Health Social Worker and Registered Behavioral Technician. She has many years of experience writing and advocating for mental health awareness.

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