Stress is a normal part of modern life, but if you’re often faced with stressful situations and feel panicked or overwhelmed trying to deal with them, you may benefit from learning some coping strategies that can help you to stay calm.
Pressure can put the body into “fight or flight” mode – an evolutionary tactic that releases hormones designed to get you ready to either fight or run from danger. In modern times, stress triggers these hormones but they’re not so helpful when the “danger” comes from giving a presentation at work rather than being faced with a wild animal. If you frequently find yourself feeling anxious, or panicked, your fight or flight mode is probably being triggered too easily and it’s helpful to learn how to calm yourself down when you’re entering this state.
1. Take a Deep Breath
Breathing deeply and slowly triggers the body to stop releasing stress hormones and start to relax. Concentrating on your breathing can also help to distract your mind from whatever is bothering you so that you focus only on what is happening at that moment.
Breathe deeply through your nose – you should breathe all the way into your belly and not just your chest. Hold for a moment and breathe out slowly through your mouth. Take a few minutes just to breathe and you should find yourself feeling calmer quickly.
2. Focus on the Positives
Always imagining the worst case in every scenario is clinically known as catastrophic thinking and can increase anxiety and feelings of panic.
Rather than dwelling on negative aspects or outcomes, try to spend a few moments thinking positively. If your bathroom has flooded and you have to replace all the flooring, for example, this could be a very stressful situation. Yet try to focus on the fact that it gives you the opportunity to update and renovate, and the repairs should be covered by your insurance.
Staying positive allows your brain to avoid stress and stay calm.
3. Get Plenty of Sleep
Everything seems worse when you haven’t had a good night’s sleep. Stress and anxiety can often lead to insomnia so you end up in a vicious cycle – not being able to sleep and then feeling worse because you haven’t had enough sleep.
Make sleep a priority, especially if you’re under a lot of pressure. Go to bed early and ban electronic devices from the bedroom. Lavender essential oil can also promote feelings of calm and help you to sleep at night.
4. Go for a Walk
Exercise is just as important as sleep when it comes to keeping stress in check and dealing with external pressure. Exercise prompts the body to release feel-good hormones and helps to clear your head.
If you’re under pressure at work, just five minutes of fresh air and a change of scenery could help you to feel calmer and gain a new perspective on the situation – you’ll probably realise it’s not a case of life or death anyway.
Meditation has been proven to reduce stress and actually changes the brain over time so you can manage your emotions better and stay calm when you need to most.
If you think meditation is all about sitting cross-legged for hours and chanting “om”, you couldn’t be further from the truth – even a few minutes of sitting quietly and concentrating on your breathing is a beneficial form of meditation. You can also try apps like Headspace and Calm.
6. Practice Gratitude
Staying grateful for everything you have in your life – no matter how small – can keep things in perspective and help you to maintain a positive attitude.
Studies have shown that people who keep a daily gratitude journal have lower levels of cortisol – the hormone responsible for stress. Try taking a few minutes at the end of each day to write down 5 things you feel thankful for and see how much better it makes you feel.
7. Surround yourself with positive people
You probably have a few people in your life who can make you feel stressed just by being around them. While it’s not always possible to cut these people out of your life entirely, when you’re under pressure try to spend more time with friends and family who are helpful, positive, and will lift you up rather than drag you down
Retrain Your Brain for a Calmer Life
You can’t control what life will throw at you next, but you can learn to cope with pressurised situations and deal with stress in a healthy way. Making an effort to practise some of these strategies the next time you feel under pressure can help you to feel calm and able to deal with any situation.