We can often dash through life, trying to get ahead of ourselves. We rush, we overthink, and we tighten up. When we’re uptight and stressed, we can’t function well. Stress has even been shown to deteriorate our physical health.
There are ways to calm down so we can return to our vital selves again. These can be easily forgotten in the rush of the everyday. Here are some ideas to calm you down quickly, so you perform better:
Breathe into your belly for 2-5 minutes
A common source of tension comes from tightening the belly. This has been developed as a response to fear and stress in humans for millennia. When we breathe intentionally down into the diaphragm, we ease this area and stimulate the vagus nerve, which relaxes the entire body.
Shake everything out
Let yourself shake your legs and arms to release built-up tension in the body. When the body is less tense, the min, too, will still.
Humming and singing
There’s a reason ancient people and indigenous groups are known to hum, chant, and sing, for example, as part of spiritual ceremonies. Beyond the freedom of self-expression, the vibration of the vocal cords has a relaxation effect, which reduces stress.
Bringing conscious attention to your nose as you breathe in and out to raise consciousness and induce calm is a common yoga practice. There are many variations, but one you can try––called anulom vilom––involves focusing on breathing in through one nostril and out through the other in a slow and steady rhythm.
You can hold your nostril closed as you do this and alternate, or you can simply bring attention to each. Either way, you bring awareness to a process that quickly centers you.
Having the water turned all the way down in the shower or even jumping into a freezing cold lake (not medical advice) has been shown to bring several benefits. In addition to being good for the skin and hair, improving circulation and helping with muscle soreness, cold water is known to boost endorphin chemicals to help you manage stress and mood.
They also train me to handle discomfort, which is character-building.
2-minute focus meditation
Sit for a minute, bringing your attention to a single object, like a candle or item on a table. Concentrating your focus towards one thing while allowing your muscles to relax trains the mind to ignore distractions. This is a skill that not only relaxes you but will transfer into all areas of life.
Stretching loosens tension and raises mood. Enjoying a good stretch is a relaxation hack.
2 minute visualization
Have fun with this one. Get comfortable and visualize yourself experiencing success or joy the way you’d like it.
The body has difficulty differentiating between illusions and the real thing, so you can induce a positive emotional experience simply by exercising your imagination powers. You can do this before an event that may make you nervous to instill a sense of confidence, which will carry you further.
No one said you need a trained pro to massage you for its relaxation and health benefits, though you can, of course, hire someone or enjoy a day at a spa. But self-massage is powerful, too.
I love using my massage ball, like a hard tennis-ball-sized sphere that I lean on against the wall, which works into my back, hips, shoulders, and neck, easing tension immediately.
Moving the body and getting the heart going won’t relax you in the moment. The point of exercise is its relaxation effect in the period following this exertion. You don’t need to spend an hour in the gym to enjoy the calming benefits of exercise. Get some lunges, jumping jacks, press-ups or squats going––even if it’s simply for a few minutes. Then enjoy positive emotions wash over you when you’re done.
Body scanning and tension-observation
If you’re familiar with mindfulness meditation and yoga, you’ll be familiar with the relaxing and tension-easing effect of attention. When we intentionally focus on different areas of the body, pressure dissipates. Scanning the body for tension using your awareness and presence will calm you quickly.
If you’re feeling sleepy or lethargic, more often than not, this is a sign you need to drink water. Hydrating yourself will return your parched body to balance, helping you feel better, more relaxed, and more alert.
Bonus: Laughter yoga
In India, laughter yoga, whereby groups of people get together to laugh away their stresses and strains, is taken seriously. Laughter, even if it starts forced, can immediately and positively affect your mood. It’s impossible to be uptight while also laughing.