I’m no stranger to anxiety, and stimulation hits me harder than many. Poor snowflake.
But, I’m grateful because decades of this taught me everything about staying calm.
Mental ‘wellness’ is maintained through sound physical health and thought management — which is developed, over the long term, as a practice.
But, if you find yourself uptight at stressful times, we need a short term strategy.
Here are some exercises I use to calm down quickly in any context:
Shallow in and out nasal breathes.
In Patrick McKeown’s excellent book: ‘The Oxygen Advantage,’ he reveals the issue with the advice we frequently hear to ‘take deep breaths if we’re nervous.
The problem here is — because of the way our bodies take in and process carbon dioxide (CO2) — we inadvertently absorb more CO2 when we take deep breaths.
To calm down, our bodies and brains need more oxygen, which is deprived when we anxiously hold our breath.
Take eight long, slow and shallow nasal breaths (5–9 seconds in-breath and 5–9 seconds out-breath) and allow your entire body to relax via the out-breath.
Do this, and everything changes.
Read 3 pages of fiction.
Reading is like an active form of meditation.
We’re using our thoughts very differently when we read than when we over-analyse. Read a story and immerse yourself in your own imagination for a few minutes.
Play with your ability to conjure a scene in your mind. Hear the sounds, taste the environment, be there.
Reading soothes because you can’t overthink and read at the same time.
I know this seems too obvious, but it’s crazy how we can forget to do this.
Many of us stay tight as a tin toy truck because there’s a belief somewhere that says we need to be rigid to be safe. No.
The more physically tense we are, the more stress we’ll feel. Tension is the antithesis of performance in any context.