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  • Linnette Johnson

5 Tips on How to Stay Calm in Stressful Situations

With the Holidays Here and no matter what you are celebrating, from Yule to Christmas to Festivus to Hanukkah to Kwanzaa ... this time of year can be stressful, from family gatherings to your first year doing things on your own... not including the everyday life stress... so it's a theme, so let's dive in!

Overcoming the stress in your life starts with noticing what your stressors are and working to reduce them, but you can’t prevent every situation that could potentially cause you stress. This is your body’s natural response, which leads to a fight-or-flight response. You still need to get out there and live your life, so it is more a matter of how you react to stressful situations when they arrive.

Keep reading to learn how to remain calmer and more relaxed even when incredibly stressful things are happening around you.

Stop Your Body and Thoughts

When a stressful situation hits you, you can choose how to handle it. How you think, feel, and even how your body reacts is all up to you. If you respond negatively and immediately, it will increase your stress hormone- cortisol, making you feel a lot worse and much more overwhelmed.

Instead of reacting instantly, just take a step back. Freeze your body and mind, and let your thoughts calm down. Don’t try to reason through it, don’t think about the potential future or make assumptions, and don’t start letting all those regrets run through your head.

Get into a calm place, whether you freeze your body, try to meditate, use mindfulness practices, or just breathe- more on this in the next section. This can help you to get back to neutral, where you can think logically about whatever the stressful situation is.

Mindful Breathing

Mindful breathing practices are helpful when going to a calm place or freezing your body or if you can’t entirely break away to meditate on the situation or write in a journal, which will be discussed more below.

When stressed, we breathe very shallowly, which may lead to tension and fatigue. However, breathing with our diaphragm tends to reduce stress and improve energy.

So, here is a quick breathing exercise for when stress becomes too much. It’s called the 4-7-8 breathing, and this can help you start breathing mindfully:

· Find a comfortable place to sit or lie down with your feet slightly apart, or this can be done wherever you may be, too, with one hand on your abdomen near the navel and the other on your chest, if possible.

  • Gently exhale the air in your lungs through your mouth, then inhale slowly through your nose to the count of four, pushing out your abdomen slightly and concentrating on your breath. As you breathe in, imagine warm air flowing all over your body. Hold your breath for a count of at least four but not more than seven.

  • Slowly exhale through your mouth while counting to eight. Gently contract your abdominal muscles to release the remaining air in the lungs.

  • Repeat until you feel deeply relaxed for a total of five cycles. You may be able to do only one or two cycles at first.

  • Once you feel comfortable with your ability to breathe into the abdomen, it is not necessary to use your hands on your abdomen and chest.

“If you want to conquer the anxiety and stress of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.”

—Amit Ray

Find Positivity

Being positive has a beautiful impact on your mind and emotional health, as well as helping you to handle stress. Being positive doesn’t mean constant sunshine and rainbows. You can understand that life isn’t always perfect, accept your flaws, and move past them. You even realize that stress is a normal part of life since unexpected things always happen.

However, instead of letting the stress affect you mentally and physically to an extreme level, you can remain calm by remaining positive. Just try to think of some type of positive element, whether you go through a list of pros and cons or simply try to find the one thing that could be good about the stressful situation. Trust me. There is at least one.

Stop with the Assumptions and ‘What If’ Questions

Stop asking what if and making assumptions every time anything happens. This will lead to a lot of anxiety and stress that otherwise might not have been that bad. If you feel that you have constant stress every day, ask yourself where it comes from.

Is it from things constantly happening around you, or is it due to the way you perceive things?

In your journal, write down the next time you experience a stressful situation and what happened. Not what could have happened or what you feared would happen, but the actual situation you dealt with. Often, your fears and what-if scenarios were far worse than the reality.

When a stressful situation happens, the best thing you can do is just stand back, remain present, and be realistic about what has already happened. Don’t assume the worst-case scenario or start creating all these images in your head of what catastrophe might be in store for you. This adds to the amount of stress you experience daily.

Know What Your Stressors Are

You also need to understand more about what is causing you the most stress. By now, you likely have a good idea of where it is coming from, but using a journal can help you determine this with more details and clarity.

Keep a worry or stress journal that you use only to write about your stress. You want to include as many details as possible, such as what you were doing, where you were, what time and date it happened, who you were with, what the situation was, and anything else relevant.

Write down things like why it caused you to stress, what your mind was doing at the time, and what the outcome was.

  • Do you notice any patterns?

  • Are there certain things causing you more stress?

  • Is it work or home life?

  • Is there someone in your life that always seems to be around when you have the most stress?

These details will help you figure out your stressors, which enables you to know what you need to avoid or what boundaries you need to put in place for the future.


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