We all have days that feel chaotic.
Those days where surprises (and not the good kind) come out of the blue, or things don’t go to plan.
Or maybe it’s the kind of day where thoughts in your head pile in on top of each other and swirl around like a hurricane.
These are the days where anxiety, overwhelm and stress creep in – making us feel the very opposite of the in-control, calm and collected person we want to be.
I’m a big believer that action is the best antidote to anxiety. So, as tempting as it is, don’t surrender to the chaos or give up on your day as a lost cause.
When you notice your body holding tension or your mind start to whirl, take action and inject some calm into your day with one (or more) of these simple but effective techniques.
1. Close your eyes then count to 10
When you first start to feel stress or tension creep into your body tackle it head-on with some focused breathing.
Start by closing your eyes. Shutting your eyes, even for a few moments, blocks out all the stimuli vying for your attention, and the visual stillness allows you to gather your thoughts and to calm yourself.
Then count slowly from one to ten, breathing deeply from your belly while you do.
This strategy may sound too simple to be true, but trust me, it really does work! Try it, and you’ll feel calm and more grounded in seconds.
2. Move your body
Exercise is so beneficial for both our bodies and our minds.
When you get your blood flowing and your heartbeat racing you amp up the production of endorphins in your body.
Those feel-good hormones will give you the energy and confidence boost to take control of your day.
You don’t have to do a full-blown work-out to benefit. Even a leisurely stroll around the block will do you good.
Stepping away from your current environment, even for a short while, will give you a fresh perspective and generate feelings of calm.
3. Try progressive muscle relaxation
Progressive muscle relaxation is a great technique for releasing stress from your body, and you can do it in the comfort of your own home, or at work.
It’s a process where you purposefully tense a group of muscles as you breathe in, and then relax them as you breathe out.
As you progress through your body you effectively release stress from every muscle group.
You can do progressive muscle relaxation lying down, or sitting up in a chair. Start with your toes then work your way upward. Tense up the muscles (but don’t strain) while breathing in, hold for a few seconds and then breathe out and release.
The whole process is quick and easy – it only takes around 5 minutes.
Progressive muscle relaxation is also a great technique to do in bed at night if you have trouble falling asleep.
If you want to give it a try follow along with the instructions in this short video.
4. Listen to music
There’s no doubt that music can transform our mood.
A soothing tune can be relaxing, while an up-tempo beat adds energy when you need a boost, and can help you feel more optimistic and positive.
Studies have shown that listening to music is a highly effective stress management and relaxation strategy.
Listening to music can:
- lower levels of cortisol in your body (the hormone that contributes to feelings of stress and anxiety)
- alter your brainwave speed, creating a therapeutic effect on your body similar to meditation
- boost your levels of happiness by triggering the release of the feel-good hormone dopamine
So when you feel your tension levels start to rise, generate some calm by popping on your headphones and tuning into the music that makes you feel good.
5. Do a brain dump
On the days when you have what seems like a million rambling disorganized thoughts swirling around in your head, a brain dump will help you to overcome the overwhelm of an overcrowed mind and help put you back on an even keel.
What’s a brain dump?
A brain dump is a process where you take all the thoughts racing around in your mind and transfer them to another place. That place could be on a piece of paper, an app, or word processing program.
When you dump the excess thoughts and information from your brain to a different storage medium you free up valuable space.
Whether or not you choose a paper or digital format, getting things out of your head and captured elsewhere will help you to:
- think more clearly
- focus your mind
- process information
- clarify your intentions and priorities
- track progress and boost motivation
Why do a Brain Dump?
First of all, it clears your head.
Just seeing the information in front of you gives you a sense of control over it, making it much easier to sort than when it’s swirling around in your head.
You can then organize that information into a format that makes sense, helping you to process things and to make plans.
How to do a Brain Dump
Firstly, decide which format you’re going to use, paper or digital.
It doesn’t matter whch format you use – what is important is that you clear your mind of all the clutter so that you can think clearly again.
Allocate some quiet time when you won’t be disturbed. Half an hour is great, but even if you can only grab 10 minutes, you’ll still feel the benefits.
Start writing (or typing). Write down everything that’s in your head. Don’t censor yourself, get it all out.
Keep going until you can’t think of anything else. Try to use the time you’ve allotted, but don’t feel frustrated if you truly can’t think of more to write.
Step away from your brain dump for a short while, then come back to the information later to categorize and organize it in a way that makes sense to you.
Read more: How writing things down will improve your life
So there you have it – 5 effective ways to create calm in your day.
Next time feelings of agitation, anxiety or overwhelm creep up on you, don’t give in to it – take action with one of these simple strategies.