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12 Ways Smart People Stay Calm in the Face of Daily Stress

SimiFebruary 15, 2018

The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater is his success, his influence, his power for good. The calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom,” by James Allen.

Are you stressed, wound up or anxious? Never fear, because here are 12 easy tips to help you stay calm under just about any circumstances. So what does it mean to be calm? Most dictionaries say it is being still without feeling agitated or emotional. Most people know how that feels, even if they don’t often feel calm.

You may know someone who always seems cool, calm and collected. But how do they do it? Are they born that way, or do they have to work at it? Are there ways to develop that serene feeling, or are some of us condemned to feel stressed out all the time?

Before you can answer those questions, you need to know more about stress. Science says that moderate stress can often motivate you to get things done. But when it’s constant, stress is bad for you, both physically and mentally. If stress is bad enough, it can even kill you. So, you need to pay attention to your stress levels and develop a state of calm, rather than rushing from one stressed out day to the next.

Here are 12 tips you can start using right now to de-stress yourself. The secret to gaining that enviable state of calm is to practice these steps regularly. So, take a few minutes, take a breath, and read about how you can become peacefully calm under pressure. You owe it to yourself, as well as to your body and mind.

1. Exercise

Exercise is a great way of getting rid of stress and tension. Even if you aren’t the exercise type, just walking around the block will help you to calm down if you’re feeling stressed. Sometimes you don’t even know you’re tense. But doing a little exercise can help you realize how much calmer you could feel. And instead of tiring you out, it will give you loads of energy.

The secret to exercise, and so many of these other tips, is to do them regularly. People often say “I don’t have time to exercise” or “It’s too expensive.” But, the truth of the matter is that you have to make time and nearly every day. In fact, people should exercise at least every second day for a minimum of 30 minutes at a time. Make it a habit.

Also, you need aerobic exercise, such as walking or playing basketball, as well as weight-bearing exercise. You don’t have to join a fancy gym for this. A simple walk or run in a park or in your neighborhood will give you all the benefits of a treadmill. To add a weight-bearing aspect to this, just carry a can of beans or anything else in each hand, and you have a wallet-friendly workout.

When you exercise, your body produces chemicals called endorphins. These natural chemicals are your body’s way of reducing stress and improving sleep. As you will see later, good sleep is essential for tackling stress and for developing a sense of calm, too. Once you start to exercise regularly, you will find you become more optimistic, you can focus more clearly and you feel happier.

2. Be Kind to Yourself

Do you have that little voice in your head that is often highly critical and negative about you? Most people tend to make the same judgments about themselves time and again. Someone might think they are fat, another person might keep telling herself she is a loser. This constant stream of negative self-talk is just plain bad for you. Think about it: you probably wouldn’t judge another person as harshly as you judge yourself.

You might spend your life caring for others, forgetting about yourself. But if you use all your energy looking after others, you can end up burnt out. You can also get stressed, irritable and sometimes even resentful. This is not a good state of mind. So you need to take time to replenish yourself.

Learn to treat yourself gently and accept yourself for who you are. Be as kind to yourself as you are to others. Perhaps it would be useful if you imagine you are someone you’ve just met. Would you insult or criticize this new friend? Or, would you treat them with kindness and consideration?

You need to treat yourself as an important Person. Kindness begins with being kind to and nurturing yourself. Make yourself a priority to you so that you can engage fully in your life. Don’t rely on other people to make you feel good. Other people’s opinions are just that, theirs. Instead, congratulate yourself on a job well done.

Tell yourself you look great in that outfit. Be grateful and cultivate an attitude of gratitude. When something good happens, think how lucky you are. Be kind to others, but don’t forget to be kind to yourself. Be sure to read to the end to learn how to replace negative self-talk with positive messages.

3. Just Breathe

Studies show that most of us don’t breathe properly. That might sound ridiculous because if you’re alive, you’re breathing, right? Yes, but it’s not that simple. What most of us do is take shallow breaths, especially when we’re stressed. So, take a moment to focus on your breathing.

Is it rapid and shallow? Or is it slow and deep? If you are feeling pressurized, your breathing might be quite quick and superficial. Mindful breathing has many benefits, both physical and mental. People have been practicing conscious breathing for centuries as a way of calming the mind.

There are many breathing exercises you can do, but they all have one thing in common. They encourage you to breathe deeply and slowly into the whole of your lungs, instead of just the top. This results in a sense of peace and calm.

Try this one-minute breathing exercise:

  • Focus on your breath.
  • Let the air just flow naturally in and out.
  • Breathe in through the nose, and out through the mouth.
  • Now inhale while you count to four in your head. Hold your breath for a count of seven. Be sure to build up from a count of four if you feel dizzy.
  • Then, exhale to the count of eight. Repeat.

You will feel calmer, more peaceful, more in control. Alternate nostril breathing also helps. Here’s how:

  • Close your right nostril with your right thumb.
  • Breathe in through your left nostril to a count of four.
  • Pause for a count of one.
  • Close your left nostril with your finger.
  • Breathe out for three, and then pause for one.
  • Breathe in through your right nostril for a count of four.
  • Pause, then close your right nostril with your thumb and breathe out through your left nostril for three.
  • Pause and repeat until calm.

4. Check Your Caffeine and Alcohol Intake

Do you rely on coffee or caffeinated sodas to keep you awake? Do you drink more than two or three caffeinated drinks per day? Chances are, you’re overdoing the caffeine. While research shows that coffee is good in moderation, too much will keep you awake. It can even stop you from getting quality sleep or leave you jumpy and on edge.

When you drink caffeine, your body releases adrenaline. Adrenaline is a chemical that triggers the human survival process called the fight or flight response. This is supposed to cause you to run away or stay and fight. It’s a response that was useful in the days when lions chased people but it isn’t so useful now. Adrenaline makes you feel stressed.

It causes your emotions to control your behavior, so you might over-react to something you’re your bosses’ email. It is best to drink caffeine in moderation. So, two or three cups of coffee per day is about right. But the bad news is that caffeinated drinks don’t do anyone any favors. Loaded with sugar, it is best to avoid them altogether.

Timing is also important. That first coffee in the morning might give you energy but be sure to stop drinking coffee at least five hours before bedtime for better sleep. Alcohol has a similar effect to caffeine in some ways. Although it might make you feel sleepy at first, drinking alcohol prevents you from having a good night’s sleep.

This is especially true if someone is drinking alcohol in large quantities. As with caffeine, if you are going to drink alcohol moderation is the key. Drink no more than the recommended daily allowance for better sleep, sex and weight control.

5. Switch It Off

Everyone experiences stress, and it’s something no one can avoid. But researchers have found that people function best if stress is irregular. A constant barrage of emails from the office, day and night, is enough to make anybody stressed. Via technology, we are often available 24 hours a day. This is a constant source of stress.

Research shows that just taking a break from your email will lower your stress levels. You need to cut yourself off from constant communication and switch off your devices sometimes. That might sound shocking. You might not even be able to imagine doing that. But how relaxed are you when you keep getting emails from work that get your mind working and stressing.

People often even get stressed thinking about emails that might arrive. The only way to break the cycle is to switch them off. So, give yourself blocks of time when you disconnect from technology. Make time for this because it is an important way of controlling stress and developing a calm state of mind. If you can’t disconnect on evenings during the working week, try disconnecting over the weekend.

You’ll be giving yourself a mental rest on a regular basis. The result will be a far less stressed you. When you first go offline, you might find yourself quite uncomfortable about not knowing what’s going on every minute. Thankfully, that feeling will probably disappear once you’re more used to being offline.

Then you can start increasing the time you take away from technology. What about reading a book instead? Or pursuing a hobby that you thought you never had time for? Use your imagination. Just switch if off, at least for a while.

6. Try a Different Angle

You can’t control everything. Stressful situations are a part of life. But what you can control is how you respond to stress. People often overgeneralize. When one or two problems arise, you may often think everything’s going wrong. But what you need to do is put the situation into perspective.

In other words, you need to see the situation clearly. Is everything really going wrong, or are most things okay with just a couple of problems? Test the accuracy of your thinking by listing what is not working out. You will probably come up with some things, but not everything. Also, you will see that other things in your life are going right.

Now that you’ve put things in perspective, you’ll see things more clearly. Maybe you have two or three problems, but 10 things in your life are going well. This is gaining perspective. Try reframing your situation by looking at it from a different angle. Write down your problems and your thoughts about them.

Challenge each thought for accuracy. Are you really useless at your job or are you just having a bad week? If you change your beliefs, you change your outlook. If you work at changing your beliefs and your attitudes, you can even change the way your brain works. By looking at your situation in perspective and reframing, you will feel less stressed.

You will feel more in control and less burdened. By failing to see your situation clearly, you create a reason to worry and stress. So make sure you look your situation squarely in the face. See it clearly, and then change how you look at it. Remember when you have faced similar challenges and how you coped with them.

7. Adopt a Positive Outlook

An attitude of gratitude came up earlier on in this list of tips. Developing a grateful attitude is helpful for staying calm. Think something positive right now. You might struggle to find something that went well in your day. But even one positive thing is good enough.

Now focus your mind on this positive event. How did it make you feel? By concentrating on that positive feeling, you feel positive once more. Avoiding the negative and focusing on the positive often doesn’t happen by itself. You need to make a conscious effort to think positively.

Don’t let that wandering mind of yours think up something else to worry about. Instead, think about that positive image or event. Remember that holiday you went on? Did it make you feel good? Bring back that feeling by reliving good feelings. Focus on the positive.

Instead of looking at the past, you might like to focus on future events sometimes. Maybe you’re looking forward to going to the movies or taking a few days off from work. What about that parcel you’ve been waiting for ages? These are all positive things to think about. Thinking about something positive that will happen in the future will calm you.

They can also turn your attention away from negative thoughts. When you are thinking negatively, chances are you feel bad in body and mind. Try to notice how you are thinking. Are you thinking negatively and feeling stressed, or are you thinking about positive things?

When you find yourself thinking about all that’s negative in your life, remember to be kind to yourself. Without blaming yourself, gently turn your attention to a positive thought. With lots of practice, thinking positively will become automatic.

8. Don’t Go It Alone

You’ve heard the saying, “No man is an island.” And this is never truer than when we are under stress. Humans are social beings. You need other people in your life. Many people are tempted to try to solve all their problems alone.

But make no mistake, if you want to be calm and productive, you need to ask for help when you need it. Smart people who remain calm in the face of stress realize when a situation is too much for them to cope with. They recognize they need help, and they ask for it. People often feel so alone with their problems. But sharing your problems with someone else is a good start.

Try talking through a problem with someone. Sometimes just chatting about something can help bring new perspective and ideas to the problem. Maybe you have a huge project to complete by an unrealistic deadline. Instead of struggling and failing to complete it, why not ask for help? There’s nothing shameful about asking for help.

If you are all stressed out, you may not be able to finish the project. That’s a fail for everyone, not just you. This is when you need to delegate. Maybe you could get your older children to help with the household chores.

If you could use some help, identify the people in your life that you can lean on sometimes. You might be surprised at how many people you know who are willing to lend an ear or a hand. What about people at work, at home or in your group of friends or acquaintances? Reach out to someone to help. Doing so will reduce your stress levels, and help you reach a state of calm.

9. Manage Your Time

Have you ever had so much to do that you find yourself running from chore to chore like a chicken without a head? You may find yourself reacting to events and problems, rather than planning ahead. You may also fail to stay on tops of things, so it’s like a vicious cycle. The pile just gets bigger and bigger. Your life gets even more out of control, and your stress level goes way up, too.

One way of dealing with this situation is to manage your time effectively. Some of the world’s most successful people who remain calm under stress manage their time to the last five minutes. That might sound a bit extreme, but these people have to manage vast numbers of projects and deal with huge amounts of work. If they didn’t plan their time, they wouldn’t get all those things done.

The best way to manage your time is to keep some sort of diary. It could be a paper diary where you write down exactly what you are going to tackle and when. Or it could be a large planner that uses lots of stickers and colors to help you remember what is happening. And nowadays, lots of people use electronic calendars to keep on top of their tasks and projects.

To manage your time, you need to know what you want. Plan ahead and prioritize. List what you need to do first. Next, list those tasks that are not as urgent. Learn to delegate and learn to say no.

Make sure you’re in a space with few distractions. And remember to take care of yourself and keep your stress levels down. A calm mind makes good decisions.

10. Keep a Stress Diary

Research shows that if you keep your worries and thoughts inside, you become stressed. The way to deal with that is to express your thoughts and worries. One way you can do this is to keep what is known as a stress diary. Scientists have found that a stress diary can have great physical and mental benefits. By keeping a stress diary, you can learn how you react to stress.

To keep a stress diary, write down when you begin to feel stressed, including the date and time. Also, record what you were doing just before you started to feel stressed. You also need to write down any physical symptoms you might have when you’re stressed. Maybe you have a headache or pain in your stomach. Perhaps you feel like your whole body is tense, so make note of this.

Once you have been keeping your stress diary for a few days, look at it to see if you notice any patterns. Maybe you notice that you’re always feeling stressed at 7 a.m., and that’s when your daily headache starts. You might realize that this is when you have to leave the house with the kids in the car to get them to school and you to work.

When you read your diary, you will find out some of your major stress triggers. You might have ignored them before, but now you can use your new insight to make changes in your life. Could you manage your time better? Are you never able to say no? Keeping a stress diary for two or three weeks can help you find out what stresses you, so you can take control of your life again.

11. Take Control

Nobody wants stress to dominate their life. Everyone wants to go about their lives feeling calm and capable without unmanageable stress. Sometimes you can become stressed by a problem that seems impossible to solve. But you can learn to solve your problems and feel more in control and less stressed. There are many problem-solving techniques you can use to find solutions to your problems.

One of these ways is brainstorming. Here’s how:

  • Write down your problem.
  • Think of as many possible solutions as you can, but don’t judge them. Just write them down and go on to your next solution.
  • When you’ve come up with as many solutions as you can, look back at your list.
  • Write down the good points and the bad points of each solution.
  • Write down all the steps to take to implement each solution. When thinking about what steps you need to take to achieve a particular solution, write down what you need to do, how you will do it, and when, with whom and where.

This process can take a while, but the act of making such a list will help you gain a sense of control. Once you have exhausted all possible solutions, start evaluating each one. Which one will help you reach that goal?  Now put your plan into action. Be sure you are selecting the best solution and make a commitment to stick to it.

Don’t give up or try another solution before giving the one you chose your best shot. You need to believe in your plan and go for it. Once you solve your problem, check to see if any issues remain. Would you do it the same way again?

12. Sleep

You’ve heard it before, but getting enough sleep is essential. Most people need seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Getting less than you need will stop you from being able to focus. It can also leave you permanently tired and stressed. Sleep deprivation can have a serious effect on your ability to think properly and deal with your life.

You certainly can’t be calm without enough sleep. If you don’t sleep enough, it’s like having a half-dead battery in your head. Your mind feels foggy, and you end up worrying about not doing your best. Before you know it, your stress levels are sky high. But when you sleep properly, it’s like recharging your brain.

Your mind feels clear, you can focus, and you feel far less stressed. You also feel calm. And what’s not to like about that? Even if you have a heavy workload, you need to get a decent night’s sleep. When you first try to get into better sleeping habits, you might feel that you should be working instead of sleeping.

But if you allow yourself a good night’s sleep every night, you will train your body and mind to be calm but alert when you are awake, instead of tense and stressed. With quality sleep, you will feel that you have things under control. If you feel in control, you are less likely to get stressed out and more likely to be calm and capable.

To set up your new sleep routine, make sure you go to bed and wake up at about the same time every day. Use clothes and bedding that are made from natural fibers so that they breathe, too.

These are the 12 ways smart people stay calm in the face of daily stress. Take one tip and try it each day until you know them all. Make these tips a habit, and you could transform your life. After all, who doesn’t want to be calm, confident and in control of their life?

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