I have said it before, but one of the most powerful lessons I learned during my own recovery is this: as emotions go up, rational thinking goes down. When your mind seems to be spinning out of control, here are 7 powerful ways to calm your mind right now. They’re a lot more simple than you might think:
1. Deep breathing.
According to the folks at Livestrong.com, “Deep breathing can release stress and provide other noticeable health benefits. You will likely feel calmer after performing deep breathing exercises, and may trade feelings of anger or fear for a focused, relaxed state of mind. Deep breathing is sometimes used to treat anxiety disorders, sleep problems and even general body aches and pains.”
Want to take this up a notch? Engage your spiritual side by adding meditation and/or prayer to your deep breathing practice.
One of my favorite bits of advice from Love Does, by Bob Goff, is to quit something every week. If it doesn’t feed your soul, stop doing it. Maybe for five minutes. Maybe for a day. Maybe forever.
Scientific American says, “Downtime replenishes the brain’s stores of attention and motivation, encourages productivity and creativity, and is essential to both achieve our highest levels of performance and simply form stable memories in everyday life. A wandering mind unsticks us in time so that we can learn from the past and plan for the future. Moments of respite may even be necessary to keep one’s moral compass in working order and maintain a sense of self.”
3. Get a fresh perspective.
Jonathan Kellerman says, “Life is like a prism. What you see depends on how you turn the glass.”
Community is a huge part of stress management. As far back as 1993, The New York Times began warning us,, “Strong new evidence shows that high levels of stress combined with a lack of close friends or family can significantly reduce life expectancy.”
And the Times were right. A lack of social support is one of the most dangerous ingredients for someone who is stressed. If you want to calm your mind right now, surround yourself with safe people who love you, let you vent, and won’t leave you alone on particularly hard days. (Looking for a safe community? Click here!)
4. Get your zzz's.
Binge-watching Netflix until after midnight may be fun, but the lack of sleep is terrible for your stress. Even minor sleep deprivation can raise your blood pressure, increase your stress levels, decrease your performance, and have one heck of a negative impact on your body’s ability to fight off sickness and disease.
This article on WebMD also says it makes you a danger on the roads, causes stress for your partner, and makes you a hazard on the job.
5. Drink! Drink! Drink!
Just being dehydrated by one or two percentage points can start to wreak havoc on your brain and other organ function. An easy way to calculate how much water you need in a day is to divide your body weight by 2. Drink that many ounces of water in a day. For example, a 180 pound man would need to drink approximately 90 ounces of water a day. For more information on hydration, visit the Mayo Clinic’s website.
6. Eat something.
My wife loves pistachios. And who knew they could be a natural stress-reliever?! Health.com says, “When you have an ongoing loop of negative thoughts playing in your mind, doing something repetitive with your hands may help silence your inner monologue. Think knitting or kneading bread—or even shelling nuts like pistachios or peanuts. The rhythmic moves will help you relax.”
Not a pistachio fan? Me either (sorry, babe). Find a healthy snack you enjoy and eat on a regular schedule. Your Mom was right to always nag you to eat breakfast. Skipping meals is one sure-fire way to raise your stress levels in a hurry.
7. Take a walk.
Ever wondered why FitBit users are so crazy about their little watch? The benefits of getting in those steps not only helps maintain your weight, but the physical activity is also a huge benefit for your mind!
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports, “The physical benefits of exercise—improving physical condition and fighting disease—have long been established, and physicians always encourage staying physically active. Exercise is also considered vital for maintaining mental fitness, and it can reduce stress. Studies show that it is very effective at reducing fatigue, improving alertness and concentration, and at enhancing overall cognitive function. This can be especially helpful when stress has depleted your energy or ability to concentrate.”
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Steve Austin was a pastor when he nearly died by suicide. A second chance, a grueling recovery, and years of honest conversation allowed Steve to find healing and purpose. It’s evident in his writing, speaking, podcasting, and coaching: he helps overwhelmed people get their lives back.
Steve is also the author of the Amazon bestseller From Pastor to a Psych Ward. He lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with his wife, Lindsey, and their two children.