We all know that feeling when tension seems to climb all the way from our lower back up to our stiff neck. Ever had that feeling that your shoulders are up around your ears and no amount of pressing them down and stretching will release them? When we’re feeling these symptoms, chances are that we have a frazzled nervous system and our body is signaling a stress response.
Put simply, our bodies, when stressed, flood our system with hormones like adrenalin and cortisol, which is just what we need in the short-term emergencies, but is detrimental to our long-term health, causing physical and emotional problems.
It’s a fact that our bodies don’t discriminate between the flight-or-fight stress response. So, whether it’s fighting wild animals or meeting a tight schedule or preparing for that nerve-wracking all-important interview, our bodies will register a stress response.
Keep calm and relax – Give yourself a dose of calm
We all want to learn how to keep calm and relax. Researchers have found that developing a personal sense of serenity is important for a robust immune-system and psychological well-being. Because we’re all unique individuals, the dose of calm that works for one person may not be right for another. You might already have your own ideas about what calms you. Strengthen your repertoire by learning about other ways of capturing calm and try them on for size.
#1 – Eat Smart
Many of us are all too familiar with comfort eating when we’re stressed. Resist the urge to comfort eat, but do learn about what foods will help you capture your calm. Yes – it’s true, there are certain foods which help calm emotional stress. Eating smart helps you keep calm and relax because you’re not over-stimulating your body with unnecessary nutrients.
Researchers have found that when a probiotic (lactobacillus casei) found in some yoghurts was consumed by people with chronic fatigue, they reported their feelings of anxiety eased. Another study found that 40 grams of dark chocolate per day lowered the stress hormone cortisol in people who had rated themselves as highly stressed. Getting adequate omega-3 fatty acids from fish or fish-oil supplements can also help reduce anxiety.
#2 – Get Crafty
People who knit, bead or sew say that these activities are as stress-busting as meditation. The fact is that when you get involved in a flow of rhythmic, repetitive movements, your whole being is immersed in a calm state.
Research by the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine in Boston found repetitive activities decrease heart rate and blood pressure. When you shift your focus to the activity your brain’s electrical activity drops to a more relaxed frequency and your fight-or-flight response is toned down.
#3 – Ponder a painting
Have you ever noticed how calming standing – or sitting – and pondering a painting can be? Your senses are soothed by the visual creativity you’re viewing. Researchers at the University of Westminster found that a lunch-time visit to the art gallery can lower a person’s stress levels. In fact, after 40 minutes of viewing, people’s cortisol levels in the saliva had decreased 32%, a drop that would usually take about five hours of regular down-time to achieve. Who would have thought that it’s so easy to keep calm and relax?
So next time you’re feeling like you’re about to unleash a tirade on your colleagues, take yourself off to the art gallery. It’s closer than you think…you can easily virtually explore international galleries – a definite visible feast, which also lowers your stress levels.
#4 – Listen to some music
Listening to music has long been known as a relaxant. This music is not the thumping kind of music but the classical and calming kind. Even classical music which seems rousing at times can calm your jangled nerves. Close your eyes and sit or lie down in a comfortable space. Tune in – and focus – your ears to the strains of music you hear.
You might want to experiment with what kind of music best relaxes you. People respond differently to sounds. Maybe violins work for you or perhaps the sound of the forest and oceans works for you. Choose what’s most relaxing for you and listen and calm down. Let your ears do the work for you.
#5 – Back to nature
When you’re feeling overwhelmed by the demands of your work and domestic life, do the sensible thing that people have been doing forever and get back to basics – embrace the beauty of your natural surroundings to help calm you.
Researchers have found that nature has positive effects on your well-being. It’s a theory that’s worth pursuing. Called ‘attention restoration’, the idea is that you leave behind the distractions of your busy everyday life and go outside to restore your capacity to attend to things.
Nature, being a low-intensity environment, helps to decrease our arousal and calms us down as well as inhibiting negative thoughts. By taking a walk in your local park, sitting outside in open green spaces or walking around the waterfront, you’ll find that things that you thought were effortful become effortless.
So, for your well-being, develop your practice of calming activities and slow down your pace of life to fully take in your surroundings, stop and smell the roses or just sit and have a moment to yourself. By capturing calm you’ll learn how to keep calm and love what you do. Too often we’re so stressed out in our lives and find it hard to distinguish what helps us remain centered enough to appreciate the small moments and cherish the love we feel.
Develop the habit of capturing calm to learn more about yourself – keep calm and love – who you are, what you do and capture the hope for a calm and loving future.
Read more about strategies to find calm in Slowing the pace – losing the hurry habit