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5 Self-Calming Techniques That Really Work

Do you ever feel yourself getting stressed or overwhelmed with nothing to anchor you down? These feelings are natural and common amongst us as human beings. However, we need to be able to get them under control and deal with them in a healthy way.

No matter what fears and worries about our turbulent are stressing you out, it’s important to have an emotional and psychological tool kit to turn to when those worries overwhelm you.

When you can’t shake that sense of impending doom, or that news story about an international or local event just gets under your skin too much, try one (or more) of these techniques to stay calm, anchor yourself in the Now, and get rooted in your inner peace and mindfulness.

1. Breathing

Even simply deep breathing with your eyes closed can help get your mind off of world issues and back into soul issues.

“Using your breath, you can change how you feel,” explains the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California-Berkeley. “In a study, researchers observed people feeling different emotions and found that there was a different pattern of breath for each one. Then, they gave other people the different breathing patterns to perform and asked them, ‘How do you feel?’ It turned out that doing those breathing exercises actually evoked the emotions.”

2. Practice self-compassion

Our inner dialogue is typically what makes tackling our fear worse. We doubt ourselves and our own resilience. We doubt our wit. We doubt our emergency preparation plans. We doubt our ability to handle a disaster or survive an international threat.

If you’re able to turn this around and instead encourage your sense of resilience or survival, you’ll shift your sense of worry and fear.

“Self-compassion is the ability to be mindful of your emotions—aware of the emotions that are going on inside whenever you fail at something,” explains UC-Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. “It doesn’t mean you identify with them; you can just observe and notice them, without feeding the fire. [...] And it is the ability to speak to yourself the way you would speak to a friend who just failed, warmly and kindly. When we adopt this attitude, research suggests, we are calmer—we have less feelings of stress as well as lower cortisol levels. We’re also more resilient: We’re less afraid of failure, and more motivated to improve ourselves.”

3. Be grateful

Gratitude is a potent way to get us out of the emotional rut of negativity that we might have fallen into. It’s easy to focus on all the things that are going wrong in the world and in our lives. It’s easy to let those worries and tragedies and impending disasters take up the entire field of vision in our mind’s eye.

Gratitude allows us to turn our perspective to all the things that are good and right and proper. When you’re stressed, fearful and anxious about the world and what could go wrong, instead look at what’s going well or has gone well.

Take a moment now to reflect on things that you appreciate and love in your life. This may include situations, people, objects, conclusions and even your very own skills, talents and personality traits.

This isn’t denying that there might be negatives out there, but it helps you to maintain a better, healthier perspective on things.

4. Get out of your mind and into your community

We often feel powerless and helpless when reading about some of the big, scary things in the world, like disease outbreaks or wars or nuclear threats. Get back into a place of power by using your strengths and skills to make your part of the world a better place.

Do what you can, with what you’ve been given. Focus on strengthening the positives in the world, instead of dwelling so much on the negatives, and you can see how you might be in more control of your life and your outcomes than you initially realized.

“Excel in life,” suggests Davis. “Taking care of yourself, your community, and your country requires energy and perseverance. And taking the high road requires discipline and emotional intelligence. [...] Band together and excel in everything that is threatened. Excel in education, scientific inquiry, artistic and creative endeavors. Excel at kindness, integrity, fairness, generosity, and being consistently honest. Excel at tolerating diversity, embracing neighbors and strangers alike, and being a good steward of the Earth’s environment. Excel at aligning your actions with your values, and exercising your right to free speech, as in, when you see something that’s not right, stand up and say something.”

5. Be a friend

“Feelings of loneliness are extremely destructive to our body and mind, leading to worse health and even earlier death,” warns the Greater Good Science Center. “And the stress and lack of calm in today’s world may contribute to this loneliness because of the way that it tends to make us self-focused.”

While your disaster preparedness plan might be focused on food and water and other necessities, don't ignore the powerful way that human connection can help us buffer the stresses and fears of the world.

“From the moment we’re born until our last day, we have a deep and profound longing to belong to one another,” explains the center. “And when we fulfill that need, it brings us more calm: The oxytocin and natural opioids that we release when we connect may exert a calming influence on our bodies, and the knowledge that we have the support of others can soothe our minds. When we face adversity, research suggests that our relationships and community have an important role to play in our resilience.”

Find your tribe. Get rooted in a club or hobby group. Join a church or a place of worship. Volunteer for good causes and sign up for a charity’s team. Forge social connections, and not only will you help reduce stress and anxiety and stay calm in the face of worries, but you’ll also have more support in your community should something bad occur in your neighborhood or town.

The world can be, and often is, a very scary place. There is so much outside of our control. There are so many things that could go wrong. But there’s something we CAN control: Our approach to what we’re facing, and our handle on our emotions and stress. You have more power than you realize. Tap into your inner resilience, challenge your negative assumptions about what’s happening out there in the world, then share that courage and these tips with others.

The beautiful thing about living in community with others is that, sure, we often spread fear and panic amongst ourselves. But we can also share courage and joy.

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