This is part 2 of my 2-part blog post series on staying calm in the moment. Part 1 contains the first 16 strategies. You can find it here.
I certainly needed my strategies for staying calm this week.
How about you?
Every mum experiences times when she doesn’t feel calm. It’s normal.
I know that Perfect Mum is calm all the time and that when we aren’t feeling calm, we think about her, and feel like we don’t measure up, so we resist how we feel, or we beat ourselves up about it. We lie in bed regretting how we lost our cool over the food spilt on the floor or the fact that someone left those very tiny (and sharp) pieces of lego all over the floor for us to step on. This makes it even harder for us to get back to feeling calm.
Remember, Perfect Mum doesn’t exist.
Our emotions, both positive and uncomfortable, are real and valid. There’s nothing wrong with you when you don’t feel calm. Sure, you’d like to feel calm more of the time. The first step to achieving that, is acknowledging and accepting your current feelings, without judgement. Then it’s all about what you do with those feelings.
How to stay calm in the moment
Let’s get back to those 32 strategies to help you calm down in the moment. The first 16 are in Part 1 of this series, and here are the remaining 16 strategies:
17. Swap multitasking for single tasking
We multitask to get more done and save time. You may have noticed, that when you are madly multitasking, you may find interruptions or last minute changes to the plan, harder to deal with. For example, when I’m trying to craft an email in my head, while simultaneously cooking dinner and emptying the dishwasher in between, I’ll feel irritated by my son asking me loads of questions. This happens because we actually have a finite amount of attention, and when it’s already stretched to the max, any further demands are too much.
If I stop multitasking, and do one thing at a time, like cooking dinner, then I have more headspace to also answer his questions calmly. Even better, I could stop cooking dinner, to be totally present with him, and answer his questions. That isn’t always necessary, but the point is, with less things to focus on, it’s easier to stay calm.
Note: there are some task you can effectively multitask. If you want to know more, I’ve explained it here.
18. Splash cold water on your face
This works as a shock to your system, which slows your heart rate and is actually used as a way to relieve anxiety. Give it a try!
The best way to deal with your emotions is to work through them. Then you will be able to move past them, rather than having them pop up again at another time. Crying releases stress and tension so if you need to cry, go ahead. You’ll feel much better afterwards.
20. Ask yourself if this really matters
Have you ever had an argument with someone over something that wasn’t really that important in the overall scheme of things? Sometimes I find myself in these sort of disagreements and part way through I realise that it isn’t really worth arguing over, so I end it straight away.
We’ve all heard the saying “pick your battles”. Sometimes, your sanity is more important.
What’s the worst that could happen? Does it really matter?
You may notice that sometimes you exaggerate or amplify situations in your mind. You may think or speak in absolutes or use extreme language. For example, “you always make me late” or “this is a disaster”. On reflection, you may realise that the situation isn’t as bad as it seems, and in fact, it doesn’t matter as much as you initially felt it did.
21. Ground yourself like a tree
When you need to calm down, imagine that you are like a tree. Make sure your feet are flat on the ground and you have equal weight on each foot. Feel the ground beneath them and imagine the roots holding you firmly to the ground. Imagine that your torso is a strong tree trunk. If you want to you can raise your arms upwards and imagine your branches are reaching for the sun (you don’t have to do that bit if you’re in public!). Take a deep breath, engage your core and stand strong.
There are three elements at play here to help you calm down. Firstly, focusing on nature is helpful because nature has a nurturing effect on us. Secondly, it forces your mind to focus on the visualisation of you as a tree, rather than getting stuck in an emotional cycle. Last, when we feel anxious, stressed, worried, or the like, we don’t feel strong and balanced. Imagining yourself as a tree, will help you return to those feelings.
22. Choose a calm word
You can do this with your partner, or if your children are old enough, as a family.
Work together to choose a word that any of you can say when you notice that one of you is getting overly angry, upset, intense or displaying any sort of behaviour that might scare another family member (this doesn’t have to be violence or offensive language, we’re all able to tolerate different levels of emotions from others).
It could be a serious word like “break” or a funny word like “banana”. This word is your cue to take action to calm down. It can break the tension in the moment and sometimes even just having a reminder may be enough to help you calm down.
23. Do whatever you are doing mindfully
Mindfulness helps us feel calmer, more emotionally in control and keeps our attention on the present moment.
If you are walking, notice each step you take and how the ground feels beneath your feet. Notice any points of tension in your body and feel your posture. If you are sitting, bring your attention to how your body feels in the chair. Notice your breathing or the noises you can hear around you. If you are preparing food, notice the details, the smell and how the food feels in your hands as you mindfully complete each step.
24. Use your senses
Similar to the strategy above, you can calm yourself by bringing your attention to awareness of your body and surroundings. Run through the following in your mind:
- What can I see right now?
- What can I hear?
- What can I feel?
- What can I smell?
- What can I taste?
For example, I can see the trees in the garden, hear a car alarm going off in the distance, my shoulders are tense, my heart is pounding in my chest, I can feel a breeze coming through the window, I can smell coffee, I can still taste toothpaste in my mouth or the last thing I ate.
You might like to think of multiple answers for each question if you need longer to calm down.
25. Imagine your child at a more vulnerable or cute moment
If your child is the source of your anxiety or stress, change the way you think about them to help soften your emotional state and response. Think of them as a baby, at a moment that is special to you, or when they were particularly vulnerable.
26. Focus on the things you are grateful for in that moment
Gratitude has so many benefits for our wellbeing, and one of those benefits, is that it can help you feel calmer.
Well, if we’re thinking about the good things in our lives, then we’re not allocating that attention to perpetuating the worry, anxiety, stress and so on. It also gives us a better sense of perspective, in that everything isn’t “bad” or “going wrong” and that this might not be the “end of the world”. Over time, practicing gratitude regularly actually rewires our brains so it’s easier to see the things that we are grateful for.
27. Focus on compassion
When we have a mindset of compassion, it is so much easier to stay calm, and be patient and tolerant. Just think about how your responses change when your child is struggling and you know it’s because they are sick, or haven’t had a good night’s sleep.
Compassion is when you extend care, empathy and kindness, without judgement.
How can you show compassion in this moment to yourself and to anyone else involved?
You can find my 1 minute technique for self compassion when you feel like you’re about to fall apart here.
28. Do some tapping
I’m not talking about a dance routine (although dancing can certainly lift your mood!). I’m referring to Emotional Freedom Technique, which is also called tapping. In case you haven’t heard of it, it’s a combination of modern day psychology and ancient Chinese acupressure, which can be used to relieve stress and help you feel more relaxed.
It involves gently using the fingertips and lightly tapping, or placing pressure, on certain points of the face and body. You can do this while focusing on the problem you are facing, or simply just tap, because the more you tap, the more your nervous system calms down.
It’s easy to learn and there are even more subtle techniques you can use while you are out in public. To find out how to start tapping effectively, check out this blog post or watch this introductory video.
29. Check your expectations
We’re always assessing things against our expectations, both consciously and subconsciously. When you’re feeling the pressure, pause and examine your expectations in that moment.
Are they realistic? Are you expecting too much of yourself or others?
We often hold ourselves to higher standards than necessary and we may even hold our children to standards that are really beyond their abilities at this point based on their cognitive and emotional development.
30. Observe with curiosity
This strategy works by giving you a reason to pause and focus on what you can see. It might give you a different perspective or just allow you to breathe. By doing this, you will stop yourself from reacting automatically or too quickly based on your escalating emotions.
Just stop and observe. Be curious and see what’s happening in front of you and try to see what’s going on under the surface. Observe their emotions. If your children are involved, see how little they are, see the expressions on their faces. Notice the surroundings and how that is affecting the situation.
Once you have observed, choose a helpful response.
31. Take it down a notch
When you are feeling all worked up inside, consciously choose to take your outward response down a notch. Speak more softly, more slowly and make intentional eye contact. If you are dealing with your children, get down to their level and gently touch them.
Your physical state affects your mental state, so by leading with a physically calm response, you are helping your brain calm down. This is also helps diffuse heightened situations with children as they will have to slow down and pay attention to hear what you are saying and the change in your energy and presence will likely spark their curiosity to find out what has happened. If your emotions escalate, it is likely that theirs will too. The same works in reverse.
32. Use calming essential oils
This is one of my go-to strategies. Essential oils (good quality, therapeutic grade) can be really effective at calming you down, relieving anxiety, and balancing our emotions. Diffuse them in your home or car, wear them on your skin, or in diffuser jewellery, or simply inhale them from your hands or straight from the bottle!
My favourites are Frankincense, Lavender, Ylang Ylang, Peace and Calming, Stressaway and my Tranquil roller.
There’s no magic pill
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a magic pill that we could take to make us unendingly calm? Since there’s not, we just have to learn how to manage our emotions and responses. We still won’t always get it right. And that’s ok, because no one needs you to be perfect.
Our children are learning from everything we do, so by learning to manage our own emotions, we can show them how to be calm in the face of challenges. As you would know, they also feed off our moods, so if we can stay calm rather than matching their heightened emotions, they’re more likely to come back to a calm state more quickly.
Remember, lovely mum, a bad moment, doesn’t make a bad day. It’s just a bad moment. There’s always another moment coming.
Lastly, if you’re struggling to keep calm on a very regular basis and are worried about it, please seek help. Talk to someone you trust, or a professional who can help you understand what’s happening for you and provide guidance around what you need.
That was a lot, wasn’t it! Different strategies work for different people, and for different situations, so give them a try and see what suits you best!
Which will you try this week?