How to Calm Down in 30 Minutes or Less
Stress is a major risk factor for a number of devastating diseases, and when it becomes chronic, it can downright wreck your mental and spiritual health. Learning to reduce and cope with both acute and chronic stress will make you happier and healthier.
Your Body's Stress Response
When you're stressed out, your body releases stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. This trigger's your body's stress response, which includes elevated blood pressure, heart rate, respiration, and body temperature as well as muscle tension and perspiration. The longer these stress hormones and the body's stress response are active, the worse it is for your physical and mental health.
The problem is, our days are filled with stressors big and small, from running late or having a fight with the significant other to an unexpected flat tire or overdrawn bank account. Calming down during times of heightened stress isn't easy, but taking a time-out and spending a half hour getting your wits back will help you handle the situation better and prevent the stress from escalating.
Here are five ways to calm down in 30 minutes or less when you're having a stressful day.
- Breathe deeply.
Deep breathing lowers blood levels of stress hormones on the spot. Just five minutes of deep breathing exercises can reverse the body's stress response. Sit quietly, away from the stressor, and close your eyes. Inhale gently and slowly, to a count of eight. Hold the breath for four seconds, then exhale gently and slowly, again to a count of eight. Repeat this until you feel calmer.
- Go for a walk.
A walk will do wonders for your stress levels. Walking is exercise, and exercise stimulates the release of feel-good chemicals known as endorphins, which improve your mood and calm you down. It also reduces stress hormones and leaves you feeling relaxed. Finally, a 30-minute walk gives you space to clear your head, think straight, and formulate a game plan.
- Cuddle with your pet.
Petting or otherwise snuggling your furry friend has been shown to reduce the body's stress response and trigger feel-good chemicals in the brain. Not only are our pets soft and sweet, but they reside in the present moment, and they can bring us to the present, too, where the ceaseless chatter quiets and all that exists is your face in Fido's sweet neck.
According to Harvard University, research shows that meditation not only reduces stress, but it also helps your body respond to it better in the future. A half hour of daily meditation can help you calmly weather life's big and little stresses, and it helps to improve your mood. In fact, for some people, meditation is as effective as medication for treating depression, according to Harvard.
- Make some art.
Creative hobbies are potent stress reducers. When you're engaged in painting, sewing, cooking, or just coloring in a coloring book, your brain waves achieve the relaxed Alpha state, and you're calm and content. Make a point every day to do something creative that you enjoy to reduce stress and improve your quality of life.
If your stress is unmanageable, a therapist or life coach can help you work to reduce stressors in your life as well as help you learn to cope with stress in healthy ways. As always, a healthy diet and adequate sleep will help reduce your stress and keep your immune system in good shape to help you better weather it without adverse effects down the road.