How to keep calm

Heartbroken or worried? Stress to the max? Good’s wellness columnist and expert Rachel Grunwell has some ideas to help you out 

Are you heartbroken or worried? Stressed to the max? Perhaps your job security feels like it is on quicksand? Or are you simply someone who ruminates and finds it difficult to shift your mindset to a sunnier, brighter outlook?

Everyone can struggle to feel centred at times; life can be tough. I was recently so worried about a loved one that my heart raced almost at marathon pace. I could barely breath and my shoulders were so hunched they almost reached my ears. My head was all over the place.

When you face challenging times, talk to people who can genuinely help and uplift you.

I used a combination of strategies to cope including several of the ones I’ve listed here, which helped me to harness inner calm. I hope some of these strategies resonate with you and help you too (or someone you love).

1. Breathe Take time to stop, be still and take 10 long, slow breaths whenever your heart races. If I’m at my desk, I do this while sitting during breaks. But it is wonderful also to stand and stretch my arms up to the sky (on the inhale of breath) and then bring my arms down by my sides (on each exhale). This can feel invigorating and this is a yoga strategy I teach. Even better, do it outside in the fresh air.

2. Seek out the right friends When you face challenging times, talk to people who can genuinely help and uplift you. Avoid those who will spin you more out of control and into negativity. When you feel in crisis, some friends are better at helping you cope than others.

3. Mindfulness Mindfulness is a research-based tool that is useful for coping with life stresses which is something I truly recommend. Clinical psychologist Dr Natalie Flynn explains how mindfulness works: She says that our instinct can drive us to “run away” from thoughts and feelings that feel uncomfortable. But she recommends we instead do the opposite. Mindfulness is essentially learning how to notice and evaluate what we think and feel and then calmly approach what to do next with “a wise mind”. So rather than reacting on impulse to a situation or emotion, we should rather look at it carefully and respond “skilfully”. “It’s an effective way for most people to tolerate and respond to emotions, thoughts and situations,” she says.

4. Arm yourself with aromatherapy My friend Emma Mildon – best-selling author of The Soul Searchers Handbook – recommends chamomile oil to help soothe anxious, overactive minds that may lead to trouble sleeping or exacerbate depression. Other relaxing oils include valerian, sandalwood, and lavender. She also recommends bergamot, orange, and jasmine oils to help with rebalancing a negative state of mind and these can also lift your mood.

5. Take a dip In Cliff Harvey’s new book The Carbohydrate Appropriate Diet (an evidence-based guide to eating for health and performance), he touches on the calming power of sleep and how this is so important in helping us perform at our best. He also recommends fiction reading, not taking your work home, meditation, turning our TV and phones off on occasion and avoiding caffeine close to bedtime. He also recommends taking a bath, saying a warm bath or shower is relaxing in itself but the primary sleep benefit is the drop in temperature that occurs afterwards. This drop in temperature is another signal that the day is ending and this further increases the release of relaxing hormones (especially melatonin).

6. Have ‘me time’ Take time for yourself to do something you love – like crafting, gardening, baking, listening to music or playing a sport that you enjoy. Nurture yourself with kindness and inject happiness, playfulness and fun into your life. This will help you to de-stress and give the mind a break from challenging thoughts

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