How to Feel Calm and Relaxed

Three Parts:Calming Down Quickly During A Stressful EventMaintaining A Healthy LifestyleLimiting Your Stress and Relaxing Regularly

Have you been feeling stressed recently? Having "butterflies" about an approaching exam, a play on stage or while speaking in front of a crowd? Sometimes a bit of stress is unavoidable, but there are several ways to feel calm and relaxed, whether you feel general anxiety often or you have a specific event coming up that you are worried about.

Part 1
Calming Down Quickly During A Stressful Event

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    Take deep breaths. Slowly inhale and exhale. Deep breaths naturally calm your muscles and nerves to relax your body. This can also lower your blood pressure.[1]
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    Distract yourself. It’s easy for your thoughts to run in circles about what could go wrong. Change your thought pattern by:
    • Tracing a figure-eight on the palm of your hand.
    • Counting backwards from 100.
    • Thinking of something funny: everyone in their underwear if you’re performing, a funny joke you heard recently or comic strip that you read, or a funny commercial from TV.[2]
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    Visualize being in a place that relaxes you. Where you imagine may be different for each person, but some ideas are:
    • Imagine being far away on a desert island, relaxing in the sun on the beach, listening to the surf of the waves.
    • Imagine being in a meadow, feeling the breeze, the warmth of the sun, watching the clouds pass by, smelling the sweet aroma of the flowers and grass.[3]
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    Focus. Keeping your mind on the task at hand, on what you’ve studied or practiced, and not on your worries, will help the stressful event to go by more quickly and will make it more enjoyable.
    • If you are taking an exam, take your time. Carefully comprehend each question. Focus on what you have studied and memorized.
    • If you are a sports game, concentrate on what you need to do to succeed in the game. Focus on the strategy you have been taught.
    • If in a play, focus on the lines you have memorized. Watch and listen carefully for your cue. Get into your role and pretend you really are that character.
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    Be prepared. It seems obvious, but the more prepared you are for a certain stress-inducing activity, the more likely you are to do well because you will feel more confident. So take plenty of time to study, to practice your lines, play your songs, or practice the skills you need for your game.

Part 2
Maintaining A Healthy Lifestyle

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    Get enough sleep. Get 7-8 hours each night, or however much you need to feel rested. Not sleeping enough is like a vicious cycle: if you are stressed, you may not sleep well; if you don’t sleep well, you may feel more stressed. If you’re having difficulty falling asleep due to stress, you can:
    • Drink chamomile tea. This is a pleasant relaxant.
    • Avoid bright lights or any noise at least an hour before bed. This includes TV. Spend your last hour before going to sleep doing something quiet, like reading or meditating in dim lights.
    • Stop thinking about falling asleep. Worrying about it can keep you up longer. Let your mind wander. If you still can’t fall asleep, get up and do something un-stimulating (reading) for a while until you feel tired again.[4]
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    Eat a healthy, balanced diet. Eat three meals a day, especially breakfast. Throughout the day you should be sure to have plenty of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins.
    • Eat 6 servings a day of whole grains (whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, cereals, brown rice) each day. One serving is a slice of bread, ½ cup of pasta, cereal, or rice. Avoid the high sugar processed cereals.
    • Eat at least 4 servings of vegetables and 4 servings of fruit each day. Eat a variety of colors and types. Potatoes shouldn’t count as one of your main vegetables. A serving is ½ cup of cooked vegetables (more for raw leaves), a piece of fruit about the size of a baseball, or ½ cup of 100% fruit or vegetable juice.
    • Eat 2-3 servings of lean protein (nuts, beans (black beans, lentils, garbanzo beans), tofu, fish, eggs, poultry) each day and 1-2 servings of low-fat dairy (or calcium supplements) each day. Avoid highly processed salty meats like deli meats and bacon. Eat red meat only occasionally.<rev></ref>
    • Avoid “stress” eating. Unless you’re grabbing some carrot sticks to munch on, don’t mindlessly eat when you’re extremely stressed. Try the things listed in the part “Calming Down Quickly During A Stressful Event” or drink a glass of water instead.
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    Stay hydrated. Dehydration quickly causes headaches and just generally feeling bad, which can contribute to stress. Drink 8 glasses of water (8 oz.) each day.[5]
    • Plain water is best, but you can also drink unsweetened herbals teas and 100% fruit or vegetable juices.
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    Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake. These can dehydrate you and they also contribute quite a bit to stress.
    • Sometimes people drink alcohol as a way to deal with stress, and this habit is not only unhealthy but it is dangerous and can lead to much higher stress in the long run.
    • Caffeine may make you feel alert and good at first, but studies have shown that consuming too much of it does actually contribute to stress because it physically raises your heart rate.[6]
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    Exercise regularly. Working out is a great way to relieve stress and to make you more likely to get enough sleep. Get at least 20 minutes of moderate cardio exercise (walking, swimming, biking, running) at least 3-4 times a week.[7]
    • Also be sure to stretch. It doesn’t quite count as cardio exercise, but it’s important to do if you are exercising regularly because it reduces muscle injury. Stretching makes your body and your mind feel good and is a great stress release.
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    Practice yoga. Many studies have been done showing the health benefits and stress decreasing qualities of yoga. While there are many different types of yoga, most incorporate breathing exercises, meditation, and stretches in for various muscle groups.
    • Yoga can increase your energy, help with weight loss, lessen chronic pain, reduce insomnia, improve athletic performance, and help you gain a positive outlook on life. There’s no reason not to try it![8]

Part 3
Limiting Your Stress and Relaxing Regularly

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    Socialize. Recent studies have showed that spending time with your best friends can help reduce overall stress and also buffer the effects of negative experiences. So pick up the phone and start making some plans to hang out.
    • Make sure the people that you spend time with make you feel good about yourself and are people you can laugh and have fun with.
    • You can do lots of things from this article with a friend! Go to the gym or on a bike ride, go out to eat, do yoga, etc. Or, just go to the movies or to a concert. Anything that gets you out and laughing with friends. [9]
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    Unplug occasionally. This may sound contradictory to the previous step, but it isn’t. Spending quality time with friends is important; being constantly plugged in (available to work, text, email, be on social media) actually is not healthy.
    • Take active steps toward making time where you are unreachable. Some jobs can make this difficult to do, but your lower stress level will make it worth it.
    • Once unplugged, you can spend quality time with people you love, spend time outside in nature, or do any number of actually relaxing things. [10]
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    Get a massage. If you can afford to pay for one, do it. If you have a partner who will give you one for free, try that. Massages are incredibly relaxing and help manage stress. They also can help with lower back pain and a number of other health problems.
    • Be sure to drink lots of water after getting a massage, because toxins in your muscles are released during the process and they need to be flushed out.[11]
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    Take a hot bath. This is something easy and free you can do as long as you have a bathtub! Get some aromatherapy oils or salts (aromatherapy is certain smells that affect the emotional parts of your brain; many of them are specifically for relaxing) and put them in too.[12]
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    Listen to music. Studies have shown that music actually helps people feel happier – even if the music itself is sad! It also affects the same parts of your brain that are associated with anxiety and depression. So make sure that you regularly have some music in your life – at home, in your car, etc.[13]
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    Appreciate what you have. One of the highest contributors to general stress is being worried about what we need, what we want, or what we have to do.
    • People who are able to cultivate an “attitude of gratitude” by taking time out to think about things they’re grateful for experience improved mood and energy.
    • Try keeping a gratitude journal – just a little notebook where you jot down things you are thankful for. You can refer back to it during times you’re feeling down.[14]
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    Think positively about yourself. If you find that you think thoughts about yourself that include words like “never” and “worst,” it’s time to change that. Would most other people you know agree with you if you said those things out loud? Probably not. (If so, it may be time to examine the company you keep).
    • Tell yourself that you are competent and can handle things, and watch your stress level go down.[15]

Article Info

Categories: Calming Techniques | Stress Anxiety and Crisis Management