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Ways to Calm Yourself in Times of Stress

Stress from everyday life can take a massive toll on both mental and physical health. The next time you find yourself panicking, try these tips.




  1. Practice mindfulness 

Being conscious and aware of yourself and your surroundings is a great way to remove stress and be present. Try slowly eating a candy, and thinking about how each of your senses are stimulated by it. What does it feel like, taste like, look like, and smell like? It might feel silly, but once you’re done, odds are you’ll feel more centered and less panicked. 



2. Create something 

The human brain isn’t capable of being creative and being in panic at the same time. Creating something, whether it’s a poem, a drawing, a painting, or a song, is an effective way of almost forcing your brain to exit panic mode and calm down. Not only can this help you ground yourself, but you may discover a new hobby you enjoy, which is great for your overall mental health. 



3. Focus on something that amazes you

Similar to how the human brain does not allow you to panic and create something at the same time, it also isn’t wired to allow you to be in panic and in awe at the same time. Try listening to beautiful music, spending time in nature, looking at artwork, or learning about something fascinating. Once you feel a sense of awe, you’ll no longer be panicked. 



4. Try square breathing

Try an exercise called “square breathing:” breathe in for four seconds, hold it for four seconds, breathe out for four seconds, hold for four seconds, and repeat. You can also try breathing in for seven seconds, holding for eight seconds, and breathing out for ten seconds. When we exhale or hold our breath, our heart rate slows down. Inversely, when we inhale, our heart rate speeds up. By exhaling and holding your breath for longer than you inhale, you are forcing your racing heart to calm down. 



5. Make “one thing at a time” your motto 

If you’re stressed, your thoughts are probably racing. Racing thoughts in times of stress can make you feel worse — focusing on all of the things you need to get done and all of the things that could go wrong all at once only adds to your stress. Sometimes we run through lists in our heads because it makes us feel in control of the situation, but there is something very calming about resisting this and telling yourself: “I’m taking it one thing at a time.”

Caroline Flynn

Virginia Tech '21

Hi! I'm a Creative Technologies in Music and Psychology dual degree student composed of coffee and grilled cheese. I love all things art, music, mental health, social justice, and I would die for my cats.
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