8 ways to feel calmer quickly

Everything feeling a little too much? Here are our expert tips on how to quickly calm yourself down when you need it most.

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We’ve all had moments where things seem to get on top of us all at once, and stress suddenly feels too much to handle. In times like these, knowing how to lower those stress levels and calm ourselves down is crucial.

In order to access calm speedily, you need to activate your parasympathetic nervous system, says Calm Coach Gabrielle Trainor. ‘This tells our brains and body that we’re not in immediate danger and can come out of survival mode, which lowers heart rate and blood pressure, and relaxes the muscles.’

Try these simple techniques when you want to switch off the stress response in an instant…

Perfect your posture

Simply changing your posture and body language can directly impact how you feel. If you want to feel calm and confident, practise looking like you are – open-chested, head up, back straight.

When we’re stressed or worried, we tend to hunch and make ourselves smaller, which constricts our breathing, making us feel more panicked.

Write it down

A journal is one of the easiest ways to improve self-awareness, because you can look back at what you were feeling at a certain time, in your own words, and notice the things you’ve worried about, and reflect on how they turned out.

The simple act of writing it down also helps to stop rumination, leaving you feeling calmer.

Feel all the feels

Try making a playlist of songs that make you feel a whole range of emotions – from happiness and excitement to sadness and longing.

‘Use these different songs to help you become more comfortable with the array of emotions that you feel, so that when they come up at other times, you’re less uncomfortable with them,’ says Dr Meg Arroll.

Exhale your worries

This easy breathing exercise will make you feel calmer after just a few breaths. First, notice where you can feel your breath most clearly enter and leave your body – it could be your nose, your chest, or your stomach.

Focus on that place and try to breathe a little more deeply into that spot, and to slow it down. ‘When we’re tense, we breathe using only the top of our lungs, and when we’re scared, we can gulp in air, so make sure you’re fully exhaling as well as inhaling,’ says Treanor.

If it helps you to focus, you can breathe in for a count of four and breathe out to a count of six. As you breathe, try visualising that you’re inhaling calm and exhaling worry.

Let nostalgia soothe you

The things that remind you of times when you’ve felt safe and happy can help bring you back to a calmer place again. Dr Arroll recommends playing music, looking at photos, seeking out smells, or reading an old diary.

You can also practise making a memory in the moment by noticing as many details, emotions and sensations as you can while you’re experiencing something. Make a compliments jar Every time someone gives you a compliment, jot it down on a piece of paper and pop it in a jar.

‘You could also write down qualities you like about yourself, or ask a loved one what they value in you,’ says Dr Arroll. ‘Think about minor achievements, too – finishing a piece of work, tackling a difficult conversation.’

When you’re having a tough day, close your eyes and grab a compliment to brighten your mood and build your confidence.

Go to your happy place

Picture in your mind a place that represents beauty and peace. Experience everything you can about this place (the colours, sounds, and smells), and enjoy the tranquillity it brings you.

Choose a word that you associate with this safe place – maybe ‘calm’ or ‘joy’ or ‘peace’, or something else of your choice. Say the word out loud a few times. Finally, tap each thigh alternately with your hands in a slow rhythm for about 20–30 seconds.

‘This is a technique called bilateral stimulation,’ says Owen O’Kane. ‘Your imagination has gone to a calm place and your chosen word reinforces that. The act of tapping is a further physical reinforcer, which sends a message to your brain that you don’t need to be in “threat mode” any more. The tapping rhythm creates a sense of ease and facilitates the grounded feeling.’

Scroll through your senses

‘When you focus your attention on something real and in the moment, it brings you out of the thoughts that are spinning through your head when you’re overwhelmed,’ says Treanor.

To do this, scroll through your senses by naming (out loud or silently to yourself) one thing you can see, one thing you can hear, and one thing you can touch, feel, and taste. Do this again and keep scrolling through your senses, naming one thing at a time.”

Read more: Secondhand stress: how to stop absorbing other people’s anxiety