If you’re looking for tips to help you stay calm in a stressful situation, we’ve got 9 ideas to help. Whether you’re navigating a particularly challenging situation, or you’re going through a phase in your life where multiple life stressors seem to be pulling at you all at once, we’re sharing our best short-term calming strategies as well as practical ideas for keeping stress at bay over the long haul.
How to Stay Calm in a Stressful Situation
A small yet often overlooked tip that can help you stay calm in a stressful situation is to simply breathe. Deep breathing is one of the most effective strategies for anxiety relief, and while it takes practice, it can help you center and ground yourself in difficult times. To start, find a chair to sit down in and put your arms on the armrests. Take a deep breath in through your nose, lasting for about 5 seconds, hold your breath for 3 seconds, and breathe out through your mouth for 7 seconds. Repeat 10 times, and as you get more comfortable with the technique, you can repeat up to 20 times.
If you find it difficult to calm your breathing on your own, the Headspace app has tons of great mini-meditations for moments of panic, stress, and a anxiety. Give it a try!
2. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW?
If you’re stressed or anxious, acknowledge the thoughts and feelings you are having, and then ask yourself: is there anything I can do right now to make this better? If the answer is yes, take action! Do the things you need to do to gain control over the situation and reduce your anxious thoughts so they don’t fester. If the answer is no, give yourself permission to let go. Remind yourself that no amount of regret can change the past, and no amount of worrying can change the future, and channel your energy into something more productive instead.
3. WRITE IT DOWN
Another great tip that can help you stay calm in a stressful situation is to do a brain dump. It can be very easy to become overwhelmed when emotions are high, and taking 5-10 minutes to write down all of the things that are competing for your time and attention can be so helpful. Identify which items need to be addressed today and which ones can wait until tomorrow, and consider which items can be tabled for another time or abandoned altogether.
If you’re struggling to stay organized and focused, consider using a tool like The Productivity Planner to help you identify your most important tasks and stay accountable without feeling overwhelmed.
4. CHALLENGE YOUR THOUGHTS
If you want to know how to stay calm in a stressful situation, another helpful tip to try is to get into the habit of challenging anxious thoughts as soon as they occur. When you feel those familiar feelings of stress and anxiety creeping up, ask yourself:
- Are my worries based on fact or speculation?
- Are these thoughts and feelings helping or hurting me?
- Will this matter a week, month, or year from now?
- What is the worst that can happen?
- If the worst did happen, could I cope with it?
- What ONE thing can I do right now to feel more in control?
5. DESIGNATE ‘WORRY TIME’
If you want to know how to stay calm in a stressful situation that you have little to no control over, it can be really helpful to set time limits on your worries. Whether you’re anxious about something that is happening in the present, or stressing about something that may happen in the future, it can be really helpful to set some boundaries for yourself. Set a timer on your phone, and be deliberate with how you use that time. If you’re trying to make a decision about something, write a list of pros and cons. If you’re obsessing over something that’s making you anxious, use the time to challenge your negative thoughts. The point is to limit the time you spend overthinking things outside of your control, and to use that time brainstorming solutions and/or putting your mind at rest so you can move forward instead of getting stuck.
6. TAKE A BREAK & CHANGE YOUR SCENERY
Yup. I’m serious. If you’re trying to figure out how to stay calm in a stressful situation, sometimes the best thing you can do is allow yourself to take a break. This might sound counterintuitive, especially if you’re feeling overwhelmed and as though you have a million different things pulling at you, but the time away will help you clear your mind, allowing you to feel more relaxed and rested so you can focus on the things that matter.
Keep in mind that taking a break doesn’t need to be an olympic event. Walking around your neighborhood, calling a friend, or enjoying a warm cup of coffee while looking out the window can all help you feel more grounded.
If you are prone to feelings of stress and anxiety, you probably have a habit of trying to do all the things in an effort to distract yourself and feel more in control over your situation. This is a very normal coping mechanism, and while it may be helpful in the short-term, it can cause you to feel burnt out and overwhelmed over time. If this sounds like you, I challenge you to designate some of the items on your never-ending list of things to do to others. Assign age-appropriate chores to your kids (CLICK HERE for a list of ideas by age!), outsource the things you don’t have time for, and stop sweating the small stuff.
8. STAY GRATEFUL
While I’m not really one to write my feelings down on paper for all the world to see, The Five-Minute Journal has been a life-changer for me. It’s a simple yet powerful tool you can use to train your brain to start and end each day with feelings of gratitude, and if you’re trying to figure out how to stay calm in a stressful situation, I highly recommend it. It only takes 5 minutes to complete, and it forces you to see the positives even when things are challenging and stressful.
You can learn more about The Five-Minute Journal and why I rave about it so much RIGHT HERE.
9. TALK TO A PROFESSIONAL
As much as these ideas can help you stay calm in a stressful situation, there may come a time when you’re so overwhelmed with worry that you just cannot cope with your feelings on your own. And that’s okay! If you’re struggling, I urge you to get help. Talk to your doctor about your concerns and ask if he or she can recommend a therapist to help you find ways to relieve stress within your means. As scary as this may sound, it’s essential that you learn how to take care of yourself, and it can be extremely therapeutic to unload your worries onto a stranger.
If you’re trying to figure out how to stay calm in a stressful situation, I hope the tips and ideas in this post prove useful to you. Remember to practice deep breathing to calm your mind, to control the things you can and let go of the things you can’t, to challenge anxious thoughts and practice daily gratitude, and to take a break and speak to a professional if and when you need to.