941-462-4807 meg@megyounglcsw.com

calm, peace You know how annoying it is to hear “just calm down” when you are upset or stressed out? Nobody likes to hear “you need to relax” or anything similar to those statements. Most of the people saying these statements are saying them because they are uncomfortable with your reaction, not because it will actually benefit YOU.
However, there is a good reason to stay calm as much as possible. We hear frequently how meditation can keep blood pressure down for example. The more we are able to get ourselves out of the stress response, the more our body will work efficiently with a healthier heart rate, blood pressure, and oxygen flow throughout the body.
Unfortunately, when people tell us to calm down, we often end up feeling defensive and more irritable. This can lead to a very difficult exchange.
The downsides to not being able to stay calm (most of) the time include the physiological effects noted above, but also perpetuate the stress response cycle in the brain. We tend to hold onto negative events more than positive ones as negative events are stored in a way that will “keep us safe.” The more the stress response activates (the more we are unable to stay calm), the more negative events get stored in the brain. This spiderweb of negative events gets harder and harder to control.
For example, let’s say you had a very stressful day at work. You come home and vent to your spouse about it in an animated voice. Your spouse says “relax, you’re home now.”
At the time, it might have felt hurtful as you may have felt misunderstood. You know perfectly well you are home, but you are just spending some time venting. These hurt feelings get stored with the experience of venting a rough day. If you reacted to this statement in a defensive way, that too will be stored with this experience.
The next time you vent, your spouse says “don’t let it get to you so much.” Again, you feel misunderstood and hurt. You don’t feel supported by your spouse. All you want is to vent. You aren’t looking for a solution. A simple “Sounds like you had a stressful day” would be awesome.
This experience, feelings, thoughts, and your reaction gets added to the first. Eventually, the stress response worsens before you even get home because you know it will not be any easier to talk it out, but that’s what helps you.
A few minutes of venting at the end of a stressful day has now become a much bigger source of stress for you and you may feel more out of control than you did several months ago because going home “should” relax you, but it stresses you out instead.
The truth is it is completely normal for this escalation to happen. It is completely normal for you to feel more stressed out in a situation like this. The stress response is supposed to activate when it perceives danger and quite honestly, the limbic system of the brain, where the stress response activates, isn’t able to know the difference between real, perceived, emotional and physical dangers. So a simple issue of venting becomes a big deal.
I get it that you are feeling unsure that it is even possible to stay calm and in control in most situations. However, if we can learn just three tricks, we can learn to stay calm and in control of ourselves in most situations. It is entirely possible to not have the primitive, overprotective limbic system (stress response) maintain control of our actions and feelings.
Keep reading for 3 Tips for Staying Calm, Collected and in Control (Most of) the Time
The biggest downside to not being able to stay calm throughout the day is the toll it takes on us. We are exhausted at the end of the day, we are more cynical, we don’t eat well, and we don’t take good care of ourselves overall. We tend to eat more sugar and carbs when we’re tired to give us more energy. The number of adults with high blood pressure has increased (“Nearly 5 out of 10 adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure, according to guidelines released in November 2017. This proportion is up from 3 out of 10 adults based on categories defined in 2003.” – https://www.cardiosmart.org/Heart-Basics/CVD-Stats).
Additionally, you may find that you have a harder time falling or staying asleep. As our stress response is staying activated longer and more frequently, it is harder for us to settle into a restful sleep.
What time is there for self care? What time is there to go to the gym? What time is there to take a long, hot bath? What time is there to settle into a comfortable chair with a blanket and read? What time is there to let our brains and bodies relax?
Living in a world which is so faced paced can have serious negative effects on us individually, as friends and loved ones, as a culture, and as a species.
Although you struggle with staying calm in a fast paced world, you have the potential to live the life you want. You have the ability to “keep calm and …” whatever catch phrase you want to use. Just because the world is moving at 100 mph doesn’t mean you have to.
When we choose to take intentional action to stay calm, collected and in control as much as possible, there is a possibility for actually finding more time in the day, becoming healthier, raising calmer, healthier children, and living life on your terms.
You have the opportunity to take intentional action and take control of your world in a seemingly out of control world. When everyone else is running around like a chicken with their heads cut off, you have the opportunity to show them just how much more can get done in an effective way when you stay calm.
Right now you might be wondering if this is even possible. Nothing happens overnight. This is a very important point to make. The key to achieving a life in which you feel calm, collected, and in control most of the time is to retrain your brain. Retraining your brain will not happen overnight.
Nothing we do will show the change overnight. Look at the world…we cut down trees in the rain forest and nothing happened immediately, but over years, this had an impact on the rain forest. We built cars which spew emissions into the air, but that wasn’t noticed for years later. Bringing it down, we go to the gym once we aren’t going to lose weight or be able to lift extra weight immediately.
Making these changes is not that difficult, but it does take a mindset to do so. When you set yourself a goal, you want to focus on the why of that goal…but not just a surface why, the deep why. Why do you want to lose weight? So I am not out of breath so quickly. That may not be a deep enough why. Because I want to run around and play with my grandchildren outside. That may be a better why. You’re more likely to stick with losing weight when you picture yourself playing with your grandchildren vs generally not being out of breath quickly.
Keeping mindset in mind, take a look at these 3 tips to see how you can feel more calm in your daily life today.
One of the reasons it is so difficult to stay calm in many situations is the limbic system in the brain (the parts of the brain working together responsible for fight/flight and attempting to keep you alive) perceives danger. This doesn’t mean there actually is danger, just that the limbic system perceives danger.
When the limbic system perceives danger, you end up in the fight/flight. Very quickly, the limbic system realizes there is no danger, but the stress response already activated. Because there is no danger, often what comes out is in the form of “fight” – yelling, arguing, etc.
Furthermore, sometimes you may be “out of control” because logic is the first thing that gets hijacked when the limbic system activates.
This series of tips will take less than three minutes total, and can really take only one minute. The first thing you want to do is as soon as you recognize what is happening, do a self check.
Self check:
– Length of time: 1-5 seconds.
– Process: Body scan – what is tight, hot, etc? How are your thoughts – angry, disappointed, etc.
– Purpose: Recognition – you can’t be intentional with your actions if you don’t recognize what is going on within you
When you do this, you are starting to turn off the stress response. You are recognizing that you are activated, and that is it. It helps you to notice patterns: patterns of when you get activated, what happens to you when you get activated, etc.
This is an important step and one I always take with my clients in session. It is amazing how often we don’t realize that we are activated because we are so used to being in an activated state. Our world is so fast paced. Due to this, we are in a frequent state of stress and don’t realize that our shoulders are up at our ear level, or our teeth are clenched, or we’re holding our breathe.
– Length of time: 18-20 seconds.
– Process: Breathe in to the count of 4. Hold for the count of 7. Breathe out for the count of 8.
– Purpose: Turn logical thought back on
Adding breathing to your life will actually change your brain. There are brain scans that show the physical changes that happen in the brain when we slow down and take deep breaths. It turns on and activates parts of the brain that are not used when we are trying to survive a dangerous situation and allows us to access parts of the brain that we don’t always use.
The effects of breathing are not quickly identified because it takes time to see the small changes. However, as soon as we start breathing slowly and intentionally, we are able to turn logic back on, thus helping us to get out of the stress response.
It is important to remember that the brain will not give up easily. Even though the brain recognized that you are not in danger, the adrenalin has been released and the only thing that makes the adrenalin reabsorb into the body is time.
I frequently use the metaphor that the adrenalin is similar to a blood alcohol level. The only thing that brings the blood alcohol level down is time. The only thing that makes adrenalin reabsorb is time. If you take another drink, the BAL increases again, increasing the amount of time before it is back at 0. If adrenalin is pumped into your body again, it increases the level in your system, thus increasing the amount of time before it is fully absorbed.
Breathing turns on logic so you can think and act with intentionality.
Be present:
– Length of time: 30 seconds – 2 minutes.
– Process: Identify what do you want to do right now. Think – Will it calm or intensify a problem? What option will calm the problem? Act – do what will calm the problem.
– Purpose: Acting with intentionality and doing what YOU want to do and not what survival tells you to do.
Sometimes calming the PROBLEM isn’t possible, so you will need to do what will calm YOU. The only thing you have control over is YOU, so sometimes calming the problem means calming yourself.
These three tips: self check, breathe, be present, will help you to stay calm in most situations because they allow you to react with intentionality, recognizing that when someone says “calm down” maybe you are more activated than you need to be in a certain situation.
Achieving a sense of calm and control in most situations can be a relieving experience. These tips, when done regularly, will make a difference in your every day experiences.
You absolutely can make these changes and reap the benefits. Doing them even once in a while as you build up to each and every time will have a positive effect on your overall feeling of stress.
Meg Young, LCSW, PLLC can help as I recognize how difficult this can be and help you work through the hold your brain has on you as it perceives danger when there is none.
Now is a great time to start practicing these techniques as we go into the Holiday season and there is extra stress which the brain perceives as danger, thus throwing the limbic system into overdrive frequently.
Call me today to get the accountability partner you need to help you meet the goal of staying calm in most situations! 941-462-4807.