Cheryl's Blog

4 quick ways to calm yourself down

It was 3am when I awoke with a start, stress hormones surging through my body. I had been dreaming about being in Iraq trying to help people escape a warzone. When I opened my eyes, I felt pain in my heart and immediately thought, How do you live as a conscious human being and not feel affected by what’s happening to everyone?

Lying there thinking about the people of Ukraine and so many others who suffer around the world, my anxiety was palpable. Attempting to settle myself, I turned to the practices that always help.

I’m sharing these tools, some of which we use during our Zoom gatherings because even one can make a big difference when you feel upset. Give it a try…

Close your eyes. This simple action causes the brain to begin making more alpha waves – waves that induce a calm, relaxed state. When you remove visual stimuli, the brain becomes a powerful ally. So, the next time you feel anxious, panicky, or overwhelmed, close your eyes. Then, turn to the next tool.

Breathe yourself back to center. Take several slow deep breaths through the nose and then exhale even more slowly out through the nose. Gently, over time, do your best to extend the exhale as you breathe. This way of breathing engages the parasympathetic nervous system which helps to lower cortisol levels and slowly relax the body.

Sing. Yes, singing a song – preferably a simple one like Row Row Row Your Boat, Happy, or the chorus from Yellow Submarine, can help to reduce anxiety and even stop a panic attack. The act of singing can shift you out of the neural network that’s generating fear. Think of it as moving the needle on a record to another song.

Cry. This last tool is important. We hold so much stress and tension in our bodies, often without realizing it, and allowing ourselves to have a good cry is a powerful way to release pain.

That’s exactly what I did after waking from my dream. I spontaneously began to cry and when I did, I realized that I had been holding in strong feelings for days. My heart softened and the pain I felt when I awoke from the dream disappeared. Crying is a healthy, emotionally intelligent response to overwhelm and suffering and it will almost always leave you feeling better.

Finally, I know you’ve heard this before, probably many times, but it’s worth repeating: If you frequently ingest upsetting news, you are forming “trauma tracks” in your brain that may eventually make you sick. Emotionally powerful visual images and stories build equally powerful neural networks that will keep you feeling frightened, helpless, and anxious. The goal is to build better pathways that allow you to help others, spread love, and be a model for peace and understanding in your community.

I hope you’ll join us this week for our Zoom gathering on Wednesday at 4pm ET/1pm PT. We have a pretty amazing community of folks working together to create peace both inside themselves and in the world. You can join us by registering here.


PS – The “Self Care by the Sea” retreat is sold out. If you’d like to be added to the wait list, you can do so, here.


Photo by RKTKN on Unsplash