Although stress is a natural part of life that tends to come and go, some people may find it difficult to calm down in stressful situations.
If a person's stress or anxiety levels become chronic or overwhelming, they may wish to speak to their doctor.
There are also several steps that people can take to calm down in tense or stressful situations, as well as ways to help prevent and reduce stress.
Keep reading for some tips to reduce stress and anxiety and calm down.
1. Try diaphragmatic breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing may help calm a person down.
Deep breathing is one of the most common recommendations that healthcare professionals give to help people calm down.
However, how a person breathes is more important when trying to calm down than simply taking deep breaths.
According to the authors of one 2017 study, diaphragmatic breathing might help relax the body. During the study, one group of participants did diaphragmatic breathing, while the other group received no treatment at all.
At the end of the study, the breathing group had lower cortisol levels and better attention levels. Cortisol is a hormone commonly linked to stress.
Diaphragmatic breathing involves pushing the stomach out while inhaling. The chest should not expand during this type of breathing technique.
Because it can take some getting used to, a person should practice the technique of breathing through their diaphragm when they are calm, so that they know how to do it when anxious, upset, or stressed.
2. Chew gum
It may seem like an odd suggestion, but chewing gum while multitasking may help reduce stress and improve mental clarity. Two studies both found positive results from chewing gum while multitasking and under stress.
In research from 2016, people encouraged to chew gum when stressed experienced:
- improved mood
- reduced stress at work
- reduced anxiety
- reduced symptoms of depression
An older study, this time from 2009, found that people who chew gum might improve a negative mood and increase their feelings of calm.
The researchers were not sure what caused this reaction, but they theorize that it could have been due to increased blood flow to the brain.
Negative feelings can often feel toxic when people ruminate on them. However, there are some studies that suggest that recording their thoughts can help a person process negative emotions.
In fact, according to some 2017 research, expressive writing may help reduce both physical and psychological symptoms.
The study authors worked with 66 healthcare workers who journaled about important traumatic, emotional, or stressful events for 20 minutes each day. They revealed that journaling had a positive impact on their coping strategies and improved their communication and cognitive abilities.
Some people find writing in a journal useful, while others take notes on their phone if they are out and about. When someone is upset with a loved one, for example, it can help to write that person a "letter," but without sending it. This might help clarify a person's feelings and calm them down.
4. Listen to music
Many people feel that listening to music helps calm them down when they are stressed or upset.
According to one study, music is effective in reducing a person's psychological response to stress. The body may produce fewer stress hormones and the nervous system may recover faster after exposure to stress.
5. Practice yoga
Yoga involves both the body and the mind. Its popularity is due, in part, to its health benefits for the individuals practicing it.
For example, according to one study, the benefits of yoga for people who need help calming down include:
- reducing stress
- lowering anxiety
- improving depression symptoms
- lowering chronic pain
Other health benefits of yoga include:
- enhancing strength
- improving flexibility
- promoting cardiovascular health
- improving well-being and quality of life
- improving sleep patterns
People can try joining a yoga class to learn the proper poses and routines. There are also many videos freely available online, including this one, which teaches a calming routine:
When they are feeling stressed or upset, people who find meditation calming may wish to find a quiet space to do a brief meditation session.
According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, several studies support the use of meditation as part of a healthful lifestyle.
However, they warn not to replace traditional medications, such as those for anxiety or depression, with meditation alone.
In an immediate stressful situation, there are several things a person can do to help themselves calm down. For example, they can:
- walk away from the situation
- get some fresh air
- go for a short walk or run
- pause for 5 minutes before responding to the situation
These methods may not be possible or effective in every situation. However, they may help a person reduce their stress or calm down in the short term.
Once a person feels a little calmer, they can get back to the task at hand.
Some methods that can help a person calm down may also stop them from feeling as though they have lost control.
For example, regularly practicing yoga, meditating often, and journaling can all help prevent stress and anxiety from becoming overwhelming.
People should also make sure that they get enough sleep each night, and that they eat and drink enough throughout the day. This is important because exhaustion, hunger, and dehydration can all make a person feel irritable and stressed.
When to see a doctor
A person should speak to a doctor if their anxiety is interfering with their daily activities.
A person may wish to speak to a doctor if their feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression do not subside with time or are overwhelming.
It is important to speak to a doctor if:
- a person's anxiety is interfering with their daily activities or work
- they cannot control their worries, fears, or anxieties
- they are using substances such as alcohol or drugs to calm down
- their inability to calm down is putting other people at risk
There are many ways to both calm down and potentially prevent stress, including diaphragmatic breathing, writing things down, and even chewing gum.
It is normal for a person to go through stressful periods in their life. However, these should be short lived. If this is not the case, or if the symptoms seem overwhelming, the person should speak to a doctor for advice and treatment.