9 ways to feel calmer in under 5 minutes
In today's world of constant news, change and readjustment, it is likely that you are carrying far more tension around in your body than you are aware of. It is natural that we are feeling a sense of group panic, even if you feel fine individually - simply being aware of what is going on around you will likely have engaged your automatic physical response of fight, flight or flop. So here are my top ten tips to help you to feel calmer, more grounded and release any physical tension that you may be unwittingly carrying.
As you may not have much time, in between working from home, occupying your children, or managing 100 zoom calls, I have ensured you can do them all in five minutes or less. So next time you are waiting for the kettle to boil, take a moment just for you.
You need to breathe anyway, so you may as well do it in a way that makes you feel good. Place your right hand over the left side of your chest. Breathe out any excess air so that you can breathe in slowly for a count of four, hold it for three beats, then release slowly for a count of seven beats. Repeat this three times. This will slow your heart rate and physical responses, which in turn will help you to think more clearly and feel calmer.
2) Tense up your muscles and release
Go through each muscle group and tense for 10 seconds, as hard as you can, then release. Start with your toes and feet, move up to your calves and your thighs, then your tummy, your biceps, your forearms, and lastly your hands and fingers. Tense and release. This will help to move tension through your body and offer you a physical sense of relief.
3) Close your eyes
We are looking at screens more than ever. Take a few moments to simply close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths, and because it is probably so unnatural to keep your eyes closed, you've probably opened them already. So try again and hold them closed for a little longer this time. Vary how hard you close them to wake up the muscles.
4) Massage your shoulders
Taking your right hand to your left shoulder, start massaging. Then swap to use your left hand on your right shoulder. The more you do this, the better your flexibility will become and the bigger area you will be able to reach. Spend a few minutes on each shoulder to really work the area and feel the benefit.
Lace your fingers together and turn your palms to face away from you. Reach your arms as far forward as you can, gently pulling your shoulders forward and pushing your back out. A stretch should not hurt so if you feel pain, ease up immediately. If you are feeling good, hold the stretch for a few breaths or around 10 seconds. Release and reverse, so grab your wrists or lace your fingers behind your back and stretch outwards behind you to open your chest and your shoulders. Hold for a few breaths or around 10 seconds. Release and then raise your arms above your head. Stretch up, try not to overstretch your shoulders by breathing into the stretch and focusing on the breath travelling down your body. You can also try to step up on your tip toes. Hold for 10 and then release. Your final stretch is to flex your feet, so standing on one leg, point the toes on your raised foot towards your face and rotate your ankles one way and then the other, then swap feet. This full body stretch can help your body to work through stress and tension you have been carrying around and release it. You will likely feel more awake and more attuned to your body. Your heart rate will slow and this will bring a sense of calm. You might also enjoy giving your whole body a loose shake after the stretches to relax your muscles.
6) Journal with a timer
Journaling takes as long as you have. You do not need to write a novel, you simply need to write. It can be hard to get started so my top tip is grab a pen and paper and to set an alarm for five minutes. In that time, just write constantly. Don't worry about grammar or spellings, don't worry about if it is legible, don't worry about what comes up, just write as fast as you can until the alarm goes. Once the alarm has gone you can decide if you want to carry on, or if you want to stop. Writing is a great way to help you to process emotions that you are feeling but don't have time to think about. Doing little and often can help you to make sense of things quickly and feel more in control of your feelings.
A burst of energy can help to get endorphins flowing, get your blood flowing and leave you feeling reinvigorated. If you can't think of a song to play, or don't have time to think of one, put "Hey Ya" by Outkast on. Even if you don't like it, let yourself dance.
8) Sing or just release sound
Play a song and just sing. Singing has been proven to lower stress and anxiety, elevate endorphins and make you feel happier.
Releasing sound may feel quite odd - it's definitely easier if you are on your own, but it can be very calming as it releases tension like a big sigh. So breathe in, open your mouth and just make any noise that comes out. Do it a few times to really feel the benefit. It may feel ridiculous, but try it. If you get more confident then try to breathe into your tummy and release the sound as loud as you can from there.
9) Mindfulness moment
After the kettle has boiled and you've made your cup of tea, when ready, take the opportunity to really enjoy it by being in the moment. Mindfulness is our ability to simply be in the moment, with curiosity and without judgement.
Have a sip, close your eyes and run through your five senses.
What can you feel? Your body is always connected to something. Can you feel the texture of your clothes, or the weight of your feet resting into the ground, or the weight of your legs pressing against your seat?
What can you hear? Can you hear any appliances running? Maybe birds or traffic, maybe people moving around the house or next door? Focus on noise that goes on in the background that you don't normally listen to.
What can you smell? Can you smell your drink? Can you smell a nearby plant, or an air freshener? Try not to judge what you are smelling but rather focus on staying present and seeing what other smells are there.
What can you taste? Can you still taste your drink?
Open your eyes, take a brief pause and what can you see? Don't look for things to do, just look around you and try to pick out things you don't normally see. Details of colours, shapes, shadows.
You can do this several times throughout the day, anywhere and at any time. Mindfulness has many benefits, such as reduced anxiety and stress, greater focus and concentration, and improved immune functioning. The time will pass anyway, so take it mindfully.
You can try any or all of these methods, perhaps you will find one that really works for you, or a number of them. Remember, no matter how busy your life is, there is always time for you.