Some simple ways to find calm
Life can be busy, chaotic, and stressful. If you are parenting children, working, dealing with health issues, trying to be a great friend, partner, or family member, or any combination of these, often the temptation is to reach for another coffee or sugary snack when we feel ourselves flagging or overwhelmed. In just keeping going, we hope that everything will get done.
In a world where we are constantly ‘on’ and expected to reply to emails, WhatsApp messages, and texts, it can be extremely beneficial to switch off your phone each week. We all need to use our devices but regularly and purposefully carve out time to switch off – be it a couple of hours, an afternoon, or even a day a week.
Research has shown that digital detoxes will reduce stress, improve sleep, and allow for a more positive life perspective. Switching off our devices means that we are more able to connect with the world – and people – around us, and it also frees up more time. It can also help us take a more mindful approach to our digital lives, which means we will reap many other benefits.
Often we are our own worst enemies and are self-critical, causing anxiety and stress. If you tend to do this, this can affect your resilience, particularly in times of stress. If we are more mindful of our emotions, it means we can notice them but not necessarily engage with them.
It is also important to realise that thoughts are not facts. If you have a negative thought, look for factual evidence to support this and against it to help yourself be more reasoned in your approach. Consider what a friend would say and treat yourself as if you would someone close to you.
Writing your thoughts and feelings down is a proven way to help feel calmer. Keep a journal on your bedside table and every day spend a few minutes, writing down your thoughts and getting any negative emotions out of your mind.
Also, jot down the things that you are grateful for. Gratitude is a powerful antidote in times of stress and on the not-so-good days you can look over what you have written, to see how far you have come. Turn this time into a ritual – maybe when your kids have gone to bed – where you can sit with a warm drink and in a nice spot to reflect on your day.
Get crafty and create a mindfulness jar. All you need to do is take a jar or even plastic water bottle and add water, some glycerine (to stop the fall of the glitter), and some glitter. If you want to create something more eco-friendly, beads or even small pieces of Lego also work well. This can also be an activity to do with your kids to show them how their mind works and that even when we experience difficult emotions, they can calm down. When the glitter is shaken up, it is swirling around and we can’t think clearly but as we sit and watch the glitter settle, then we can feel our thoughts and emotions feel calmer and more settled, too.
Every mediation and relaxation technique focuses on breathing and its ability to calm the mind and body. When we are calm, we take slow and deep breaths, which engages the parasympathetic nervous system – this decreases heart rate and blood pressure, preparing the body for rest, sleep, or digestion.
There are various techniques to focus on breathing more slowly. A simple one is box breathing – sometimes called ‘square breathing’. This encourages us to inhale for four seconds, hold for four seconds, exhale for four seconds, and hold our breath for four seconds. Some people find it useful to imagine a box, with each step as a side of the box. Counting whilst visualising the box is a useful way of being more in the moment too, as your mind is less likely to start ruminating on problems if it is engaged with counting the sides of the box.
Georgina Rodgers regularly writes for parenting and lifestyle titles. Her books include Peace of Mind: A Book of Calm for Busy Mums. She is also a mum of two daughters.