“In the madness, you have to stay calm.”
Life has a way of amping our stress and stealing our peace. Here are a few of the ways we reclaim calm and work from our rest.
1) Tame the inner critic
A good portion of our stress comes from the constant chatter of our subconscious ego that is always in correction or protection mode. Learning to notice when the critic in you is activated is one way to increase your peace.
Try giving your critic a gentle nod of acknowledgment, then internally or out loud say, “Thanks for looking out for me but I’ve got this.” Increase your capacity for self-compassion and let go of the compulsion toward self-criticism and perfectionism. A “house” divided against itself cannot stand.
” I’ve stayed calm when I’m winning and I’ve stayed calm when I’ve lost…you can’t get too down when you’re losing because in a few days you’ll be in the next tournament and you have to be ready for that.”
2) Go natural
Nature has its own pace and its rhythms are naturally soothing to us. The sounds of a stream, the ocean, or the wind through the trees all have the power to relax us if we tune into them. We know this but we make excuses for not getting out there. We live insulated from the natural world.
Try walking barefoot in a creek. Swim in a fresh water lake. Even if you can’t go to the mountains, you can spend 10 minutes in a park enjoying the flowers and trees. In fact, it might make you more creative. One study showed, even a brief glimpse of the color green can enhance your creative performance.
” I long for the countryside. That’s where I get my calm and tranquillity-from being able to come and find a spot of green.”
3) Bring the outside in
Pick some wild flowers or buy a plant and put it where you can see it. The life inside these will make you smile. Even if you don’t have a green thumb, tending to plants can be a calming pastime. Or simply try this nature meditation:
Get quiet for few minutes, take a few calming breaths and visualize yourself in a field or sitting beneath a great tree. Hear all the surrounding sounds, feel the wind, the leaves, the bark of the tree. Is the air warm or cool? Are you in the shade or the sun? Picture yourself resting there and let your mind be at peace.
“Having plants or flowers in my space makes me feel very calm. Meditation and nature really help me be very clear in the head.”
4) Get in touch
If you don’t own a pet try visiting or volunteering at an animal shelter or pet store or, with their owners’ consent, make more of a conscious effort to stop and pet the dogs that walk by you on a leash. Could someone loan you their dog for a day? The playful interaction will take your mind off your work and worries and remind you how simple, loving and truly good life is.
Take a child to a petting zoo, go horseback riding or check out a local farm that lets you touch the livestock. Or give someone close a good shoulder massage then have them return the favor.
“The ideal of calm exists in a sitting cat.”
5) Keep looking up
Go outside, find a comfortable spot and simply enjoy the sky. Allow the child in you to play a little game of finding random shapes in the cloud formations. How many shades of blue do you see? Try to stay with it for several minutes. Let your imagination go. Sitting under a wide night sky can be deeply calming.
6) Close your eyes
Allow yourself the luxury of a nap after work (or at work if you can swing it – Thomas Edison kept a cot in his laboratory and often claimed new ideas came as he was drifting in and out of sleep.) Give yourself the gift of an extra hour of sleep several times a week.
Because it’s so simple and we do it every day we often forget how soothing a good sleep can be. Exchange your old pillowcase for a new silky one. Put up a hammock and suspend your cares as you rest. Or just sit in a comfortable chair to rest your eyes and quiet your mind.
“Night, when words fade and things come alive. When the destructive analysis of the day is done, and all that is truly important becomes whole and sound again. When man… grows with the calm of a tree.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
7) Reconnect with an old friend
Is there someone you’ve lost touch with or haven’t seen in awhile that would feel like a breath of fresh air if you talked to them? There is a solid anchoring in the familiarity of old friendships. They remind us where we’ve come from and they allow us to tell our stories again and again. Try making a list of 5 people that make you feel happy and write a note or text to thank them for the gift they are to you.
8) Be air aware
When we’re anxious our breath becomes short and quick. Deeper, slower breathing is the simplest natural relaxant there is. Inhale slowly through your nose and count to four. Hold it for a few seconds and then count to four again as you exhale. Repeat several times. Note the difference in your body and mind. Practice this several times a day or anytime you experience anxiety or stress.
I’ve got to keep breathing. It will be my worst business mistake if I don’t.
9) Tune in
Collect pieces of peace boosting music that speak calm to you. Turn to the classical music station on your car radio or click on some type of slow instrumental or “spa music” at various times of the day. Calm music can lower your blood pressure and reduce the stress hormone cortisol. Think about doing this before you go into potentially stressful situations.
“I love to have a bath with beautiful, relaxing music on and have no rush to do anything. It’s a wonderful indulgence, and it helps me to calm down and stop my mind running overtime.”
10) Mark it up
Even if you don’t think of yourself as an “artist” coloring pages have been found to be calming and soothing. The practice of quiet concentration allows you to rest obsessive thinking & release undo pressure. Coloring books are even at the grocery store now. Free pages can be printed off the internet. Try this pastime that was once thought only for children and allow it to renew you.
“The pursuit, even of the best things, ought to be calm and tranquil.”
Marcus Tullius Cicero
11) Cool your apps
Many of us have productivity or connectivity apps but we all need at least one app on our device that contributes to our peace. Some of these apps offer meditations. Some teach mindfulness. Some play music. Take a few minutes and look for one you will use regularly.
“Getting stress out of your life takes more than prayer alone. You must take action to make changes and stop doing whatever is causing the stress. You can learn to calm down the way you handle things.”
12) Stop everything
The hardest thing for a human to do is to sit still in a quiet place. We are often afraid to be alone. Yet sitting silently in the Presence of God, absorbing his continuous, radiating love for us is the most peace-giving practice of all. In this place we aren’t looking for an insight or even an experience-though that often happens, it’s not the point. We are simply showing our intent to know ourselves joined to the Spirit of God.
We sit in the lap of Love. We soak in the beautiful truth that God is present to us every minute and in the silence we experience ourselves being present to God. Start with 5 minutes a day. In the stillness, practice being aware of yourself being lavishly loved as you are.
Resources for Keeping Calm
Coloring Books–Check out the coloring book Caron created called My True Colors: Keep Calm and Color On. Click HERE.
For help Practicing Silence & Solitude: Our dear friend Ruth Haley Barton has an excellent little book we have used for practicing Christian meditation- Invitation to Solitude and Silence: Experiencing God’s Transforming Presence. Click HERE.
Calm by Michael Acton Smith has hundreds of great ideas for more peaceful living. CLICK HERE.
Centering Prayer App. Found in both Apple App & Android App stores for free. This is a great meditation app and silence & stillness app.