Simple Ways to Calm Down During Times of Stress and Anxiety
You can't out-hustle stress and anxiety. Try these techniques to calm yourself down and find inner happiness.
Living in states of anxiety and stress are the norms these days, evidenced by the rise in book sales on mental health. Entrepreneurs admit to being addicted to “the grind” and "the hustle" — some wear it as a badge of honor. It has created what Barnes and Noble calls “The Anxious Nation,” which is great for booksellers but not so great for the rest of us.
As an entrepreneur who, like many, juggle family, wellness and a personal life, I am guilty of arriving to everything “on two wheels,” at the minute the meeting begins and always striving to overachieve at everything I do, be it a project, an event, a workout and even the creative meals I serve my family for dinner. We hustle from Monday to Friday and when the weekend rears its head, we rejoice that the struggle of the five-day workweek is over — until the Sunday Scaries kick in. We accept the struggle as a necessary facet of modern life, but should we? What's at the root of this lifestyle and how can we change it?
The answer lies within.
If we look around, we see an ocean full of “hustlers,” and “busy” people who are competitive and live in a dog-eat-dog world. We believe hustle should equal happiness, and we feel we need to be “busy” or in the act of “doing” to feel effective and satisfied. We speak quickly, we text back quickly and we order many things “to-go” in this world of hustle.
And we are hard on ourselves, usually unhappy with our bodies, or our performance results, and forget who it is that we are trying to please in the first place. Are we truly connecting with our hearts? Are we listening to our breaths? For most of us, no.
I began practicing yoga more seriously than “just for stretching” about 10 years ago, just after my first child was born. Through lessons from expert yogis who focus on breath work and meditation, I learned to look inward. When we look for self-help, we look outward – we look for self-help books, we reach out to therapists and even more prevalent now, we express our feelings over social media, and tell the world what we are going through, looking for validation, support and affirmation. We are dependent on others, and that’s okay, but in doing this, we have lost connection with ourselves – our hearts, our breath, our minds.
Try this one-minute breathing exercise.
A technique called "Box Breathing" is a great way to start and helpful for managing stress: inhale for a count of 4, exhale for a count of 4, pause at the bottom of the exhale for a count of 4, and repeat. This deep breathing exercise has been shown to be a powerful stress reliever and effective for improving concentration and is touted by everyone from athletes to Navy SEALS.
Practice getting in the right mindset.
While some days may be better than others, our mantras shouldn’t be “The struggle is real!” A couple of mental tactics that can help ease anxiety during the workday include expressing gratitude and resisting perfectionism. So for example, recognize the people and opportunities around you that are lucky to have, from the most simple things like good office coffee to more complex things like a great team and the ability for flexible hours or to work remotely.
With regards to perfectionism, acknowledge that mistakes can happen and use them as learning opportunities. Focus more on what you can control, such as your attitude, how hard you try and the way you treat people. Next time you walk into a meeting, open the door for someone, offer a genuine compliment, or simply listen to someone without looking at your phone. Or better yet, take the meeting outside and make it a "sweatwork" as exercise and fresh air are both stress reducers.
In this “anxious nation” where time flies, we need to take a pause, breathe and look inward. My hope is that in the future, we will have a better connection to our hearts, and our obsession with “the struggle” will be replaced by feeling joy and gratitude, feeling more connected to ourselves, and ultimately, more alive. Because it’s the inhale and the exhale, our very own breaths, that keep us alive, right?