Never in the history of calming down has anyone ever calmed down by being told to calm down. (Anonymous)
How many conflicts would have been avoided or quickly resolved if only people knew exactly what to do to keep their emotions under control in stressful situations?
In moments like that, there’s always someone who’s guaranteed to utter the catchphrase, “Calm down!”, but as the quote above argues, that has never really worked. Because when your emotions are surging at a rate faster than a speeding bullet, it’s not all that simple to just slam on the brakes and expect it to come to a screeching halt. Usually, whoever gets in the way and attempts to stop it would most likely get hurt.
I have personally experienced this, when I got so angry one time at my daughter. Seeing that I was about to blow my top, she asked me to calm down. In my head, I knew she was right — I needed to calm down because I was spiraling down uncontrollably and was about to make an angry fool of myself.
However, I didn’t know exactly how I was going to do that, and so I just let my emotions get the best of me. After the dust had settled, I felt like a complete and utter failure for losing my cool.
“How do I calm down in stressful situations? How do I regain control and pacify my intense emotions?” were questions that lingered in my head for weeks. One thing I know for sure is that when you’re in the heat of the moment, no answer is ever that simple.
Out of a deep desire to be the best version of myself I could possibly be to my daughter, I decided to defeat my own demons. I searched within my soul for an answer to this.
Here’s what I found to be most effective in finding my calm quickly whenever I feel stress — or anger — starting to build up within me.
I Take A C.H.I.L.L. Pill
And here’s how it works…
1. COUNT From 1 to 10.
I wanted to say that “C” stands for “Control” or “Choice” and although both of those sound more empowering, it will still leave you questioning, “Okay, but how do I begin to do that?”. So I found a more practical step to regaining control quickly enough to get you to a head space where you won’t end up making choices you will only regret later on — Count from 1 to 10.
How is this helpful? Because it only takes 10 seconds to…
- Breathe. Take a deep breath in, honoring the emotions that you’re going through, and honoring the events as they unfold before you. Then gently breathe out, letting go of judgment — judgment of yourself, of your emotions, and of the other person. At least for the time being, choose to let go of those emotions that are causing you to tighten up the muscles in your neck and stomach. Let go, for now.
- Assess whether you’re capable of having a grown-up conversation to deal with the issue at hand, or if you need a few minutes to yourself, until you’re sure you have your emotions under control. I had to emphasize the word “grown-up” because I know that intense emotions can (and often will) cloud your judgment. You might think you’re capable of discussing the issue calmly, only to end up throwing propriety out the window and blurt out words you’re not likely to utter in front of your children, or the Pope! If you decide that you need more time to process things in your head, I suggest you do some breathing exercises (as I described in the first bullet point), take a warm bath, lay down, take a quick nap, or …
- Pray or Meditate. A quick prayer never fails — pray for peace, pray for patience, pray for wisdom, pray for a gentle response, pray for clarity of mind, or pray to be teleported to a kitchen somewhere in China and find a cupboard of baby pandas (okay, that one’s probably a bit over the top, but come on… who can resist baby pandas?!). Anyway, my point is that it takes 10 seconds to close your eyes and quickly say a prayer, or to summon the energy you need to achieve peace in the moment.
2. Find HUMOR in the Situation.
“Laughter is the best medicine”, as the old folks love to say. In my own experience, laughter is also the best antidote to anger, fear, sadness, and pretty much any conflict or stressful situation.
A lot of times, a person appears to take an antagonistic stance against you simply because your facial expressions and your body language give away the negative energy simmering below the surface. And that person is simply mirroring the same energy that you are bringing into the encounter.
The positive or funny side of circumstances isn’t always going to be easy to find. However, when you keep a sense of humor — even in the not-so-funny situations — you will find that this almost instantaneously releases the tension. A concoction of humor, pure intentions and impeccable timing is all you’ll need to defuse any potentially explosive situation. Remember, you can’t extinguish the fire by pouring more fuel on it.
3. Be INFORMED.
Make sure you have a good and clear understanding of the facts of the situation before you respond or make your next move. This is where the expression “jumping to conclusions” is most applicable. A lot of people (and I’ve been guilty of it myself) create their own stress by jumping to conclusions without first getting all their facts straight. Making an informed response will not only save your sanity, but the other person (or persons) involved as well.
4. LISTEN… and Listen Until You Understand.
There’s a reason the book of James in the Bible tells us to “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” (James 1:19). This is all about respect. When you take the time to listen to what someone has to say, you’re showing him that he is important to you — that the relationship is important enough to you to give your full attention, listen and understand the underlying hurt behind the issue. When you treat people with this much respect, all anger quickly dissipates.
5. Choose LOVE.
I used to think that the last “L” stands for Logic — that in order to find your calm in stressful situations, you should make a conscious choice to be rational instead of emotional, and try to look for evidence to support your beliefs before you respond. However, I’ve come to realize that there are certain situations where logic alone simply doesn’t help resolve the issue.
Although it can certainly help determine whether something is true or false, logic is not enough to lead to good decisions. It isn’t the best source of wisdom — LOVE is.
When you choose to respond in love, you’re choosing to harness the power you have within you — the power that puts you in command over all your emotions, and allows you to rise above any challenging situation.
Choosing love means…
- Choosing gentleness over viciousness.
- Choosing forgiveness over retaliation.
- Choosing truth over fallacy.
- Choosing light over darkness.
Love is patient, love is kind, it’s not easily angered, it rejoices in the truth, and it never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:4–8, condensed)
I also need to point out that choosing the way of love means loving yourself first — enough to stay true to your values and principles, and to honor and enforce your boundaries. When you start from this space, you won’t make decisions that are not in congruence with your values and boundaries. Therefore, no inward conflict to wrestle against; and when there’s no inward battle going on, you exude a sense of quiet confidence regardless of the chaos around you.
This piece of advice is not only aimed at changing the way you respond to stressful situations and conflict in relationships. It’s intended to save you from unnecessary stress which results to improved mental, emotional and physical health for you, as well as elevate the levels of love and joy in your relationships.
So the next time you find yourself in a stressful situation, this is how you find your calm:
Take a C.H.I.L.L. pill —
- COUNT to 10,
- Find HUMOR in the situation
- Be INFORMED,
- LISTEN, and
- When all else fails, choose to respond in LOVE.
Call To Action
Do you want to know the 20 Guiding Principles every confident woman must live by? Yes? Then download a FREE copy of “The Confident Woman Manifesto”.