People, can we talk about how we started to think life was going to go back to normal, and now it’s totally not...like, maybe ever? Parents and teachers are still floundering in the abyss of remote, at home, and hybrid learning. We’re talking about masking like it’s the will they or won’t they plot line from Friends.
That initial two week quarantine is quickly turning into the Self-Transcendence race (that’s a 3100 mile run I found when I Googled “really long marathons”). Nerves are frayed. No end in sight.
So I decided to create something I call The Calm Down Sequence, a checklist for how to calm yourself down. I created this mainly for myself because I need all the help finding serenity that I can get. “Serenity now!”
Here it is. How to calm yourself down as much as is reasonable in the face of unrelenting stress and anxiety.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a huge acronym fan, but this is a good one. When I’m feeling stressed or anxious, my first step is to HALT. That stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Basically, I do a quick self-reflection and ask myself if I’m feeling any of those four sensations.
If I’m hungry, I eat. If I’m tired, I take a nap. Just kidding. I have two young children.
If I’m tired, I tell everyone around me that I’m tired, and they try to steer clear.
It helps to admit how you’re feeling, so you can use the other steps in The Calm Down Sequence to keep your cool.
After I look inside for some answers, I try to remove myself from the situation that’s preventing my calm.
In a perfect world, I take a walk in nature. In a less perfect world, I take a few steps. Like maybe to the kitchen or something. No, not the kitchen. I’m still trying to lose the 20 pounds I gained eating all that banana bread and sourdough in 2020.
The point is that you can’t stop ramping up if you keep doing the thing (or talking to the person) who’s making you ramp up in the first place.
So give yourself some distance. Take a little break. Walk away. Or in a pinch, just close your eyes for a few seconds.
Now it’s time to breathe. I’m already ahead of the how to calm yourself down game when I’ve admitted I need to calm down. It’s even better when I pause for a moment. But taking some relaxing breaths is like a warp zone of tranquility for me.
I like to make my breathing exercises a little silly. This usually reminds me that I’m being silly by getting so ramped up and stressed out in the first place.
I pretend my hand is a birthday cake and my fingers are the candles and blow each one out one by one. Or I exaggerate a yogi master posture and chant “Om” for a moment or two.
It doesn’t matter how you do it. Breathing deeply and intentionally is a great way to calm the heck down when flipping your lid is starting to feel inevitable.
The last step in my how to calm yourself down sequence is to connect. Once I’ve done my self-inventory, paused a moment, and breathed some zen into my breath bags (can this be the new slang phrase for lungs please?), I like to connect with someone, especially if it’s a someone who was stressing me out in the first place.
I might look my daughter in the eyes and tell her how I’m feeling. Or maybe we’ll play a game of monkey see/monkey do or follow the leader.
Maybe I’ll hug my husband and apologize for losing my cool.
The point is to repair whatever harm we did when we were freaking out and to regulate our emotions with someone else, which basically just means rebooting together.
Go Easy On Yourself
Calming down in the face of unrelenting uncertainty and anxiety is well and good, but it’s not always going to happen. A lot of us have reached our limits and are losing our cool more than usual. So I want you all to go easy on yourselves.
Try to be understanding and gentle with yourself. You’re on year two of an unprecedented pandemic. The fact that you’re at all interested in emotionally regulating and managing your stress better speaks volumes about you.
You’re doing your best and trying to keep it together. Which is incredible.
I hope The Calm Down Sequence helps. I know it sometimes does for me.
And that’s as good as we can really hope for right now.