Humans are pretty amazing creatures and our physiological systems deal with a vast array of situations and circumstances. The rapid adaptations to the current coronavirus crisis have shown that. However, we still need to practise some things and practising calmness has never been more important. The context in which we lived in about 250,000 years ago – when modern humans started walking the earth – is rather different to today. The sense of constant alertness inherent in mankind was originally designed to keep us alive. We had to chase our next meal or avoid being someone else’s tasty treat. This is a far cry from, for example, sitting eight hours a day in an office. Stress is what helps us survive but when adrenaline can’t be consumed through hunting, building shelter, or running away from fierce animals, most people accumulate tension. This prevents them from feeling calm or serene throughout their day.
The response to Covid-19 has forced us into a very different ‘normal’ than we could have imagined a few months ago. We are all having to deal with changing circumstances and many people, their lives and businesses have been affected. That can be stressful enough in itself without the worry about friends’ and family’s health.
Changing our environment by making our physical life less stressful is only part of the solution. As the current pandemic shows, we can’t control everything that happens to us or how others act. However, there are several habits that we can introduce to our daily life that can help us achieve a greater feeling of calmness.
Practising calmness need not involve yoga poses, mantras and floaty robes (although if you find these useful – go for it!). Calmness practise can be more about our inner thoughts and actions. Here are a few ideas for introducing calmness practise into your day.
When something stressful happens people often act irrationally. They feel angry or overwhelmed while others start to feel sorry for themselves and wish things were different. A key step to calmness is to become aware of how we react to situations. We can then work to replace our unhelpful coping habits with healthy ones. These include breathing deeply and regularly, drinking some water, walking, talking to a friend, rolling your shoulders etc.
If someone does or says something we don’t like, we tend to interpret this as a personal affront. When someone is rude to us at work, or our children have not cleaned their room, or our partner turns up at 7.30 when you agreed 7 o’clock, try to see it’s not personal. Try to train your brain to interpret their actions and other events in a non-personal way. We can choose to respond to an external event in a stressed way, calmly or not at all. As we all know, we ALWAYS have a choice.
Gratitude is an effective way to achieve calmness but we find it hard to apply to the events of our day. The secret is to swap the complaints about the causes of anger, anxiety, unhappiness, etc. for reasons to be grateful. Regardless of how bad we feel, identifying something to be grateful for never fails to assist us in coping with the challenges of life. It starts with a smile – the simplest habit that has the power to change your life.
Multitasking causes huge levels of anxiety because you are always worried we should be doing more, or something else. So, we typically email while reading the news, watch videos while cooking, plan our day while tidying up the house. Instead, to instil calmness, we should try to do one thing at a time and learn to trust that we shouldn’t be doing anything else. It takes practice to single-task but try it and see it work wonders. Just drink your tea, just wash your mug, just walk, just talk to your friend, just read. There is peace in just doing one thing while letting go of everything else.
Stress hormones provide us with quick energy in times of danger but have damaging effects on the mind and body when uncontrolled. This chronic stress can by damaging. However, by self-regulating the ‘fight or flight’ aspect of our nervous system, the body stops releasing cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream. This helps us slow down, be kinder to ourselves and, ultimately, reach a better quality of life through calmness.
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