Ten ways to stay calm

Although the meta-narrative (most-seen/told story) around the holiday season is one of cheer and familial bliss – there are many people with other experiences (see forum), this post is for you.

Maybe you’re living far from family, experiencing stress around finances, strained relationships, loss, grief, anxiety, depression, isolation, unresolved trauma, work, illness, or another specific situation…

Know that you’re not alone and there are useful numbers at the end of this post.

Know that however big feelings are (and they may be heightened during this time), they are feelings, and feelings pass. This time of year, like all other times, passes.

Using tools to remain in the present moment (a.k.a “grounding”), may sound like the opposite of what we want to do, during particularly challenging conversations, moments, or events. Indeed, the body has natural instincts to take us elsewhere (flight responses), that were more useful when there was a need to literally run.

By coming back to the present, in stressful moments, there is a better chance of making appropriate, safe, healthy choices and responses, in the moment, that will protect us, and keep us aligned with our integrated versions of self.

Grounding (when space to yourself)

– Hand on Heart: place one hand on your heart and take a deep breath (this soothes the vagus nerve and brings us into parasympathetic rest & digest mode)

– Shake Your Body: put on rhythmic music & shake your body! stress-release through shaking is a natural stress-release that animals also use (more in another post)

– Stomp and Chant: in facilitator training we used the chant “I am here. I am me.” followed by placing two palms towards each other – as one becomes more grounded/present the palms will become closer. Repeat until palms touch.

Grounding (when with other people)

– Sit Bone: staying seated in the chair shift weight from one sit bone to the other and back again. This shifts your mind’s focus to the present and the body.

– Heel and Toe: Staying seated in the chair: slowly shift weight from the heel to the toe of your foot and back again. Similarly, shift’s the mind’s focus to the body.

– Senses: Tune into background noise- see if you can silently hear and name 5 sounds that are present in the background. Followed by 4 things you can see. 3 things you can feel on your skin. 2 things you can smell. 1 thing you can taste.

Ways to moderate the need to leave

Sometimes by coming into the present moment one realises that the safest place is somewhere other than here. If that is the case here are some ways to excuse yourself, without increased stress.

– ‘Is there a bathroom?’ Most obvious one, oldie but a goodie. Take a time out in the bathroom and do some of the grounding exercises above.

– ‘Excuse me, I’ve got to get going’ Also pretty obvious, but a good one to use instead of an apology or an explanation that isn’t necessary.

– Interrupt an intrusive conversation: change to a safe topic, ‘How interesting. Watching anything good lately?’

– ‘I’m needing [insert need]’ If it’s safe to communicate directly, using our needs/feelings can be effective (see Non-Violent Communication)

Other helpful numbers:

Blue Knot

Beyond Blue

Life line

White Ribbon (1800RESPECT)

Coping & Grounding

Please reach out to a trusted person or one of the above support lines if need be!


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