You can do it naturally!
Do you have times in your life when everything and everyone around you seems to be hectic, crazy and intense? Times like – the build up to Christmas, exam time, work hard to meet deadlines times or when someone in your family may be going through a really difficult patch.
If you are a sensitive, empathic soul (rather a bit like me) it’s hard not to get affected by your surroundings. Often in times like these, the tendency is to let go of all those wonderful daily rituals that you developed to keep you calm, clear and cool. You find yourself slipping and very quickly going down into a totally frazzled, wired, panicky state.
So how do you stay stay in a ‘zen’ chilled frame of mind, and let go of the chaos of the world around you, so that it doesn’t affecting you too deeply?
My mother had a little saying she would repeat to me when she saw that I was getting really upset with something that someone had said to me, or done or not done, or simply when I got upset with the state of difficult challenges in our world. She would say to me – ‘Be like a duck! Let your waterproof feathers protect you. You can remain dry, well and warm inside, without letting the wet of the world penetrate you.’ She was, of course, referring to letting all the stresses of life flow past me, without taking them on.
Mmm. Good advice, but how is that done?
Well, after all these years of living, I have developed some answers which work, at least for me. They might be useful for you too.
Here are my 5 top hacks to help you stay calm amongst chaos. I have chosen practical activities you can do, most of which are free, and involve light in some way.
Get your sleep rhythm in order. Get to bed at a fairly early hour, preferably no later than 10 pm. If you have troubles sleeping, turn off all electricity to your bedroom. Make your room dark (or wear some padded eye pads). Have a little red before bed (red light that is, not red wine J).
Why? Sleep is the most important activity you can do for your brain and moods. Your brain flushes out its impurities, regenerates and strengthens itself while you are asleep. Your brain needs to be in top condition to be able to produce all the feel-good and calming neurotransmitters. This includes melatonin, serotonin, dopamine, endorphins and even oxytocin.
All you need for tip one is – good thick curtains in your bedroom (or a decent sleeping eye pad) and a few red light globes in your lamp shades (or some red fairy lights). You do need some discipline too to get to bed early and to remember to switch off all wifi, phones and electric appliances too.
There’s some more light tips that can help your sleep. But I’ll save them for another more in depth article on improving your sleep soon.
Wake up just before or close to sunrise. This should be easy (or easier) if you have gone to bed early, by 10 pm. While you are still fresh to the world, go outdoors, touch some plants. Take your shoes off and connect your bare feet to the fresh grass if you can.
Take a cushion. Or sit on a chair or the earth. Sit facing the rising sun. With eyes open, and looking towards the sun (about 15 degrees below), start to do slow breathing.
Allow each breath to act as a type of conduit to carry the rays of sunlight in through your eyes, deep into your brain. The action of ‘imaging’ each ray going deep into your brain can enhance the effectiveness of this little exercise.
Your brain thrives on receiving this early morning sunlight. Its packed with near infra red rays, which ‘awaken’ the hypothalamus and other centres which produce melatonin, serotonin and dopamine. This is like having a brain tonic each morning. You’ll experience the benefit by feeling more uplifted in moods, calmer through the day and sleepier at night.
Practice slow, controlled and rhythmic deep breathing. You can practice this any time of the day. Its especially good if you are feeling tense, stressed or wound up. I find it useful to remove myself from the source of worry or stress. Taking yourself to a private and hopefully quiet little sanctuary can be very helpful. This might mean taking yourself to your bedroom and closing the door, or going to the bathroom, in your car or maybe outside standing by a big tree.
The exercise goes as follows – Take in a breath deep in to your lower abdomen. You’ll feel and see your tummy rise, not your chest. Continue to breathe in, taking the air to your lower chest. and then allow the breath to fill your upper chest and throat area. Do this in a fluid easy motion. Inhale to an approximate count of 4.
Then hold your breath for about 4 counts. Then release to a count of 4. Once your lungs are empty, once again hold for 4 counts.
This is known as ‘box’ breathing. You can imagine a box shape for your breathing pattern – 4 in, 4 hold, 4 out, 4 hold. Then repeat.
It is one of the best ways to calm an overactive sympathetic nervous system. This can be done any time during the day when feeling anxious or stressed. But early morning breathing can serve like a type of meditation.
One extra tip to add when you’re doing this –
Once you have done this breathing for at least 5 minutes, you will notice you feel very calm. You can make use of this open and calm time to infuse your mind with influential positive thoughts or feelings. While you are breathing, or in the silence after the breathing, you can inject words in to your being with the breath. I suggest repeating words silently while breathing in such as – PEACE, EASE, STRONG, CALM, CLEAR or any quality you desire to imbibe in to your being.. Do this slowly, doing just one word per breath. Repeat it as often as you feel comfortable to do so. The quality of these words will percolate deeply and easily into your subconscious mind.
The act of box breathing primes your brain to enter a state of low alpha waves (a gentle relaxed state) or even theta brainwaves (semi-hypnotic). When your brain is operating at this level, any messages taken into your mind will go deep and far. Try it! It works!
Tip number 4 is unusual, but again, it works.
Humm. Yes, actually hum. This little anxiety hack can be done as a preventative measure (done daily any time during the day) OR as a first aid measure when anxiety strikes. Either way, it works well.
It has been shown that the action of humming has a quietening effect on the vagus nerve of the parasympathetic nervous system. This part of our ‘autonomic’ nervous system is the controller of calm feelings. It is known as the ‘rest and digest’ nervous system. When active, the parasympathetic nervous system keeps us in a calm, quiet, and restful state. When its working well, we feel safe and protected.
So, here is the tip.
First, my suggestion is to prevent anxiety and stress before ameliorating it. In other words, do this exercise frequently through the day. Not only when you feel stressed. This way, you are ‘toning’ and exercising your parasympathetic nervous system regularly, so it can become strong.
Alternatively, when you are faced with a situation which is very challenging for you, take yourself to a quiet and private space. Maybe its the bathroom. Maybe its your car. Maybe its out in the garden. Wherever it is, start humming.
You can hum in different tones. Play around with the octaves, fifths and all sorts of intervals. Or hum a tune you love. Or even do the sounds of Ommm. Making the sound of omm is indeed a form of humming. Just let it flow.
You will feel an instant calm when you start to hum. I sometimes start my meditation with humming when my mind is too speedy and active. It always helps to centre and calm me quickly.
Just for reference, your sexual libido works better when your parasympathetic nervous system is activated. You digest food better. You sleep better. You relax better. And your body can respond better to any form of therapy better when your parasympathetic nervous system is strong and active.
In fact, one study even showed that singing and humming (making different tones from our voice) if performed for an hour a day, was able to dissolve cancerous tumors after regular practice for 3 months! How incredible is that?
So do some humming. It’s free. It’s easy. It has awesome effects. You’ll see!
This last and final tip to keep you calm amongst chaos is another beauty. One of the reasons it’s such a beauty is because it is free, simple and powerfully effective!
Stop. Find someone you feel safe with. Ask for permission if you feel it’s appropriate. And then HUG him or her! Make sure it’s a LONG, extended, real hug.
Loving human contact has an instant calming effect on your whole nervous system. It cannot be under-rated.
Aim to get (or give) at least 5 hugs per day. But they aren’t just any ordinary sort of hug. They are long, lovely and meaningful hugs. Make sure you hug at least long enough to feel your whole body relaxing, letting go and releasing tension. Try it!
So there you are – 5 tips that are virtually free and powerful in effect to keep you completely calm in chaotic times.
But before you go, I will drop one more little tip in to your mind as a ‘teaser’. This is a light technique which is absolutely brilliant in relieving anxiety. I did not mention it earlier as I wanted to give you FREE tips. But, I can’t resist sharing this with you. So here it is.
It’s a system of brain entrainment, using pulsed lights and sounds, through an audio headphone set and special eye glasses. Brain entrainment basically means that you are re-training your brain to pulse at different brainwave rates, depending on your need. If you are stressed and anxious, your brain needs to slow down to alpha and beta waves. If you can’t sleep, your brain needs delta waves. If you have poor focus, learning or low moods, then you’ll need some beta and possibly gamma brainwaves.
There is a whole science backing how the brain is influenced by external input of sound and light. This is commonly known as Audio-Visual Brain Entrainment (AVE). Changes in brainwaves can be achieved quickly, easily and simply by using a system such as the Mind Alive Audio Visual Brain Entrainment system.
I’ll save this topic for another blog to give you more indepth information into this fascinating technique. Something for you to look forward to!
So, to summarise, here are the five free and easy tips to help you keep calm amongst the chaos
- Sleep well (go to bed early, no light, no electronics in bedroom, wear eye pads and expose yourself to red light before bed).
- Rise at sunrise and get early morning light
- Do box breathing
- Humm (regularly and whenever challenged in the day)
- Find a friend to hug (5 long, extended, substantial hugs)
Till then, stay well! And PLEASE apply the tips. They work!