When you get yourself in a fluster it can be very hard to calm yourself and to feel normal once again. The reality is though that being upset about something is unproductive and will do nothing other than make you feel uncomfortable – and it can even be unhealthy.
When you find yourself flustered – stressed, panicked, or angry – this means that you are experiencing the ‘fight or flight response’ in which your body is producing copious amounts of adrenaline. This in turn is a stimulant which speeds up your heart rate and uses up energy while placing a strain on your immune system. During this time you might find yourself shaking and you will experience an elevated blood pressure – all of which can make you more likely to suffer from a heart attack or stroke if you have other health conditions, and can make you more likely to feel tired or to suffer an illness such as a cold or flu.
Apart from anything else though, this adrenaline and panic/anger can also cloud your judgment and cause you to make poor judgments. When driving for instance this can make you more likely to have an accident, while if you are running around the house doing something then you are more likely to forget something. If you ruminate allowed on your panicking then you will likely frustrate other people and it’s somewhat antisocial. Finally if you are constantly stressed or angry then this will mean that you are less able to concentrate on what you are doing or to enjoy yourself and it can cause depression and other more serious psychological conditions if you allow it to carry on.
Thus, if you are the sort of person who’s always panicking and stressed you need to think about how you can go about changing this and calming yourself down. Fortunately there are some different ways that you can do this and there is likely to be at least one that works for you. Here we will look at how to calm down in the long term and in the short term.
Remove Yourself From the Situation
The first thing you need to do if you are still around the stressor is to remove yourself from the situation which will likely still be causing you to become worked up. For instance if you are in an argument with someone, then you should immediately leave the room so that they are no longer able to frustrate you. This can prevent the situation from escalating and can give you time and space to collect yourself. If you have a child who is having an argument with another child, or who is having a temper tantrum, then you should act fast by putting them in their room where there is no longer anything to make them angry.
Solve the Situation
Even better of course is to neutralize the situation somehow and to take away what it is that’s upsetting you. For instance if you are stressed out about something ugly in your line of site… just move it.
Realize the Futility
Another important thing to do is to realize that it’s pointless to get angry or stressed if there’s nothing you can do about it. Of course you know that deep down, but making a conscious effort to remind yourself of this fact can make all the difference.
For instance, to go back to the example of road rage – if someone should pull out in front of you or refuse your right of way, then remember that getting really angry inside the car and thinking about it for ages is only going to upset you more. You don’t benefit from this, and it won’t be to their detriment. Remember that rising above it is the best way to ‘win’ in this situation, and that their bad driving is their problem and will ultimately cause them more problems in future. Likewise if you’re worried that you left the oven on while you’re on holiday then unless you intend to fly back… just relax and forget it. And remember that you often think this and that it is actually psychologically unhealthy unless you stop ruminating on the subject.
Another thing to remember is that you’re upsetting other people. If something bad happens and you rant and rave or panic then you turn it into a big issue. The best thing you can do for the people you’re with is to just brush it under the carpet, smile and get on with your day.
See the Funny Side
It’s not always easy, but seeing the funny side in a situation is a great way to deflate it and to feel better. So try to think about how this would look if you were a third party – or even how funny it is that it made you that angry or that stressed.
Slow Your Breathing
Slowing down your breathing is a great way to help yourself relax as when you regulate your breaths your heart rate will follow suit and will also slow down. Concentrating on your breathing also gives you something else to think about other than what made you angry. Other good methods are to just close your eyes and to imagine a point in space, or to try repeating a manta (‘calm, calm, calm’) which focuses your mind on something placating rather than something stressful.
Long Term Solutions
If you find yourself constantly getting angry or stressed then you will need something slightly more permanent as a solution that will address the underlying causes (though the management skills listed above can help a lot too). One method that doctors may recommend is medication and this can help you to feel more relaxed and less stressed throughout the day. However this is not the best idea as these medications can often have a range of unpleasant side effects and leave you feeling detached and drowsy, or even with bouts of nausea.
Better is to use therapeutic techniques of which there are a couple…
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavioral therapy is a form of therapy that focuses on the thoughts we have and how they dictate our emotions and our behaviors. The thoughts here are views like commands in a computer program, and by changing the contents of our thoughts it is thought that we will be able to change our behavior.
This is achieved first through ‘mindfulness’ which means listening to the contents of your thoughts and your ruminations and these will likely be things like ‘I can’t believe I let them get away with that’. Such thoughts are negative, and by being made aware of them you become aware of what’s causing the problem. Then using ‘cognitive restructuring’ you aim to replace those negative thoughts with more positive ones by thinking things like ‘there’s nothing I can do about it now’ and ‘it’s their problem, not mine’.
Biofeedback is a technique used by doctors and therapists that can teach an individual to be more in touch with their body and to eventually learn to control their body more closely. An example of biofeedback is using a heart rate monitor in order to get feedback about your heart rate, and this can be used to teach you to become better at calming down and controlling stress. Simply, you use the heart rate monitor in order to remember to monitor your levels of arousal, and when this gets beyond a certain point you then take steps to bring that number back down. By noting the values on the heart rate monitor you can then notice when you are successful in doing this, and that then tells you how to do it again in future. Eventually you will then know the exact impact that certain stimuli and certain management techniques have on your body, and you will be able to intuitive control your arousal levels at all times without the monitor.
In some cases your anger and frustration may be a result of another underlying cause and using a therapist can help you to get to the bottom of this. If you are stressed in other areas of your life for instance, then this can cause you to more easily fly off the handle when something upsets you in your day-to-day life. In some cases it may even be a physical cause such as chronic pain, in which medication can help you to address the problem.