Did you know there is a human need for certainty? Your brain craves it; and the lack of predictability right now can easily lead to stress, panic or even boredom. This can cause us to reach for our cell phones to get answers.
In psychological terms, it’s known as requiring “cognitive closure.” Social psychologist Arie Kruglanski coined the term, adding that “individuals’ desire for a firm answer to a question and is an aversion toward ambiguity.”
Ambiguity and uncertainty can lead us to act out of character.
These effects are amplified in an emergency or crisis when many people are finding it difficult to take in the changes that are happening around them.
It can be hard to keep focused and stay calm, but it’s never been more important than now because chronic stress can alter your ability to fight infection. In addition, loneliness can add to the burden placed on your body.
Finding appropriate and natural ways to stay calm in times of crisis will increase your ability to support the immune system, as well as allow you to be more creative.
There are many relevant ways to keep calm; some may resonate with you more than others. The following are approaches that can be used anywhere:
Breath Work (in 4 simple steps)
Breathing is one of the most accessible and easy ways to calm your nervous system in any situation. When you’re panicked, your breath gets short. To counteract this, taking a long deep breath can provide instant calm.
One of the easiest ways is to take a long deep breath into your stomach. Allowing your belly to expand. Follow the simple 4 step breath work process outlined below:
- Breathe in (for a count of 4)
- Hold your breath (for a count of 4)
- Breathe out (for a count of 4)
- Hold your breath (for a count of 4)
Continue this process for as long as you need. You should start to feel calm within a couple of rounds.
Mindfulness (pay attention to your thoughts)
Bring your attention to the present moment. It’s easy for us to get caught up on ideas for the future, or problems from the past -- basically, things that we can’t control. This sort of ruminating process only leads to a domino effect of anxiety turning to panic.
To reverse this process, bring your attention to the present moment. You’ll most likely find that the issues that you are imagining are nothing more than fleeting thoughts. Sometimes these thoughts can perpetuate. In this case, we can begin to perceive the world through a negative lens that behavioral scientists call “cognitive distortions”. Examples of cognitive distortions include:
- Jumping to conclusions
- Mental filtering
Cognitive distortion is more likely to happen when we’re feeling lonely or isolated. To prevent this sort of pattern happening, try to set aside what are called “worry times”. This could look like 15 minutes with a pen and paper to write down things that you’re worried about. Then don’t allow yourself to worry for the rest of the day.
Spend Time in Nature (every day)
Reconnecting with nature can provide instant calm. Many studies have found that just 20 minutes in nature soothes the nervous system. If you don’t have the ability to go out in nature because you live in the city, try gazing at images of nature or listening to sounds found in nature, such as the ocean. One study found that just looking at images and smelling scents of nature can provide a sense of calm and well-being.
Here are five ways to connect with nature in your own home:
- Install a water feature
- Buy/ create paintings of green and blue spaces
- Adopt/ hug a pet
- Take a long bath
- Watch nature documentaries
You may not be able to go to get a massage right now. However, you could ask someone in your family to give you a massage. What a fantastic way to provide much needed connection, while hitting the acupressure points in your body that provide calm. Why not try massaging with Ashwagandha oil to enhance relaxation?
Here are a few acupressure points you should know about:
- The spot between your eyebrows
- Webbed space between your thumb and forefinger
- Base of your wrist, the crease where your hand meets your arm
- Two points on the base of your skull, where your head meets your neck
Holding these points for 30 seconds to five minutes will help release tension in your body, providing a sense of calm, and enhancing sleep. For added effect, you can press these points and massage in a small circular motion.
Unplug (to get relief from the hysteria)
One of the best ways to reconnect with yourself and uncoil is to completely unplug from social media and all devices. Much of our stress can come from other people. There’s a lot of hysteria going around at the moment that can trigger feelings of anxiety and panic. We need to take some time away from the collective stress. Here are some simple ways to unplug:
- Set times where you don’t use any devices
- Put your phone on airplane mode so that you can unwind
- Switch off your phone a few hours before bedtime
- Create a healthy morning and bedtime routine
Creating healthy lifestyle routines has never been more important. Why not switch off your phone a few hours before bedtime. The blue light emanating from mobile phones is stressful for the human body. A healthy bedtime and morning routine can set your day up for success.
Human Connection (to stay healthy)
Connection is one of the most important aspects of human life. We are social beings. In fact, many diseases worsen when a person feels lonely and isolated. Right now it’s important to find different ways to connect with friends and loved ones. Meal times are fantastic if you have your family at home; daily family meals are a great time to bond. You could also incorporate a gratitude practice, to switch your focus, giving you and your family respite from the panic and hysteria. Here are four ways to use technology for connection.
- Meet with family or friends on Skype, Zoom or FaceTime.
- Why not set up a virtual meal - where you eat food together?
- Set up an online family gathering
Face-to-face interactions are better than audio only. So that you can see people's body language, facial expressions and interact quicker. Technology provides a fantastic way to bring us together, especially when we can’t go outside. Loneliness and isolation have been found to increase the risk of contracting illnesses. Therefore, it’s important to take some time to connect every single day.
Create a Daily Routine
Get up, shower and get dressed, even if you have nowhere to go. Decide what time you will get up, and do so every day to create a structured schedule that will help you to make progress in times of uncertainty. Be sure to add an exercise routine, and go to bed at the same time every night.
Here are some tips on creating a daily routine:
- Get up early
- Exercise and keep moving
- Make time for self-care
- Set goals, and make steady daily progress
Sleep is one of the most important factors in ensuring you keep calm in stressful situations. Sleeping in late, can mess up your natural circadian rhythm, which will make it harder to get to sleep. For that reason, get up each day as if you had somewhere important to go.
5 Herbs & Supplements for Promoting Calm
There are several herbs and supplements that promote calm. But before we get into those, it’s important to make sure to eat a balanced diet to ensure that you’re consuming all of your essential nutrients. Filling your nutrient reserves will provide a more stable mental state, as well as supporting the immune system.
Here are five herbs/supplements that promote calm:
Conscious (Cognitive) Reframing
Conscious, or cognitive reframing is critical right now. “Framing” is how you perceive the world, your responsibilities, roles and your thoughts about other people. Right now, our conscious framing is being challenged. Frames of reference can either be positive or negative, and influence all areas of our lives.
When our bodies are in the fight-or-flight mode, it's hard to think straight. This can lead to anxiety and panic. When you need to see things differently, try stepping away. Going out for a breath of fresh air, or simply changing the scene can help calm your central nervous system. Getting wound up is normal, especially in times of uncertainty or stress.
By taking a few moments to regain composure, you can avoid circumstances escalating or getting out of control.
It’s essential to keep calm to allow your body time to relax and also to promote creativity. When your body is in the fight-or-flight mode, you might find it hard to sleep, eat or operate efficiently. Now is a great time to practice natural ways to keep calm. This will help your body to rest, digest and repair. Goals, routines, healthy lifestyle choices and appropriate nutrition have never been more important. By defining your own routine, you can regain certainty and stability, which will help you be there for others.
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