Who else feels like they have been hit with repeated stressors lately?
I know I’m not alone in this. Experiencing repeated stressors on top of being a business owner, helping professional, and/or a parent navigating a global pandemic has been A LOT!
When stressors come up, I used to immediately dread, brace, and tense up. Now, my nervous system still braces and prepares for the challenge, but I also pause and tune into what I need and how I want to respond. Thus, I meet the challenge instead of being done in by it.
I couldn’t do any of this without first calming down my nervous system. If I am a ball of nerves and assuming I can’t handle anything, then my access to my inner wisdom and resources is really hard to find.
So now I use prevention activities to help calm my nervous system every day, no matter what! And when triggered, I use my prevention strategies PLUS my emotion self-care tools to meet the challenge with more ease.
Before we explore the possible ways to calm and soothe your nerves on a daily basis, we need to understand the basics of what’s going on inside us.
How many of you still feel stressed or anxious after a difficult situation has passed?
Me! You can still feel revved up or completely depleted after a stressor has passed. You can feel like the stressor is still present, even though it’s passed.
The nervous system is responsible for everything from breathing, walking, feeling, to thinking. And when there is danger or a perception of danger, the nervous system, if functioning properly, activates to prepare for danger. This activation of the nervous system happens within seconds while calming down the nervous system can take hours or days.
And after repeated or long-term stress, the stress system can stay turned on. So when the challenge is complete, it can take weeks or more to soothe your nerves.
Whether you have experienced repeated stressors without enough recovery time in between. Or the stressor has passed, but you feel like you are still expecting the next bad thing to happen. You may still feel like your “nerves” are firing more than they need to or they don’t want to fire at all. Either way, it’s time to explore ways to calm your nervous system.
My top 10 favorite calming practices are:
You are about to get an inside look into all the ways I calm myself. In fact, it’s the first time I’ve shared all my tools in one place. Because I truly believe you don’t need to be a helping professional to have your own tools and inner resources.
- Meditation: I have been meditating daily for the past 6 months. I didn’t start off consistently, but I now truly miss it if I don’t include this in my day. If you are new to meditation, I recommend starting off with guided meditation before you try sitting with a timer. And take an intro to mindfulness class from a trained teacher or use a meditation app, such as Insight Timer. If you don’t know where to start, listen to one of the meditations on my personal Insight Timer playlist: breath and self-compassion meditations.
- Nature: I love being in nature, whether it’s walking, hiking, sitting, or putting my bare feet on the Earth. It’s an invitation for me to slow down, leave my phone inside, listen, and connect. One of the most soothing things I do is sit on my deck, sensing, and savoring all the living beings, colors, and sounds around me.
- Music: I also really love music, and it can help calm or energize me, depending on what I need at the time. You can make or find playlists for different moods on apps, such as Spotify or Amazon music. Here are a few playlists I’ve created: Opening to Receive (calming) and Heart Opening/Body Moving (energizing).
- Dance: Moving your body in a way that feels good can help you release tension and improve your mood. I spontaneously play one of my energizing playlists and dance, and I haven’t had formal training since I was 5! So anyone can try this. You don’t need to take a class, just move in a way that feels good and freeing. If you want to dance with others, here are a few intuitive movement classes I found during the pandemic: 5Rhythms and Qoya.
- Yoga: I’ve been doing yoga on and off for so long, I can do my own stretches and poses without a guide. But if you have never tried this before, definitely take a beginners or basics class. Then, try some of the more calming forms of yoga are gentle, yin, or restorative yoga in a studio. And for sleep and deep relaxation, I recommend yoga Nidra, as you don’t move at all!
- Journaling: My journal is one of the places I connect with myself and it holds many things. It holds wisdom I receive, ideas I have, and reflections from my reading. And it is also the place I gain clarity on boundaries, feelings, and what I want to shift. Overall, it is a place I increase my awareness and get really honest with myself. You can use journaling for a variety of things from organizing, reflecting, creating, and releasing. If this interests you, but you are unsure where to start, here is a really great article on “13 powerful journaling techniques”.
- Painting: I love to combine painting with music. I started with more abstract painting, then paint pouring, landscape painting, mixed media, and even paint-by-number. I find creating purely for my enjoyment is freeing even if it doesn’t always turn out as I want it to! You can find many art and painting tutorials on YouTube, look for art classes near you, or even just start exploring and creating art.
- Reading: I am reading several books at once because I have a hard time finishing books! But, it does relax me and make me sleepy. I look for books that either expand my awareness of what’s possible, make me laugh, or connect me with interesting characters. If you are really stressed, it can be hard to focus, so try one of the other calming practices first.
- Napping: If I’m really exhausted and it’s the middle of the day, I take a nap. I literally set a timer on my watch for 20-30 minutes, turn off my phone or play soothing music, and just allow myself the gift of rest.
- Snuggling: Snuggling with my kids is one of my favorite calming activities before bed. If you are missing human touch throughout your day, you can snuggle with yourself and a soft blanket, a pet, or a loved one. Soothing touch, de-activates stress, and releases calming hormones. And you don’t need an app for that!
Don’t think of this as a long list of things to add to your to-do list. Instead, it’s a soothing salve you get to apply and see which one feels the best. You can use any of these as a preventative daily practice or when you are feeling stressed.
What are your favorite ways to calm yourself after stress? Or which of these practices would you like to explore as a prevention practice?
Marci Payne, MA, LPC is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Missouri and Women’s Empowerment Coach. She loves helping men and women open their hearts to more love both for themselves and with others. And she’s an expert on helping you meet your needs, even when others don’t. Click here to receive her free, 3-part emotion self-care guide. Here you will find journaling and/or meditation prompts to help you connect and tend to what you need.