10 Notable Ways To Calm Down

What to do when anxiety or anger takes control

Photo by Aarón Blanco Tejedor on Unsplash

My First Panic Attack

People who don’t know me are surprised to see me lash out in anger. I am usually the “nice, sweet girl”, the one who can “do no wrong” and “hurt no one”. However, the few people who are close to me know when I get angry, I get vicious.

Due to past childhood trauma, I now suffer from anxiety. I get anxious easily which is partly why I’m a more spiritual person now.

Given my traumatic history, the natural behavioural pattern as an adult probably would’ve been to opt for drugs. I chose spirituality instead.

The first time I experienced a real panic attack was while studying for a neuroscience exam. I was studying how the brain’s fear response system doesn’t develop properly if a child experiences trauma because the brain is primarily shaped at a young age.

As I was studying this I connected it to myself. I realized the root of my anxiety could be a poorly wired fear response system which must be due to certain incidents that happened as a child.

With this realization came memories I didn’t want to recall, once these memories reached the surface of my consciousness, a panic attack took over me.

A panic attack is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers severe physical reactions when there is no real danger or apparent cause. When panic attacks occur, you might think you’re losing control, having a heart attack or even dying.

Immediately I ran to a washroom stall, uncontrollably crying and struggling to breathe. It felt like I was dying. The irony was that studying how the fear response system in the brain works actually triggered this irrational fear, a panic attack due to resurfaced memories.

After some time in the toilet stall, I went to the nurse on my university campus. She eventually unravelled what was wrong and asked about my romantic relationships stating that it would be hard for me.

At the time I was well into my early twenties yet never had a boyfriend. Fast forward two years later, I move to Japan and experienced not only my first relationship but also my first full-time job after graduating university. That’s when I truly realized the importance of emotional self-regulation.

A Little Back Story — What Drove Me To Understand The Importance of Emotional Control

Getting into my first relationship and full-time job taught me a lot about myself, particularly in realizing I had poor control over my emotions.

It is important to take control of your emotions and not have your emotions control you.

I’d get into crazy fights with my boyfriend over petty things. Once a fight got so bad that police officers had to intervene.

We would physically hurt each other, disturbing the people around us. All of this drama because my boyfriend and I couldn’t control our emotions.

I also had an incident at my previous job with an emotionally draining coworker. Long-story-short, after months of trying to be calm around her negative attitude one day I just couldn’t take it anymore.

I reacted to something she said by slamming the door and running out of the office building crying as I ran in circles. I remember sort of blanking out then and thinking I’m ready to drop everything and go back home to Canada with no money.

Photo by Tengyart on Unsplash

Why It Was Time To Take Control

I didn’t want to be emotionally controlled by others anymore. It is difficult to not be affected by another person’s negative energy but I didn’t like the way this made me feel.

I wanted to be able to handle any circumstance at ease without reacting.

As a highly empathetic person, this is crucial and extremely hard to do. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed in crowds because I can literally feel everyone's’ contrasting energies. One person is sad, I feel it, another person is happy, I feel that too.

I realized no one else is going to understand what I’m feeling. They can’t truly empathize or rationalize my outbursts unless they themselves are empaths. As observers, they only saw my emotional reactions which may have seemed unstable or scary.

Having a reputation as “cool, calm and collected” is nice but having emotional control is more than that. It’s a true healing process. When we are in control of our emotions we prevent a lot of negativity and resistance that can eat us up for the next few days.

I didn’t want to walk around feeling like I’m stepping on eggshells all the time to please other people. It was time to set boundaries for myself and figure out ways to control my own emotions (reactions) to unwelcoming scenarios and people.

I would feel like I’m stepping on eggshells because I would try to do everything in my power to avoid negative circumstances which then I hoped would prevent my emotional outbursts.

I learned it’s better to self-reflect and figure out why I react the way I do. It’s better to self-regulate your own emotions, accept any negativity and deal with it constructively instead of trying to avoid it.

Photo by Hani Bdran on Unsplash

10 Ways To Calm Down

  1. Breathe — always remember to breathe. Take a deep breath in through your nose for 4 seconds, pause there for 4 seconds and then breath out through your mouth for 4 seconds. Repeat this 3 to 5 times. When we are angry we activate our fight-or-flight response causing us to lash out but when we take long deep breaths it disrupts this reaction and helps us calm down.
  2. Listen to Music — I particularly like listening to mellow sad slow songs when feeling anxious. My favourites are Lana Del Rey, Hozier, Cigarettes After Sex, Daniel Caser, Frank Ocean, A.R Rahman’s old melodies and so forth because somehow sad music helps me feel understood and mellow music has a calming effect on my body. Soothing music sort of feels like meditating without actually meditating.
  3. Go outside— when you feel yourself getting angry or anxious you should step away from the problem. Take a walk or go for a drive. Step away and surround yourself with the outside environment. When you are indoors it’s easy to feel trapped within the walls and ceilings of a confined space. Leaving the stressful situation gives you time to make better decisions.
  4. Exercise — I love to dance or lift weights when feeling stressed. I feel so much better after a great workout. This is because exercise releases endorphins in the body which reduce your perception of pain. Exercise triggers a positive feeling.
  5. Eat or drink something — have you heard of the term ‘hangry’? I wouldn’t recommend emotionally eating junk food. Instead, consider the possibility that sometimes being hungry or thirsty can have you feeling particularly on edge more than usual. So try having a good nutritious meal and see if it helps you feel better.
  6. Talk to a friend — talk to a good friend that is always there to listen to your rants. A friend that knows to just listen. Knowing I have a best friend that’ll just be there for me helps me tremendously. She just listens as I do for her when she needs me. She doesn’t try to fix my problems, she just listens. Kind of like having a therapist. If you don’t have a friend to text immediately when angry then tip #8 (journal) and pretend this journal is your friend.
  7. Watch something funny — watching comedy shows, videos or reading funny memes and quotes will help you feel better because now you’re distracted and distractions aren’t always a bad thing.
  8. Journal/Practice Gratitude — journaling can help because you can release all of what you are feeling onto something and not worry about judgement. A journal won’t judge you. It can help you clear your head, gain a better understanding of your thoughts, feelings, and behaviour.
  9. Take a cold shower — when you get angry you feel warm. We say, “could feel my blood boil” to describe our angry state of mind. The body is increasing the blood flow throughout your body when angry because it thinks it’s time for flight-or-fight response. Taking a cold shower cools down your body. Cold showers release the hormone norepinephrine in the blood which has a calming effect.
Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash

10. Channel emotions creatively — art really helps me navigate my emotions. You don’t have to be a born an artist to use art as a form of therapy. If you don’t feel like painting, sketching or writing you can still colour as a form of art therapy. Find adult colouring books and just take some time out the day to colour. It’s a really great calming strategy.

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Read short and uplifting articles here to help you shift your thought, so you can see real change in your life and health.

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Sajeta U

Sajeta U

Neuroscience enthusiast, a cognitive science major, an aspiring actress, writer. Creative who likes to delve into a few things. Artist. INFP. Based in Tokyo.

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