(photo by Faye Cornish on Unsplash)

Today was a stressful day for me for a number of reasons. My stock trades did not go my way. I found a discrepancy on a tax form. There was a temporary, slow internet connection. It took a long time to get my printer to work properly. And it has been very noisy outside all day. Yet, here I am still standing at the end of the day, calmer now, after some uncalm moments earlier.

I admire individuals who can stay calm under pressure. Some individuals seem to be born with the calm under pressure gene, able to excel during chaotic moments. This is something I strive for, as I was not born with this gene.

Even those who are viewed as having a calm exterior still need to practice to become consistently good at handling pressure. With practice comes results, and ultimately confidence. So regardless of our personality, we can still improve in the area of remaining calm, even when challenges strike.

For me personally, I believe that my nervous system is more tightly wound up than others; meaning that my five (or six?) senses are more sensitive to the environment. My hearing is more sensitive to noise, for example. There is a small portion of the population that may have this type of nervous system. From a civilization view, it is important for some individuals to be on guard; to be on the lookout to protect others. Picture a group of Canadian geese in a field eating grass. There is always one goose not eating, with his head and neck at attention looking out for predators and people. Don’t get too close, or the goose will chase you and try and bite. So be careful, lol.

With a nervous system on heightened alert, it can certainly be a challenge to remain calm under most circumstances. Positive results can occur with practice, and with a determination to add healthy practices to your daily life. This will help lessen the nervous system attentiveness.

Here are a few practices that will benefit the nervous system, and thus, allow for being a little bit calmer.

DEEP BREATHING EXERCISES: These can be done anywhere. And no one will even notice that you’re doing them. Deep breathing can: calm down anxiety, increases energy level, and bring on better sleep.

One of Dr. Andrew Weil’s recommended deep breathing practices is called the 4-7-8 (or Relaxing Breathe) exercise:

  1. Exhale completely through your mouth making a whoosh sound.
  2. Close your mouth & inhale quietly through your nose to a mental count of 4.
  3. Hold your breathe for a count of 7.
  4. Exhale completely through your mouth, making a whoosh sound to 8.
  5. This is one breath. Now inhale again and repeat the cycle three more times for a total of four breaths.

MINDFULNESS: “By giving your full attention to this moment, an intelligence far greater than the egoic mind enters your life.”                              – Eckhart Tolle

Mindfulness can be practiced informally and formally.

Informally: Find mindful moments in everyday tasks. Pick a task, such as washing dishes, and focus your complete attention on the task as though it was the first time you were doing it. Use your five senses to truly be in the moment.

Formally: Brace yourself. I’m going to use the ‘M’ word… Meditation. Build your meditation muscles slowly and in very small time increments. Pick one time each day, preferably first thing in the morning before your mind gets on the thinking bandwagon. Set a timeframe, such as ten seconds, for example, to sit or lie down. Start by focusing your attention on your breathing, perhaps at your nostrils. Thoughts will naturally pop into your mind at random times. When they do, acknowledge the thought, and then bring your attention back to your breathing. In upcoming days or weeks, based on your comfort level, slowly and incrementally increase the ten second timeframe.

DOWN TIME: Research has found that taking breaks can improve your mood, boost your performance, and increase your ability to concentrate and pay attention. Give your mind a chance to pause and refresh, to keep it working efficiently.

“To be calm is the highest achievement of the self.” – Zen proverb

What is one small step that you can do to be a little calmer, now?