In situations like this it can be helpful to use these quick tricks to calm down the mind.
- Sing along to the radio or your favourite happy song. Singing will naturally slow your breathing, without conscious effort, making the body and mind feel more relaxed.
- Eating something or sipping herbal tea can also slow breathing down. It is thought that this might be due to the fact that as animals we don’t eat when we are in danger, so eating signals to the brain that there is no immediate threat. If you can’t face eating, try chewing gum.
- Write a list of everything that is worrying you. Getting things down on paper really can help free your mind from its repetitive mind loop. There’s no point in going over the same thing again and again so write it down so you can deal with things one step at a time.
- Physical action can release muscle tension and the build up of adrenaline that often causes palpitations. Dance around the room to some music, run the vacuum cleaner round or just walk up and down the stairs a few times.
- Distract your mind with shiny things. Put the radio on or watch a favourite film or TV programme, but choose wisely, you are looking for something comforting and positive, so no news or thrillers. You could also read an inspirational book, phone a positive and supportive friend, or do a simple puzzle like a word search.
- Observe your thoughts as if you were an outsider looking in on your mind. Try this suggestion from Russ Harris – instead of thinking: ‘I can’t possibly cope with all this,’ you think, ‘My mind is having the thought, “I cannot cope with this”’. This puts some distance between you and the thoughts, giving you some perspective and objectivity.
- Try to imagine a wave of warmth flooding your body from your head down to your toes. Wrap up in a blanket or throw if it helps. Pay attention to the areas of the body that are holding stress and feel tense, often the jaw, shoulders, chest or stomach. Imagine a warm glowing light spreading through these areas. Then feel your muscles relax into the warmth. A warm, relaxed body signals to the mind that all is well and it can stop panicking.
Further Reading: The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris