“Chill out!” “Calm down!” “Relax!”
How many times have you said this to yourself, or to someone else? How often have you heard it?
It’s not easy to stay calm in today's world. The average day can bring us not one, but multiple reasons for stress. If we don’t make maintaining our calmness a priority, we risk giving ourselves up to anxiety, which can make inner peace more difficult to attain.
Staying calm requires sffort, so enjoy the process. It will have a major benefit on your overall physical and emotional wellness, which is especially important when living with a chronic condition like HIV.
My clients tell me that staying calm helps them to be more adherent with their self-care plan, to manage their symptoms, and to feel better day by day. All the more reason to keep your cool as much as possible. What about you? Are you staying as calm as you want to? If not, here’s some help:
Stay grateful. In any situation, if you are willing to keep an open mind, there’s always something to feel good about, something to look forward to, a glimmer of opportunity. Hope. In other words, look for how the cup may actually be half full instead of half empty. Make it a practice to identify something you are grateful for every day. And express gratitude to others.
Pay attention to your wellness. Watch what you eat. Get your sleep. When you’re feeling at your best physically, you are more likely to maintain your perspective, and not get stuck in the weeds. It may take a little more planning and work, but maintaining a healthy lifestyle is worth the effort. Believe me, you’ll notice the difference.
Talk to yourself. Humans have an ongoing conversation in their mind. You can choose to include upbeat, self-soothing messages to yourself. “It’s going to be okay.” “You’re doing a good job.” “You’re not alone.” And while you’re at it, stop criticizing yourself so much. You’re doing the best you can.
Breathe. Slow, deep belly breaths, in through your nose, out through your mouth. This is a great way to relax yourself. Give it a try and feel more calm.
Have a relaxation strategy. We’re all unique in terms of what helps us to calm down. Think about what works for you. A walk? Turning on some music? A nap? Calling a friend? Hitting the gym? Do an inventory on yourself in terms of what helps you to stay calm. Make a list and store it in a place where it will be available to you when you need it, like on your smartphone.
Set limits. If you overload your schedule so you end up having to spend your day “running from pillar to post,” chances are you’re not going to be feeling very calm. So take a step back before you make a commitment. Ask yourself if this is something you need to do, and if you need to do at that specific time, or if it something that can be scheduled for a less hectic day. In other words, enough with all that multitasking.
Go to the beach. In a couple of ways. Build time into your schedule to get away for a day, maybe even a three-day weekend, once in awhile. If you’re a beach person, that’s a great way to unwind and recharge. Or choose someplace else where you can be away from the daily grind and just be. But here’s another way to go the beach. Go off by yourself, sit in a quiet place, and envision a calm, happy setting like the beach or the setting where you are most likely to find your peace. This is a quick and easy way to feel some of the benefit of a trip to the beach, whenever you need it.
Project calm. And watch it return. Ever notice how someone in a mood can affect everybody around them? Well, this can also happen when you project a calm mood. In words and action, project your inner calm and you will notice that the people you come into contact with reflect your calm back to you. A great way to help assure yourself of an environment that helps you to stay calm, while you help others to do the same. Believe me, you’ll be appreciated.
Get some support. Do you have a friend or family member who is a good listener? This would be a great person to call when you need help maintaining, or regaining, your peace. Talk it out, vent if you need to. Try to connect with someone who can help you to shift your perspective and can give you some TLC in the process.
Be proactive. Sure, you can help yourself to find your calm when you’re feeling stressed. But here’s a question: Is there something you can do to start the day in a way that will help you to start out calm and stay calm? I think if you try some of the suggestions I made, not only when your sense of calm is at risk but before you need to calm yourself down, you’ll find you’re that much better prepared to maintain your calm even on the most chaotic day. This is being proactive, making staying calm a priority and taking action to help yourself stay calm.
Stay calm. You’ll feel better. You’ll cope better. And you’ll help create more calm in the world around you. It’s within your control.
Gary McClain, PhD, is a therapist, patient advocate, and author in New York City, who specializes in working with individuals diagnosed with chronic and catastrophic medical conditions, their caregivers, and professionals. He maintains a website, www.JustGotDiagnosed.com.