Are you looking for simple ways to relax and calm down? Often people use things like taking a bath to relax. That’s great, but you don’t always have that much time. Here are some go to strategies that you can use no matter where you are. No extra items or props needed!
- Acknowledge the presence of God or Jesus
- Spend time with an animal or at least think about them
- Connect with your breath
- Sing a song- For more info, see episode 6 with Tim Ringold.
- Think about the most loving and supportive person in your life right now
- Think about the absolute worst case scenario
- Find the calmest part of your body
- Connect with the present moment
- Find your happy place
Transcript of Episode 12
Welcome to Hope for Anxiety And OCD Episode 12. We are all about reducing shame, increasing hope, and developing healthier connections with God and others.
I am so glad that you are listening today. We’re going to be talking about 10 ways to have a calmer mind and body in five minutes or less. Yes, this is possible. Sometimes people feel like they need a long time in order to calm down like I need to go take an hour bubble bath. That’s awesome. Sometimes you’re able to do things like that, but sometimes you have five minutes before you walk into your dentist appointment and you’re super nervous about your tooth extraction.
You don’t always have a lot of time to relax. So I want to teach you some quick, relatively easy-to-implement ideas also that you can do anywhere.
You don’t need any special equipment for these. I also know that these exercises work. They’ve been tested, they’re tried, and true. I use them with clients on a regular basis. What I will say is that all of these may not resonate with you, and that’s totally okay. If you can find one or two that you really resonate with and feel confident in being able to utilize, practice those. The more that you’re able to utilize these strategies when you don’t need them the more likely you’re able to have that in mind or online when you actually do need them. You’re going to want to connect with these exercises in a whole-body experience type of way. What I mean by that is mentally, emotionally, and physically.
Too many times, we just try to change how we think about something. We do this in the church all the time and it drives me a little bit batty because people are like, “okay, well you believe God doesn’t love you.” I mean, the scripture says he does. So just change that in your brain and move forward. It’s a lot more complicated than that. We’re not just one-dimensional. If we just try to change our thinking, we haven’t tapped into the other God-given aspects of our self. Occasionally one of these activities may take you to a negative place. So if for any reason it does, just tap out and use a different one.
The 10 ways to have a calmer mind and body in five minutes or less.
Number one. Acknowledging the presence of God or Jesus.
This may or may not be helpful for you depending on your view of God right now, and how you feel about him, or you may be experiencing obsessions that get in the way with this activity.
Oftentimes, if people have a hard time connecting to God, they can connect to Jesus. I believe the reason for this is because we know that Jesus experienced the same struggles on earth in relationships that we experience, things like rejection, betrayal, temptation.
He had all access and authority in the spiritual realm. At the same time, He fully understood what it was like to be human. We know from a logical place that God is always with us in Matthew 28, 20 Jesus said, “And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.” What does that mean for you right now? As you’re getting ready in the morning, driving to work, or sitting in the pickup line at your kid’s school.
What does it feel like to notice that you’re not alone and that God, Jesus is with you? Right now, is there a positive feeling or a physical sensation that you would connect with that? Just sit with that and notice that for a moment.
Number two. Gratitude. What are you thankful for today? I want you to stay away from generics. Don’t just say I’m thankful for my spouse or I’m thankful for my parents or my kids. See if you can make that specific.
So today I’m thankful that my spouse jumps in and helps around the house as needed. You might say I’m thankful that I get to watch my kids excel in a particular area like music or sports.
What is something that you’re thankful for that happened today?
Maybe you’d say I’m thankful that I didn’t get stuck in traffic when I had to make a long drive or I’m thankful that I got to have a conversation with a good friend.
Developing a regular gratitude practice will change your life even if you take a few minutes a day to jot on a calendar something very specific that you’re thankful for that day. I did this during a very sad and dark period of my life, and it really helped me get a different perspective.
Number three. Spending time with an animal or if you can’t do that, at least thinking about them. Of course, if you have an animal at home, you can interact with them.
I talk to my cats all the time, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
If you don’t have animals, you can watch baby animal videos on YouTube or funny animal videos, and that can get you in a different headspace as well.
I’ve found that even when clients don’t have an animal in session, they can bring up how their animal makes them feel. So think about what it’s like when your dog is right next to you.
What does it feel to stroke his fur? What kind of funny things does your dog do that really make you laugh? And as you think about your dog, how do you feel, and how does that make your body feel?
Number four. Connect with your breath. This may cause some distress if you have a hard time tuning in internally to yourself. Just start by noticing your breath without feeling any pressure to change it. After a little bit of time, see if you can make a shift in how you’re breathing. Maybe breathing out a little bit longer on your exhales, kind of slowly releasing the air. Trying to breathe from your diaphragm and not your chest.
Some people find it helps them to count every inhale or exhale so they have something to focus their mind on while they’re breathing.
Number five. Sing a song. Notice I said, sing a song, not passively put music on in the background.
As we learned from Tim Ringgold in episode 6, he talked about using music to help manage anxiety.
It’s better if you engage with the music in some way, such as singing along, tapping to the beat, or even singing in your head works as well. So if you’re in a crowd, you could just sing the lyrics in your head instead of out loud. This brings you into the present moment as you’re focusing and engaging with that music.
Find a favorite song that puts you in a good mood every time that you listen to it.
Number six. Think about the most loving and supportive person in your life.
You want to pick someone that you’re not in conflict with currently. Think about something they’ve done recently to show you that they loved you.
How do they make you feel when you’re around them? What is it like to be in their presence?
Just see if you can receive some love from them as you bring them to mind.
Number seven. Think about the absolute worst-case scenario.
I know this sounds counterintuitive because you may think that you think about the worst-case scenario all the time. But now I want you to play it all the way out to the end.
Let me give you an example. I’ve had several people be concerned about losing their job. So I will say something like, “okay, so if you lose your job, then what?” “Well, then I’d be unemployed.” “Okay. And then what? “Well, I’d have to go out and send out a lot of resumes and look for another job.” “And what if I don’t get a job right away?” “I might not be able to pay my bills.”
“Okay. And what would happen if you couldn’t pay your bills?” “Well, I would end up moving in with my mother who I have a hard time getting along with.”
“And then what?” “Well, mom would just drive me absolutely insane, and I couldn’t live with her anymore. And I don’t know. I might end up on the streets.”
As that scenario gets played out, either one of two things will happen. Either it will start to sound really ridiculous, like something that may have a very low likelihood of happening, or you may get to the end and say, “well, if that did happen, it’s pretty rough. I wouldn’t like it at all, but I think I could make it. I could manage it and get through.”
Number eight. Find the calmest part of your body.
Usually, when I ask people to do this, they look at me really strangely because people aren’t used to finding the calmest part of their body. They’re used to finding the most distressed part of their body. So it may take you a little bit longer to figure out where that is, but it’s a good exercise for your brain.
The calmest part of your body does not have to be a large area. It can be as small as your pinky toe. As you start to focus on that calm area, sometimes it will reduce the distress in the other areas of your body that don’t feel as calm.
Number nine. Connect with the present moment. Oftentimes the present moment is not actually where the distress is. Distress with anxiety often comes from an imagined future outcome that’s negative. Therefore, when you’re anxious, you may be living in the future.
When you bring yourself back to what’s actually happening right now, you’re typically okay.
Let me give you an example, going back to the job example, let’s say that you’re anxious because you have a meeting with your boss in two days, and you are absolutely convinced that this meeting is where your boss is going to tell you that you’re being reprimanded or that you’re going to be fired. When you bring yourself back to the present moment, you notice that you’re sitting in your living room with your cat and everything is actually okay.
Oftentimes, living in the future creates anxiety whereas living in the past creates shame or sadness, or other uncomfortable emotions. By learning to be in the present, this can reduce your overall distress.
You may also look at “what do I know” and now you know that you’re employed now. You know that you’re doing the best that you can at your job. You know that God is going to take care of you and provide for your needs. You know that if you did get fired, it may take you a little while, but you’re going to eventually be able to get another job.
You can only control your behavior in this present moment. You can’t go back and change anything you did in the past, and you can’t control the future.
You can’t control other people’s behavior or what they’re going to do. Sometimes acknowledging that in itself can bring a certain level of relief.
Number 10. Find your happy place.
This can be a place that you go to all the time or can be a place that you enjoyed on vacation. The place itself doesn’t really matter as long as you can connect positive sensory experiences to it.
I’m going to tell you about my happy place and describe it based on my senses as I experience it. My happy place is a park that’s in Nashville. There are beautiful trees along this wooded area. There’s a beautiful lake trail. You can go out on a pier and see the lake. It’s very quiet and peaceful out there. You may see birds flying. It smells like trees, grass, fresh air. There’s a cool breeze coming off the Lake and I think about walking with Steve there. Just enjoying his company.
When you get really good at going to this place in your mind and bringing up the positive body sensations that you have associated with it, you can actually attach what we would call a cue word to it. This word is going to help prompt you to think of this place. The cue word could be anything associated with that place or how it makes you feel. I may decide that because the park causes me to feel peaceful when I’m there, then the word I’m associating with it is peace.
I hope that you’ve found the 10 ways to have a calmer mind and body in five minutes or less helpful to you.
I wanted to give you a secret on how you can get number 11. If you go to hopeforanxietyandocd.com and subscribe to our newsletter, I try to send out about one email a week, so it will not bombard you. I have a free relaxation audio that you can connect with. It’s another activity that I’ve used with clients that they’ve really enjoyed. I’ve even had people tell me that this relaxation activity helps them calm down when they started to experience a panic attack. You can also find other free and paid resources on our website to help you with anxiety and OCD.
I want to tell you about some of our future episodes that I am so excited about. We are going to be talking with a marriage and family therapist about how to help your anxious spouse.
I’m also going to be interviewing an author who’s a Christian to talk with her about her book on mindfulness. I have another solo episode which talks about how to find a therapist who is the right fit for you.
I hope that you will hang in there with us and tune in for these episodes. Thank you so much for listening.
Hope for anxiety and OCD is a production of well counseling in Smyrna, Tennessee. Our original music is by Brandon Mangrum and audio editing is completed by Benjamin Bynam.
Until next time may be comforted by God’s great love for you.