The Art of Calm


The Art of Calm

Practical and powerful ways to bring peace to your day

By Linda Esposito LCSW for Psychology Today

What makes for good art? According to San Francisco gallery owner Cheryl Haines, the answer is “Clear intention, unwavering dedication, patience, perseverance, self-awareness, and the drive to make for yourself and no one else.” The same goes for "good calm," too.

Whether you suffer from occasional anxiety, generalized anxiety, or its more cumbersome cousin, social anxiety, the following strategies will help get you on the other side of calm when practiced regularly.

1. Develop a morning success ritual. How we begin each day sets the tone for the rest of the day. Wake up 30-60 minutes earlier than usual to focus on personal development. This could include exercise, meditation, or simply letting go. The point is not to catch up on household chores or email, but to focus on improving your psychological insight. Make sure your alarm clock is away from your bed and have a glass of water ready to replenish your brain and body. If you're not a morning person, this will be tough in the beginning, but after a month or so, this practice will come naturally.

2. Practice slow, deep breathing. I like the 4-4-4: Inhale for a count of four, hold for a count of four, and exhale for a count of four. Do this at least three times in succession, and practice when calm, too. Attention to calming breath is the first line of defense when you feel panic coming on.

3. Focus on solutions and not on problems.

4. Check your thoughts. Organized thoughts contribute to an organized life. Train your brain to be decisive, methodical, and sound. Would you employ a haphazard worker who only showed up to the gig when she felt like it? Exactly.

Are you aware of counterproductive emotions such as negativity, fear, jealousy or self-loathing? Here’s an in-depth article about CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy) which can help you practice healthier, more realistic thoughts to challenge the automatic, negative thoughts which threaten your peace of mind.

5. Manage your emotional regulation. The key is to know your triggers and to adjust accordingly. For example, if traffic gets your blood boiling, you’ll want to slow your physiological responses to behind-the-wheel stress. Instead of succumbing to the impulsive (and potentially dangerous) reaction of road rage, come up with healthy coping strategies such as driving slower, playing calming music, listening to an enjoyable podcast, or sipping a cool beverage. Pay attention to your physical triggers, and remember you can practice deep-breathing anytime, anywhere.

6. Stop waiting and start living. Face it: The perfect time, the ideal weight, or the right amount in the bank account does not exist. Make time for fun and adventure now.

7. Choose a personality role model. This could be a historic figure or someone you know. Years ago I supervised a social work intern with the most amazing attitude. To this day I think about her calm, collected manner and her skill at finding the positive in each situation. Asking "What would so-and-so do in this situation?" can get you back on track.