When we become angry, upset, anxious or worried we need to find a way to get this powerful emotion under control so it doesn’t swamp us. The key is to have some proven strategies that help you find your inner sense of calm, so you can think more clearly and move past the intensity of the negative emotion or situation.
The following technique is a good start if you are wanting to find your “calm space”. It doesn’t change the reason you got angry, upset, anxious or worried but it gives you some time and space so you feel better prepared to deal with the situation. The technique works on rewiring the brain, and shows it a new way to process uncomfortable situations.
Step 1: Think of your calm place
Think of a place that gives you a feeling of calmness, safety and generally makes you happy. It can be somewhere from your past, or simply an image in your mind that you love and can relate to. It should be a positive image and experience that is not connected with anything negative, e.g. lying on a beach next to a calm lake is great, but if the last time you were at a lake you got eaten by mosquitoes and you keep thinking about how itchy the bites were, then that is not a good image to choose! When you have an image clearly in your mind and you feel nothing but calm and safe when you think of it, proceed to step 2.
Step 2: Notice everything about it
Close your eyes and bring up your peaceful image. Notice everything about it: the colors, the feelings you experience, any body senses that are involved, e.g. smells, touch, sounds, etc.
Step 3: Name the feeling
When you think of this image, notice how you are feeling, i.e. what are the nice, positive feelings associated with it? Can you find a single word to describe that good feeling? For example, “peaceful”, “quiet” or “laughter”.
Step 4: Repeat and practise
Close your eyes and bring up your mind image again. Notice all those lovely feelings associated with it and say the word that you gave it in your mind. Notice the feelings as you allow yourself to go deeper into your good experience and repeat that word to yourself. After a few moments, open your eyes. Then close your eyes and do it again. If you get the positive feelings each time, then do it again for another moment and bring back the word each time you think of the image. Continue to do this five times, doing it for about one minute each time.
Step 5: Breathing
Now try the exercise above again but this time notice how your breathing changes when you bring up your image and think of your word. After you feel your positive emotions taking effect, feel where your breath is coming from. When you are relaxed, your breathing naturally comes from lower down (your stomach or lower chest). When you are stressed, your breathing will change and you will notice it move higher up in your body. If you notice that happening, simply bring your breathing back to the lower, relaxed pattern.
Step 6: Test it
Once you’ve been through all of the steps above and are comfortable to easily bring up your positive emotions and thinking your word, it’s time to test it out! Try by bringing up something that mildly disturbs you, and notice how your body changes. Then do your “positive image and word association” steps, and see if the good feeling comes back. It it works, then you can use this technique any time you are feeling disturbed. Bringing up your image and using your word should help you deal with those moments that threaten to throw you off balance.
Step 7: Practise often
So that this will continue to work, you should practise the technique every day at a time when you are already calm. This will help you to easily shift into the feeling of peace and calm again when you are feeling disturbed.