10 Things to Do When You Can’t Calm Down

by Tess

I've heard from several readers that they live in a permanent state of fear, stress, and anxiety. I understand how you feel. I've been there.

The following steps are the ones I took to change my life. 

When I was in my late twenties my life was completely “out of control.” I didn't think I could get any lower than I was. There was no sun in my personal sky. There was no light at the end of my tunnel. I was stuck in personal pain. I was unhappy and miserable.

I did several things to change my life.

The first thing was to seek professional help. I wasn't well enough to solve my problems by myself. I couldn't read 10 top tips and take action. I wasn't capable. I saw my therapist weekly, for nine months. I did my "homework" faithfully. This was the single most important step that I took. A Life Changer for me!

I attended a support group. I attended twice a week until I felt better. Then I cut down to once a week. A year later I began facilitating the group. There are numerous support groups both on and offline. Choose one and begin.

I began to journal. I wrote "morning pages" suggested by Julia Cameron, of The Artists Way. Later, I filled my journals with art therapy and gratitude. Finally, I offered journaling classes to women. 

I began a spiritual practice. 

A spiritual practice made my life easier, calmer, and more loving. Examples include: meditation, yoga, mindfulness, reading spiritual books, chanting, martial arts. Experiment until you find what’s right for you. Then begin.

I took and still take medication. 

I was 41 when I was diagnosed with ADHD. I was unable to focus, my behavior was impulsive. The medication that was prescribed for me completely changed my life.

Some experts are against medication. Sometimes the experts are wrong. It worked and it continues to work for me. 

If you live in an anxious state 24/7, if you can't keep your mind from racing, if you can't stop negative thinking, if you never feel good, schedule an appointment with your physician today.

Discuss your symptoms. Again, sometimes it's impossible to change on your own. Get over yourself and take action. There is no time to feel sorry for yourself.

You are worth so much more than your pain. You are a beautiful and worthy human being.

Some people are against taking drugs, yet they drink alcohol, smoke pot, etc. It's called "self-medicating." It doesn't work! 

I worked in prison for a year, counseling addicts. I often thought if they were on medication they would not have committed their crimes.

If my house was on fire my medication is the first think I would grab. 

What do you have to lose? You deserve a good life, a chance to perform at a higher level, an opportunity to wake up and be excited about being alive. 

Medication isn't a cure all. You still have to change your bad habits, continue to grow, and learn how to love yourself. But without medication it may be impossible.

The following 10 tips can help you calm down when nothing else works.

1. Stop over thinking. Over thinking is mostly negative. Watch your thoughts. Identify your irrational or negative thoughts.  When you catch yourself over thinking, stop! Tell yourself this method isn't solving anything. Answer the question, "What would help me more is ________________.

2. Reboot.  When you feel anxious your worried go for a quick walk, a fast run, or a wild bike ride.  When you get involved in physical activity, it's like rebooting your inner computer. The endorphins that are released in your body, improve your mental and psychological health. They also help diminish stress and depression.

3. Deep breathing.  

When you feel anxious, you can learn to relax by practicing deep breathing.  Learn to take deep breathes from your abdomen instead of your chest. Breathe in slowly for four counts, hold your breath for four counts and release your breath for four counts.  As you do, carbon dioxide is released and your heart rate slows down. Practice this regularly. Make it a habit.

4. Stop betting on the negative.

Catch yourself thinking about worse case scenarios. Change your thoughts  by calculating the best positive outcomes. Make expecting the best a habit. Ask yourself, "What is the outcome I want to happen in this situation?”  Put your faith in it.

5. Downtime with nature.

Spend at least five minutes a day outdoors regardless of the weather.  Sit on a park bench, take the furthest parking space, or walk to the store or library. As little as five minutes spent outdoors, daily, can be a quick mood changer. Become aware. Pay attention to a single blade of grass, a cloud in the sky, or a flowering breaking through the concrete. if you haven't been outside today, go now! Breathe. Smile. Enjoy.

6. Reach out and connect. 

Reach out to someone you can trust, someone who cares, someone who will listen to you. "In the flesh" connection is the best. Nothing can replace touch, eye contact, a kiss, a hug, or a pat on the back. We tend to over exaggerate or catastrophize what is happening in our lives. A friend or family member can help us change our perspective.

7. Caffeine in moderation.

Coffee and energy drinks have become popular over the past several years. Decrease stimulants that trigger the flight or fight condition in your body. Energy drinks, coffee, teas, and sodas can set off anxiety and panic. Cut way back or slowly eliminate them.

8. Physically relax.

A massage, a hot bath, a nap, soft music, or a book of poetry can help you relax your body. Figure out what works for you and make a list. Take action when you feel anxiety take over mind and body. 

9. Question yourself. 

Notice what negative thoughts or stories you are repeating and believing when you feel anxious or fearful. Ask yourself the following questions.

What is on my mind?

Am I making this issue, fear, or worry something bigger than it really is?

Can I prove myself wrong?

Will it matter a year, six months, 3 months or even one month from now? 

How can I see this differently?

10. Inhale Peace. Exhale Love. 

Most of the time our thoughts are about the “pain of the past” or “the fear of the future.” Be in the present. Learn to take life one present moment at a time. Learn to pause throughout your day. Slowly inhale through your nose and silently repeat the word "peace." Pause for a few seconds. Exhale through your mouth and silently repeat the world love. Do this for five minutes.

Again, seek professional help.

It takes deep self love and courage to seek out help when you can't cope alone. If you could do it alone, you would have done it by now.

Most people seek help when they are sick and tired of being sick and tired. My daughter's school counselor had a sign in her office that said, "Yougottawanna." How bad do you want a better life for yourself?

With the proper action your life can get better. You owe it to yourself. You are worthy. You are loved!

Let me know how I can help you or if you have any questions. Download my course,  "Take Your Fear and Shove It" or if you want to get something off your chest email me at Tessmarshall@TessMarshall.com.

Great supportive articles by my friends:

How to Climb Your Summit Again and Again

One Important Thing You Always Want to Keep Top of Mind

Do This One Thing to Stop Your Suffering Right Now

45 Inspirational Quotes That Will Reignite Your Imagination

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

Halina Goldstein June 4, 2012 at 10:54 am

In a world where there’s unlimited access to information, tips and advice, it is easy to develop the (false) perception that information and inspiration alone will take you where you want to be.

Although it’s possible for some, for most people real transformation requires dedicated support from other people.

Tess, I really appreciate that you say that with boldness and clarity. It’s an important message.

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Tess The Bold Life June 4, 2012 at 2:44 pm

Hi Halina,
Yes, I agree. Inspiration and motivation both need to be followed up by action. Knowledge isn’t enought. It’s what you do with the knowledge that matters. Thanks for your support.

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Glori | Crazy Introvert June 4, 2012 at 10:58 am

I’m not really a panicky or anxious person. But the great thing about this post is that it gives useful tips on just simply want to relax your mind.
Thank you!
Glori | Crazy Introvert´s last post…Small Talk Your Way Out of Awkward Silences: 8 Practical Ways to Do It

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Tess The Bold Life June 4, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Yes Glori they calm and relax our body and mind which is good for our soul. Anyone of these steps increases well-being. I appreciate you.

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Elle June 4, 2012 at 2:19 pm

I totally agree with you and Halina, Tess, there are times in life when a ‘happy clappy feeling’ just isn’t enough, we need support, we need a helping hand. It boils down to love or fear and sometimes the fear is so huge it takes another soul to point the way.

Thank you for this.

Elle
xoxo

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Tess The Bold Life June 4, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Elule,
Happy Clappy, I love your way with words! I’m all for people, support and someone pointing the way. Makes life so much easier!

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Galen Pearl June 4, 2012 at 4:44 pm

I love that belly breathing technique. It brings me back to the present moment and helps me physically calm down. Great list!
Galen Pearl´s last post…Take Your Medicine!

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Tess The Bold Life June 5, 2012 at 7:06 am

Hi Galen,
It sure does and it also helps me fall asleep at night!

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Sue June 4, 2012 at 8:54 pm

Hi Tess,

These are great strategies for dissipating anxiety and an inner critic with a motor mouth. I use the deep breathing strategies, repeating mantras, and being mindful of the inner dialogue so I can stop it or change it when it starts to wander down a non-helpful path. It takes a lot of practice to recognize and circumvent a trip down the anxiety rabbit hole, and the biggest key is to be gentle and compassionate with ourselves when we find ourselves in “that” place yet again.

I would say that the decision to take meds for anxiety, depression, ADHD, etc.is really a decision (preferably a well thought out, consciously made decision) on the part of individuals and their doctors. If a type of dis-ease is so disruptive and causing so much pain that it’s difficult to function, why suffer unnecessarily if there is medication that can help to take the edge off the suffering and make it easier to function. The other side of the coin is that sometimes doctors and psychiatrists are a bit too quick to pathologize a perfectly normal response to to an insane situation (or system) or truly horrendous or sad circumstances and get out the prescription pad when in fact some other approach or form of support would better serve the person in the long run.

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Tess The Bold Life June 5, 2012 at 7:11 am

Hi Sue,
Very well said. The key to what you say about doctors over prescribe and patholiogize is “a normal response to an insane situation.” The key to what I’m discussing is in my first line…those who suffer 24/7 and can find no relief…except their self-medication with alcohol or drugs.” Thanks for stopping by and joining the discussion.

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Cathy | Treatment Talk June 4, 2012 at 9:40 pm

Hi Tess,

When medication is necessary, doing it’s job and prescribed by a doctor, then by all means take it and make your life better. There is no point in suffering needlessly. I like all your tips, but question yourself is one that stood out, as sometimes we do get caught up in ourselves and miss the big picture. Thanks for sharing!

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Tess The Bold Life June 5, 2012 at 7:12 am

Cathy,
Thanks for your support. I value your expertise and opinions!

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Karen June 4, 2012 at 10:29 pm

Another inspiring post – but don’t be messing with my caffeine. love you.
Karen´s last post…Seeds of Growth

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Tess The Bold Life June 5, 2012 at 7:13 am

Karen,
I know better than to mess with you and your caffeine. LOL

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Halina Goldstein June 5, 2012 at 12:13 am

I feel like adding this:

In essence there is no solution that works for everyone. We are individuals for a reason!

For some people medication is both helpful and necessary, for others it’s absolutely not. For some people therapy is both helpful and necessary, for others it’s absolutely not. Etc. etc.

In short, it depends on who you are: Mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually – and it depends on where you are in your life and where you’re going. So perhaps the most important lesson here is to really listen to your needs, really respect them and boldly choose the solution that you feel is right for you at this moment in your life. If it continues to work for you – great. If it doesn’t – explore what does then.

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Tess The Bold Life June 5, 2012 at 7:14 am

Hi,
Thanks for your brilliant addition! I appreciate that you came back and added more.

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Fran Sorin June 5, 2012 at 6:10 am

Tess…
A great action check list. I couldn’t agree with you more about therapy. The key, of course, is finding the right therapist. But once you do, it can be extremely helpful.

Stop Betting on The Negative is a biggie. I don’t know of anyone who isn’t working on that one. And of course, downtime with nature, I love. It soothes, nurtures, consoles, and breathes life. :) Fran
Fran Sorin´s last post…45 Inspirational Quotes That Will Re-Ignite Your Imagination

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Tess The Bold Life June 5, 2012 at 7:19 am

Fran,
Yes I was blessed to find a good therapist. In fact over the years I found three! Over time when I outgrew one and needed another I asked others. You don’t find a good therapist in an online listing or the yellow pages. You ask others who have been and found their own. It’s called word of mouth. Also we used to tell our addicted clients when they complained about their therapists, “You can get better in spite of a bad therapist.” It’s true, a bad one is no excuse to quit, bitch, or stop. When we are persistent, consistent and determined to function at our best we do what it takes. No matter what. It’s like “an in spite of attitude! xo

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Vidya Sury June 5, 2012 at 8:52 am

I ‘ve been allowing myself to get stressed, lately, Tess. And I get mad at myself because I know how to get over it, relieve it, yet I continue to crowd myself and never seem to find the “me” time to slow down. The last week, nature took things in her own hands and I fell sick. Not fun at all. I am going to print this post. Thank you so much for the excellent tips. Love, Vidya
Vidya Sury´s last post…Friend Indeed

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Teri Karl June 5, 2012 at 1:58 pm

I love it! These are great tips that I will definitely use (and some I already have!) My one concern is the one on medication. I agree that it can be a tool when it is absolutely necessary. But don’t forget about vitamins, supplements, and a healthy diet! They are a natural way of achieving the same end (probably vitamin B in particular here), and they don’t have the side effects!
Teri Karl´s last post…What’s Up in Life, and New Animal Signs

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Imogen Caterer June 6, 2012 at 3:36 am

Great tips. So wonderful that you state so clearly you are on medication.

I’ve had really jaw-dropping excellent results in from some therapies, and yet I remain on medication. One I get no side effects from taking.

To me this is about taking a multi-level approach to healing. Exercise and meditation can help. Nutrition can help. Talking therapies can assist. Energy therapies (which I know practice) can assist in many way.

I’ve practiced two major therapy approaches, and I don’t dismiss the first one since moving onto the second. I just most people need more than one approach for full holistic healing.
Imogen Caterer´s last post…How Energetic NLP Helped Me Feel More Loved and Relaxed

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Sandra / Always Well Within June 6, 2012 at 10:26 pm

Tess, I agree with you completely: sometimes we really need the support and guidance of professional help to make improvements in our life. Sometimes shame gets in the way of being able to acknowledge that, but seeking help never makes you a lesser person.

Wow, you put so much energy into your personal growth in those early, difficult years and look how amazing you are now! Thanks for these skillful means showing us how to get there too.
Sandra / Always Well Within´s last post…The Power of “Yes, But…” to Catapult You to Clarity

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Cathy June 8, 2012 at 11:13 am

You came to me at exactly the right time! Thank you – thank you – thank you! This post meant so much to me…

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rob white June 8, 2012 at 11:22 am

This is all solid and grounded advice, Tess. The best kind of spirituality! We live in age of anxiety and we can’t always do it alone. When we use support groups and professional help to empower ourselves we set a course for self-transformation. When we yearn to reveal the truth about ourselves above all else the parts of us that are true (the creative you, the talented you, the genius you, the incredibly powerful you) can flourish.

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Christopher Foster June 8, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Thank you so much for all your sharing here Tess. I love all your excellent suggestions. And I love the unique spirit that is you. Your own unconquerable spirit that sometimes we forget but that helped guide you and inspire you on your way and helps all of us in every moment as we have the humility to listen. So happy to share this journey with you.
Christopher Foster´s last post…How to attract the life you dream of

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Bobbi Emel June 8, 2012 at 6:22 pm

This is excellent advice, Tess. I would also add “don’t judge your thoughts or feelings as they arise.” Part of what spins us up and out of control is not being able to tolerate what we’re thinking or feeling because we’re judging it or labeling it in some way. Just notice that it’s there. That’s it. Nothing more. Just notice.

Thanks also for sharing your story about medication. I very much agree with your take on it. It’s not for everybody, but it can be a life-changer for some.
Bobbi Emel´s last post…Why letting go sucks

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Nikky44 June 9, 2012 at 10:09 am

“You are worth so much more than your pain. You are a beautiful and worthy human being.” That is beautiful. Some days I can believe it, some others I can’t.
The tips you are giving are amazing, but some days it seems like nothing works. Breathing? I know it helps, but tonight for example, I am not even able to breathe.
Nikky44´s last post…Hey Friend, Welcome back!

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Leah June 9, 2012 at 10:50 am

Tess, what a great post! I love how you break things into tiny pieces—small enough to swallow. Thank you!
Leah
Leah´s last post…Summertime Toss Back

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Marc Anthony June 10, 2012 at 10:33 am

These are really good advice .. i will try to do this … Thanks ..
Marc Anthony´s last post…xbox hdmi

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Lois Hughes June 10, 2012 at 2:43 pm

Tess. This is an amazing post on dealing with fear and anxiety in life. It’s chock full of info and kudos for being open and honest about the need for medication. Morning anxiety is still a problem for me – when I wake my thoughts race and I need to use a variety of ways to quiet them down. Thanks for a great post – Lois
Lois Hughes´s last post…Let Water Soothe Your Soul

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Keith Clarke June 11, 2012 at 2:31 am

Hi Tess,

A great list of techniques and they all have their time and their place. I do agree with Halina above that each of us needs to find our own way and that not everything will work for everyone.

Regarding medication, I think as an initial solution without having explored the other options is premature and can lead to dependency unnecessarily. I had a car accident many years ago and had 2 months of agoraphobia and panic attacks. I had always been anti medication but I knew I was not going to get through without it during this time so I gave in. And I am glad I did. Yes it was supplemented with therapy and yoga, but it was an important part of the revival cocktail :)

Overall though, I think point 1 is the one one where we have the most control. It is just difficult sometimes to see that.

Thanks for the post
Keith Clarke´s last post…A Brave New World (for me anyway)

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David Hamilton | Everlution June 11, 2012 at 3:13 am

I’m a bigtime advocate as well of mindfulness practice, whether it’s meditation, yoga or martial arts. Makes one of the biggest differences in my life, ever. Especially Tai Chi practice.
David Hamilton | Everlution´s last post…The Powerful & Positive Effects of Mindfulness Meditation

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Betsy at Zen Mama June 11, 2012 at 3:52 pm

Thanks once again for sharing the story of your life. I really think it helps others to know that they are not alone. And your tips are wonderful. I’m always copying your tips down!! And I love inhale peace, exhale love. That would be a great walking meditation.
Thanks for a great post, Tess!
Betsy at Zen Mama´s last post…My Digital-Free Vacation

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Davina Haisell June 11, 2012 at 9:27 pm

Hi Tess.

I love how you’ve illustrated what worked for you and that you were honest enough with yourself… and aware… to ask for help. So many folk live in denial, but I guess you have to be ready to make the change. But even more than all of that, I love how you took your experience and what you learned, and used it to help other people. You’re a good soul. Truly awake and alive, and walking your talk.

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William Veasley June 11, 2012 at 11:27 pm

Tess:

I have really been working hard at creating a peaceful life. I think lately I have been doing pretty good, at least compared to where I was a couple years ago. There were a couple of things that really help me.

1. Eliminating negative people.

2. Eliminating people that only cared about themselves.

3. Helping others.

4. Doing what enjoy everyday.

I agree that it is good to connect with nature. When I do not feel good it always helps my mood to connect with nature because it is beautiful. There are few things quite as beauiful as the earth we live on.

Best Wishes,
William Veasley
William Veasley´s last post…Hello World!

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Lorii Abela June 14, 2012 at 10:30 am

Great advice!. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and insights.
Lorii Abela´s last post…Finding a Soul Mate: Are You Afraid of Letting Go?

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Sandy August 30, 2012 at 7:56 pm

Tess,

I just stumbled upon your blog and love it! Loved reading all the comments too. This space is very inspirational, honest and authentic. This is the life that I choose to embrace. I’m a 56 year old women who finally got to the root cause of many of my difficulties. I’ve been on the transformational path for years. I’ll be celebrating 26 years of sobriety. It’s been a beautiful path, but one with many twists and turns and ups and downs. We, as a society are so conditioned by our parents, educational systems, religious institutions and yes, even the support groups that we attend. My motto has always been to thine own self be true. We each have to find our own inner truth and try all the tools that work and resonate with as an individual. I take what resonates with me and leave the rest.

Having been in a 12 step program for over 26 years, I see so many people struggle to be happy, peaceful and grounded but they don’t seek additional help. As a result, they are shallow, miserable and tell the same story over and over. It’s so easy to get locked into our stories and stay stuck. So many people are programed that if they just work the 12 steps everything will be okay. Well, it’s a great set of guidelines and principles but we need to go further. Many people still need additional mental health help and that sometimes includes medication. I have seen so many people get stuck and then go back to their old ideas and habits and end up self destructing. Some of them even die or commit suicide. Some people are only capable of going only far because the truth and living authentically is too scary. I love the title of your website “The Bold Life” It takes courage, tenacity, resilience and risk to live an authentic life. Not everyone makes the decision to live boldly. I’m recognizing that sometimes my anxiety can actually be a gift. I notice that it lets me know that something needs my attention.

I used to be one of the people who resisted psychiatry and meds but once I found the right meds for depression I felt much better and was able to function. It took me many years to get the correct help and diagnosis for ADHD. I practice meditation, and am learning many more tools to assist me on this life journey.

Your post is extremely well-written. I have you bookmarked and will be a frequent visitor. I started a little hokey gardening decorating fun blog over a year ago. My soul is longing to go in another direction and write more authentically when I get this ADHD issue under control. I’m excited about the journey ahead.

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Corinne Shields March 27, 2013 at 11:48 am

Hi Tess

I have linked to you today from soulsnet.com. The post is about calming down so I was delighted to discover your lovely website “The Bold Life” and particularly your article about “10 Tips to help you calm down.”

I am sure that my readers will enjoy it and I hope that you will also come and visit.

A great article. Sharing experience, strength and hope benefits us all so thank you for sharing your story.

Kind regards
Corinne at soulsnet.com
Corinne Shields´s last post…I’m fed up with the same old. What now?

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Corinne Shields March 27, 2013 at 12:15 pm

Hi Tess

Just a quick PS to the above. Tip number 4 “Stop betting on the negative” really struck a chord with me. I do this all the time!!!

I know changing bad habits is really difficult but if you want a different outcome you have to start doing different things and turning my thoughts on their head by calculating the best positive outcomes is revelationary to me!!

But why not? I am expert at predicting the worst because I have had so much practice, so why not start predicting the best, why not?????

It takes just the same effort and the process is so much more pleasant. I shall really try to make expecting the best a habit.

I also have discovered and enjoyed Julia Cameron’s “The Artist’s Way”. Wonderful book isn’t it?

I shall visit often. Please do come visit me at soulsnet. I think you would enjoy it.

Corinne

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Ulrike Lindner July 14, 2013 at 2:11 am

Hi Tess,

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your website today.

I can very much relate to your unsettled mind and inability to focus.
Are you able to tell me which medication you are on? I have recently been prescribed anti-depressant medication, however, as I have tried several over the past year without any positive effect, I am reluctant to try another new one.

I would be very interested to learn which medication has had such a positive impact on you.

Thank you again for your wonderful website.

Warmest wishes,

Ulrike

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Amber July 31, 2013 at 2:51 pm

What if you don’t have the money to seek medical help? I’m trying to keep my girlfriend from committing suicide. She has multiple panic attacks daily. Her family knows but they don’t have the money to get her help.

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Tess August 1, 2013 at 7:56 am

Amber,
I’m not sure how to answer this. Call social services and ask for direction.
Tess

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