It could be anything from a tantrum-throwing toddler to a broken appliance to a family crisis to an eleventh-hour project at work, she said.
But even on the days when you’re not putting out fires, peace might still be missing. Below, you’ll find tips for creating calm every day and finding peace in stressful situations.
1. Remember thoughts are not facts.
Our thoughts are highly influential in determining how we feel throughout the day. Fortunately, we’re not shackled to negative cognitions. “Thoughts are just thoughts,” Naumburg said. They’re “the result of neurons firing for reasons we may never understand.”
When any kind of thought arises, you can decide what to do with it. “You might want to explore [your thoughts] or act on them, or you might want to let them go and move on. You can decide.”
2. Make alone time a priority.
“We too often take for granted the importance of alone time,” said L. Kevin Chapman, Ph.D, a psychologist and associate professor in clinical psychology at the University of Louisville, where he studies and treats anxiety disorders. This might be because being alone gets confused with being lonely, he said.
But many solitary activities can soothe you (and help you cultivate a healthy relationship with yourself). “One can engage in an assortment of activities alone to remain at peace throughout the day such as exercise, reading, listening to music [and] prayer,” Chapman said. Here are more ideas on savoring solitude.
3. Focus on your breath.
There are many ways you can use your breath to bring peace, even when you’re anxious. One way is to simply “pay attention to your breathing,” Naumburg said. “You don’t have to do anything or change anything, just pay attention to your breath going in and out — either by noticing your belly rising and falling, or feeling your breath move in and out of your nose.”
Another way is to practice diaphragmatic breathing twice a day, Chapman said. “Breathe slowly through your nose — your stomach should expand – and exhale slowly through your mouth. Think ‘1’ as you inhale and “relax” as you exhale [very slowly]. Think ‘2’ as you inhale and ‘relax’ as you exhale,” all the way up to 10.
4. Focus on your body.
Many of us live in our heads, ruminating about the past and rattling off tasks we have to do in the future. This is anything but peaceful. And it can mean we forget about our bodies.
As Jeffrey Brantley, M.D., and Wendy Millstine, NC, write in their book Five Good Minutes In Your Body: 100 Mindful Practices to Help You Accept Yourself & Feel At Home in Your Body, “Where is your body in all this thinking?”
It’s probably pretty tense. And it’s hard to feel tranquil when your body is uptight. Dr. Brantley and Millstine suggest the following for listening to your body and attending to your needs:
1. “Take this quiet moment to really pay attention to your physical body.
2. What is your body doing right now? Are you slouching, at ease, or tense?
3. If your body had a voice, what would it say to you? Would it remind you of your lower back pain? Would it ask you to do a few stretches to unwind and relax? Maybe it is asking you to sit upright and uncross your legs. Maybe your eyes are tired after staring at a computer screen all day and they need a break.”
5. Begin your day with calm.
Mornings can set the tone for the rest of your day. Taking a few minutes each morning to focus on self-care “can make a huge difference in your ability to respond gracefully to whatever comes your way,” Naumburg said.
For instance, you might take that time to meditate, journal or savor a cup of tea or coffee, she said. Whatever you do, just “Resist the temptation to watch the news, check email, or write out your to-do list; you will have plenty of time for that later in the day.”
6. Avoid mindlessly surfing social sites.
As Naumburg said, does your online social life stress you out, or help you stay connected? It’s a key question because for many people social sites sap their calm, and instead rev up their self-doubt and insecurities.
“Notice the impact of your social surfing, and if it’s actually making you feel worse, try to give yourself a break.” For instance, Naumburg suggested asking yourself: Am I constantly comparing myself to my “friends?” Do I judge myself or feel increasingly isolated when I visit these websites?
“The STOP technique is just an easy way to create a little space in the midst of whatever is going on, so you can get some perspective on the situation and make a choice as how to you want to respond,” Naumburg said.
STOP stands for: Stop, Take a breath, Observe and Proceed.
The more you practice this technique, the more natural — and automatic — pausing becomes. For instance, instead of lashing out at others, and increasing everyone’s stress levels, you’ll be able to stop, calm down and assess the situation.
How do you find peace in your day? What helps you stay calm?