If we say that a person is cool, we mean they're calm, especially in difficult times or situations. Staying "cool" is about managing stress, and managing stress is about retraining your brain.
Stress is an unavoidable reality of life. We all have moments when we feel overwhelmed, frustrated, hurt, disappointed. We feel it in our bodies and our minds. Expectations can produce stress. Worry adds to it. Anger tends to fuel it. Anxiety can push it over the top. Then we lose our cool.
Staying cool means creating a new way of acting; a lifestyle with calmer reactions creating a calmer, cooler person.
Being "cool" has lots of perks. People who are calmer tend to have more friends, more success at work and at home, and a lifestyle with more opportunities for fun, excitement and adventures. People who practice being calmer have greater opportunities to discover happiness.
Start creating a calmer and cooler lifestyle today.
Taking in deep breaths helps relax the body, slowly triggering the body to stop releasing stress hormones. Concentrating on your breathing helps distract your mind from whatever is bothering you. Practice breathing, so when you need to remain cool, you have the skill of breathing as a default coping strategy.
EXERCISE: Diaphragmatic/Belly Button
Take a few minutes to breathe, multiple times a day. Focus only each breath, letting go of the tension and stress.
- Place one hand over your chest and place the other hand on your belly button.
- Breathe in deeply through your nose, all the way to your belly and not just to your chest.
- Fill your diaphragm like a balloon.
- Then slowly, push the air out of diaphragm, exhaling through your mouth.
- Repeat several times.
Cope with anger.
Anger is a strong feel of annoyance, displeasure or hostility. The experience is characterized by antagonism toward someone or something—often connected to the experience of unfairness, injustice or feeling like someone has done you wrong.
Typically, anger has primary emotions (sadness, fear, loss) connected to it. These primary emotions create feelings of loss of control and vulnerability. Coping with anger means dealing with vulnerability and loss by learning to let go of control and accepting the world on the world's terms.
Find the positive.
The world is filled with pain, disappointment, hurt, trauma and abuse ... and lately, an expected pandemic and an unforeseen war. As we face these realities, it's not hard to imagine the worst case in every scenario. Clinically knows as "catastrophic thinking," this worst case imagining needs to be contained and challenged.
EXERCISE: Stretch Your Mind
Rather than dwelling on negative aspects or outcomes:
- Imagine a positive outcome.
- Consider the helpful and beneficial aspects.
- Watch for even the smallest, good thing.
Surround yourself with positive people.
Most people can identify a few people in their lives who make them feel stressed just by being around them. While it's not always possible to cut these people out of your life entirely, boundaries are often necessary.
- Get comfortable with saying "Yes" and "No."
- Limit the guilt for saying, "No," especially when you are stressed.
- Spend more time with friends and family who are helpful, positive, and will lift you up rather than drag you down. Positive people in your life can help you stay cool.
Write down your gratitude.
Staying grateful for everything you have in your life—no matter how small—can keep things in perspective and help you to maintain a positive attitude.
EXERCISE: Gratitude Journal
Keep a daily gratitude journal. Start the morning with three things you are grateful for today. End the day by writing down five things you feel thankful for. Test this gratitude hypothesis and see how much better it makes you feel.
Regular exercise prompts the body to release feel-good hormones. Daily workouts, walks, bike rides, etc. help to clear your head. If you're under pressure, stopping at the gym on the way home could help you to feel calmer and gain a new perspective on the situation. Exercise can change your perspective, and help you realize it's often not a case of life or death. (Side note: get plenty of sleep, too!)
Meditation and mindfulness are not all about sitting cross-legged for hours and chanting "Om." Instead, the practice is to intentionally focus one of the five senses in a new way. Mindfulness training is about practicing slowing down, notice the things.
Even a few minutes of sitting quietly and concentrating on your breathing is a beneficial form of meditation. With practice, mindfulness helps you to manage emotions better, and meditation has been proven to reduce stress and change the brain over time to be cooler and calmer.
EXERCISE: Try an App
Want some guidance getting started? Try an app like Calm or Headspace.
For more tips on managing stress, visit pinerest.org/stress.
Written by Ronald J. DeVries, PhD, Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services.
Courtesy of Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services.