How to Calm Down: Ways to Relax Your Body and Mind

It can be difficult to calm your body and mind when you're angry, anxious, or stressed. Yet, there are many techniques you can try to help you calm yourself. From deep breathing to muscle relaxation, there are many tools you can utilize to help yourself calm down, both mentally and physically.

This article will provide actionable tips on how to relax and explain the tell-tale signs that you need to calm yourself down.

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Calming Down the Body

If you experience feelings of stress or anxiety on a regular basis, it's best to talk with a healthcare professional. They can help you establish a treatment plan for long-term results.

However, if you find yourself having an anxious moment, some techniques can help.

Going for a Walk

There are many benefits of exercise for your physical health. But did you know that getting your body moving is a way to help calm down?

A small 2019 study indicated that while regular exercise has a positive impact on stress reduction, acute exercise can relieve stress as well.

Get Moving

Research consistently supports that people report feeling calmer after 20 to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. This calming effect can last for several hours after the exercise is finished.

If a long or strenuous workout isn't doable, a 10-minute walk can be beneficial for stress relief.

Regular exercise is the most helpful for stress reduction, even if it's smaller sessions daily or several times a week. However, if you're feeling stress or anxiety at the moment and want to calm down immediately, try strapping on your shoes and heading out for a walk.

Muscle Relaxation

Stress can cause muscles to tighten, sometimes leading to discomfort or pain. These tense muscles then tell the body that it's stressed, creating a cycle. Muscle relaxation can stop this cyclical response by relieving muscle tension and overall anxiety. It may even help you to fall asleep more easily.

Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique used for this purpose. To do progressive muscle relaxation:

How to Do Progressive Muscle Relaxation

To do progressive muscle relaxation:

  1. Choose a place with enough room to lie on your back comfortably.
  2. Tense a group of muscles as you breathe in.
  3. Relax these muscles as you breathe out, noticing how your muscles feel when you relax them.
  4. Repeat until you have tensed and released all of your muscle groups.


The muscle groups in order are:

  • Hands
  • Wrists and forearms
  • Biceps and upper arms
  • Shoulders
  • Forehead
  • Around the eyes and bridge of the nose
  • Cheeks and jaws
  • Around the mouth
  • Back of the neck
  • Front of the neck
  • Chest
  • Back
  • Stomach
  • Hips and buttocks
  • Thighs
  • Lower legs

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice these relaxation exercises when you are not feeling stressed or anxious until they come naturally. This will make it easier for you to use them effectively when you need them.

Yoga and More

Yoga is an activity that helps mind and body fitness. It combines muscular activity and mindful focus through awareness of the self, the breath, and energy.

A 2011 review indicated that yoga can lower breathing and heart rates, decrease blood pressure, lower cortisol (hormones associated with stress) levels, and increase blood flow to the intestines and vital organs. This helps calm the body and mind.

Yoga comes in many forms, often adapted to fit specific needs. Many yoga programs can be found online, even on YouTube. If you prefer a more interactive approach in which you can receive feedback, check for yoga classes in your area.

Tai chi is another mind-body exercise that may help promote calmness.

A review of 17 studies from 1989 to March 2014 examined Tai chi's efficacy in alleviating anxiety. Twelve of these studies showed positive effects on anxiety relief.

More research is needed to make conclusive statements about Tai chi's effects on anxiety, but smaller studies are promising.

Before You Start

Activities such as yoga and Tai chi are exercises. Before trying any exercise program, check with your healthcare provider to see if it's appropriate for you and precautions you need to take.

Ways to Relax the Mind

Relaxing the mind along with the body is important when trying to calm down. Activities that help calm the mind can be done at the moment and as part of a long-term treatment plan for managing stress and anxiety.

Deep Breaths

We all breathe, but how we breathe is important. When we feel anxious, it can feel like we are short of breath as our breathing can become quicker and shallower.

Diaphragmatic breathing (also called deep breathing) can slow down breathing and maximize the number of blood gases.

How Often Should I Practice Deep Breathing for It to Be Effective?

Practicing deep breathing for 20 to 30 minutes each day can help reduce anxiety and stress.

If this is too much at first, start with 5 to 10 minutes about three to four times per day, gradually increasing the time of each session as it becomes more natural to you.

To do deep breathing:

  1. Lie on your back on a flat surface such as your bed. (As you gain practice you can try it sitting in a chair).
  2. Bend your knees (use a pillow to support your legs if you wish) and make sure your head is supported.
  3. Place one hand on your upper chest and the other on your belly (just below your rib cage).
  4. Breathe in slowly through your nose.
  5. Feel the hand on your belly rise as you breathe in and your stomach expands out. The hand on your chest should stay as still as possible.
  6. Purse your lips and exhale slowly through your mouth.
  7. Keep repeating this breathing pattern.

Some people find a counting pattern helps. These patterns vary. Anxiety Canada recommends breathing in for a count of four, holding, then breathing out for a count of four.

Choose whichever pattern helps you breathe in and out slowly if you chose to use one.

Guided Imagery

As with the above relaxation practices, guided imagery can help elicit a calming response.

Guided imagery evokes a sensory experience. It's usually combined with breathing techniques. It can be done with an instructor or recording giving you a script with directed images, or you can create the images yourself.

The relaxation response is a state of profound rest that helps counteract the stress response ("fight or flight").

Once you're in a comfortable position, close your eyes and picture a place that makes you feel calm, such as a beach or a park.

When you have the place in your mind, try to engage all of your senses. Imagine the breeze or the feeling of your toes sinking into the sand. Think of smells, sounds, even tastes you would experience in this place.

The process can help you feel more in control of your emotions and thought processes.

Audio Guides

McMaster University offers audio files to help guide you through:

  • Diaphragmatic breathing
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Guided imagery
  • Autogenic training

Mindful Meditation

Some studies suggest meditation may help several conditions, including anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

Meditation is used to:

  • Increase calmness and physical relaxation
  • Improve psychological balance
  • Cope with illness
  • Enhance the overall health and well-being

Mindfulness often goes along with meditation.

Mindfulness can help you:

  • With your focus and awareness
  • Learn to feel the physical changes in your body as they relate to your emotions and how emotions affect your body
  • Focus your mind on the immediate
  • Learn to calm your mind and body

There are many ways to practice mindful meditation. One technique to try for anxiety is:

  1. Sitting upright in a chair, place your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Focus on your breathing. Don't change how you're breathing, just pay attention to your body as you breathe in and out.
  3. Resist the urge to let your focus shift and stay concentrated on your breathing.
  4. If anxious thoughts appear, acknowledge them without judgment, then refocus on your breathing.
  5. Continue doing this for about 10 minutes.
  6. Open your eyes. How do you feel? Observations only, no judgment or value placement.

While practicing mindfulness and doing meditation can help you calm down at the moment, doing it regularly can provide lasting help with anxiety, especially when combined with other treatments.

Interesting Facts

Did you know chewing gum can help relieve anxiety?

A small study from 2019 provides a recommendation for students to chew gum before an exam to overcome test stress, and a review of studies showed mixed results but indicated that chewing gum might be a stress-reliever for some people.


How to Recognize When You Need to Calm Yourself Down

There are a number of reasons you may feel agitated and in need of calming down. One big trigger of feeling this way is anxiety, whether it's a passing worry or part of an anxiety or panic disorder.

Some passing symptoms of emotional stress include:

Some symptoms that can indicate an anxiety disorder include:

  • Changes in weight (up or down) or eating habits
  • Changes in sleep (more or less sleep than usual)
  • Gastrointestinal problems such as upset stomach, diarrhea, or constipation
  • Sexual difficulties
  • Feeling more emotional than is typical for you
  • Feeling overwhelmed or on edge
  • Having difficulty with memory and keeping track of things
  • Difficulty making decisions, solving problems, concentrating, or accomplishing tasks
  • Using alcohol or drugs as a means to relieve emotional stress

Sometimes, anxiety can manifest as a panic attack.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) defines a panic attack as, "the abrupt onset of intense fear or discomfort that reaches a peak within minutes and includes at least four of the following symptoms":

  • Heart palpitations, pounding heart, or accelerated heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trembling/shaking
  • Sensations of shortness of breath or smothering
  • Feelings of choking
  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Nausea or abdominal distress
  • Feeling dizzy, unsteady, light-headed, or faint
  • Chills or heat sensations
  • Numbness or tingling sensations
  • Feelings of unreality or being detached from oneself
  • Fear of losing control or “going crazy”
  • Fear of dying

Managing and Preventing Stress

While these techniques can help you calm down when you're actively feeling anxious, consistent stress management is important.

Some ways to help address stress on a day-to-day basis include:

  • Move your body: Engage in regular exercise.
  • Eat well: Nourish your body with a variety of healthy foods.
  • Reach out to others: Connect with others. Talk to people you enjoy spending time with. Hug people (if you like hugging).
  • Practice relaxation techniques: The techniques mentioned above, such as yoga, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation, can be done on a regular basis as part of stress management.
  • Get some shut-eye: Getting enough good quality sleep (try for 7 to 8 hours each night) is important to all areas of your health, including your mental health.
  • Stimulate your senses: Listen to music. Stop and smell the roses. Eat something flavorful. There are many healthy ways to have sensory experiences.
  • Write it out: A 2017 study of health workers showed that expressive writing can have a positive impact on adaptive coping strategies. Write in a journal. Write letters that you don't send to people you're feeling negative towards. Put your emotions on the page.

When to Seek Professional Treatment

Everyone experiences stress, but for some, stress and anxiety are part of a medical condition that requires treatment.

If you're experiencing anxiety that isn't well-controlled by techniques at home, contact your healthcare provider or mental health professional. They can assess the root cause of your issues and determine a treatment plan to best fit your needs.

Help Is Available

If you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

If you or a loved one have thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). They are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Summary

If you experience anxiety, anger, or overwhelm regularly, it's best to talk with a healthcare professional. They can help you establish a treatment plan for long-term results. However, if you find yourself having an anxious moment, some techniques can help.

Some physical signs that you're experiencing stress include an increased heart rate, shortness of breath, generalized body aches, headache, and dizziness, to name a few.

Techniques for calming your body and mind include deep breathing, physical activity, muscle relaxation, and guided imagery, among others.

If your anxiety symptoms don't improve with these techniques, talk with your healthcare provider. They can help you establish a more effective treatment plan.

A Word From Verywell

Stress is a fact of life. In some cases, it can even be healthy. But if you find yourself feeling anxious or overwhelmed, there are things you can try to help you calm down and help with long-term stress management.

Breathing exercises, relaxation techniques, exercise, and more can help quiet your mind and relax your body.

If you're feeling anxiety or stress regularly that doesn't improve with these techniques, reach out to your healthcare provider or mental health professional. They can give you tools to feel calm and connected.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How can you calm down from being overwhelmed and stressed?

    Some ways to help you feel calmer and effectively manage stress include:

    • Exercise
    • Breathing exercises
    • Relaxation exercises such as guided imagery, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and yoga
  • How do you calm down from an anxiety or panic attack?

    Some ways to calm down during an anxiety or panic attack include:

    • Deep breathing
    • Counting backward
    • Grounding yourself (focus your attention on four things around you that you can see, three things you can touch, two that you can smell, and one you can taste)
    • Apply ice packs to points on your body
  • What is the best way to calm down when you’re angry?

    The techniques used to help you calm down when you feel anxious can also help when you feel angry. These include exercises such as deep breathing, relaxation techniques, and exercise. If you find you have anger that's difficult to control, see your healthcare provider for steps to manage your anger long-term.

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