Top 7 tips for when you’re struggling to be calm

According to the Australian Psychological Society[1], almost half of working Australians find that the workplace is a source of stress. Add to this, women report that family and financial issues are the leading sources of stress for them. This stress may come about from long hours, heavy workloads and regular deadlines, job insecurity and inter-personal relationships.

It is no wonder that it is sometimes difficult to stay grounded and calm. The tension builds up, and we’re often left feeling anxious, tired, and burnt out. Other symptoms of stress include depression, a drop in work performance, headaches and an increase in sick days or absenteeism. Actually stress has been reported to be having an impact on the physical health of three quarters of workers.

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I hear it so often “I just don’t have time for anything else” and “I often can’t sleep well when I have big work deadlines the next day”.

Our minds go a million miles an hour and we get into a whirlwind of a range of emotions. This means we can sometimes get short with people, get caught up in negative feelings, experience mood swings, become aggressive or pessimistic, lose interest, feel tired and then feel even worse as the guilt and more anxiety kicks in.

Can you think of some times in your workplace where you or your colleagues have behaved in these ways? Or sometimes even you?

When you’re finding it difficult to get calm in a certain situation, or you’re feeling overwhelmed, these top 7 tips for when you’re struggling to get calm should help:

1. Don’t respond straight away

The best exercise to do is to count to ten. Counting to ten may seem like too long in a tense moment, but when you’re in a highly stressful situation you count faster than usual. Trust me. You need to get to ten. When you count you take your mind away from the situation immediately at hand.

2. Heighten your awareness

Start noticing when you get triggered (and keep practicing counting to ten when you do). Over time you will notice that you don’t have to count anymore. You’ll start noticing your emotional reactions and getting to know your triggers. When you observe your mind and the stories it tells you, you stop engaging from a win-lose point of view, and start analysing situations from a more objective perspective.

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3. Shift your focus

When you feel tension building up, it’s important to not let your emotions take control. This doesn’t mean you don’t feel them, but getting out of your emotional body and into your physical body creates space. Instead of focusing on the situation, focus on the part of your body where you feel it. Get really curious and notice how it changes. Just observe.

4. Look within first

When we’re under pressure, we often look outside to blame someone for how we’re feeling. We think others are pressuring us and start resenting them and the situations they put us in. The truth is that we always have a choice. No matter how much we want to talk ourselves out of that choice saying that we “have to” do X or Y, we have most likely put ourselves there. Which leads well into point 5…

5. Give yourself some love

Feeling anxious and stressed is awful. But… what are you really feeling? What might the feelings be connected to deeper down? Give your feelings some real attention and be kind to yourself. Instead of beating yourself up for it, be accepting and stay with it while you count to 10. If you want to spend more time delving deeper, try the meditation exercise below.

Women report that family and financial issues are the leading sources of stress for them. This stress may come about from long hours, heavy workloads and regular deadlines, job insecurity and inter-personal relationships

6. Think of it as a game

This world is a playground, and sometimes we get too caught up in our head thinking of all the possibilities and choices we have before us, and that is overwhelming. It sure doesn’t help with staying calm! Instead of getting caught up in the options and reacting, try to think of it as a game. If you were playing a fun game, what would you do? What would you try? What would you say?

7. Practice gratitude

Stop for a second and look around you. Count ALL your blessings. That outfit you’re wearing? Be grateful you were able to afford it. Your colleague right there? Appreciate he’s always been supportive. When you practice being grateful you start to realise that really, everything around you is a blessing! Gratitude transforms your energy. Give it a try.

These day-to-day simple steps should help with staying grounded. And with proof that mindfulness practice can help improve so many things beyond stress levels including memory, focus and creativity.

I would love to hear how you get on.

Bonus mindfulness exercise

  • Find a quiet spot away from drafts.
  • Sit or lie comfortably. If you sit, do so comfortably but with a straight back and crossed legs if you’re on the floor. Take off your shoes so you can feel more grounded.
  • Bring your awareness to your breath. Don’t try to change it, just focus on the ins and outs and keep your awareness there.
  • When thoughts come up – from what you didn’t get done at work today to the shopping list – acknowledge them but come back to your breath. Don’t engage with the thoughts.
  • If you find that similar concerns come up over and over then it would be worth sitting with them more and exploring gently, without judgement, and see where these thoughts come from. Are they beliefs that you hold about yourself, about your value, about your feelings, about your relationships?
  • You could then spend some time asking, ‘Do these beliefs serve me?’. If the answer is no, then you can start to release them over time by being aware when they come up and starting to re-map your response to them. Some of these may be beliefs laid down in childhood and so doing some work connecting with your inner child could be very helpful.
  • While many experienced meditators may meditate for an hour or longer, it is useful to just start off with ten minutes once a day and work up from there.

Fact box

  • In any one year, around 1 million Australian adults have depression, and over 2 million have anxiety. (Source: Beyond Blue)
  • Over $133.9 million was paid in benefits to Australian workers who made claims related to workplace stress during the 2004/2005 tax year.

[1] Stress and wellbeing in Australia survey 2013


Catalina-Lopera-Leaders-in-HeelsCatalina Lopera
Catalina is the founder of Events With Soul, a company producing live events that aim to provide practical tools for transformational spiritual journeys and helping people connect with themselves and others. She’s found great comfort in meditation and the practice of self-awareness, and now shares valuable insights with others.