How To Calm Down When It All Seems Too Much

Medically reviewed by Melissa Guarnaccia
Updated December 9, 2023by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Everyone experiences frustration and fear at some time in their life, but when anger, panic, and anxiety disorders become part of a pattern, staying calm can seem overwhelming.

Anxiety is the most common mental health disorder in the United States, affecting some 19.1% of adults in the U.S. in a given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Even the most mentally healthy people in the world can have moments of anxiety, panic, or fear and have trouble calming down. When challenging emotions become overwhelming, it can help to employ some evidence-based strategies for calming down. Below, we’ll discuss ways to calm down in the face of anxiety, anger, and even panic attacks. 

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Benefits Of Learning How To Keep Calm

Physical Benefits

Several physical benefits are associated with calmness. The following are just a few:

  • Lower blood pressure: Research shows that people who commonly have anxiety are more likely to experience hypertension later in life.
  • Lower heart rate: Both anger and fear significantly in the moment.
  • Reduced risk of heart attack and stroke: After a show of anger, the risk of heart attack and stroke rises.
  • Reduced digestive problems: Anxiety can lead to digestive problems such as constipation and diarrhea.
  • Reduced overeating: Anger may lead to greater feelings of hunger and more impulsive eating.

Emotional And Social Benefits

If you know how to calm your mind, you may also experience profound emotional benefits. People who know how to control their emotions tend to have less depression and anxiety. They tend to be happier and less susceptible to shifting moods.

When you understand how to calm down from anxiety and anger, you may enjoy greater success at work, at home, and in social situations. You may also find that you can build stronger relationships and express your creativity better.

Identifying Fears And Frustrations

Sometimes, it may be challenging to identify what triggers fear and anger. Other times, a specific event or situation can cause these emotions to flare. It may help to first recognize that it’s acceptable to feel the way you do. Trying to deny your feelings may intensify them. Instead, being aware of your emotions and your triggers may help you prepare to be calm no matter the situation.

What Is It That Makes You Feel Angry?

While each person can experience anger for unique reasons, the following are some common triggers of anger for many people:

  • Traffic jams
  • Coworkers
  • Elections that don't go your way
  • Social injustice
  • Taxes
  • Strict rules or laws
  • Rejection
  • People who hurt others intentionally
  • People who correct you in public
  • People who reprimand you at work

Perhaps you recognize some of the above triggers in your own life. You may notice that angry feelings are a common response for many of the items. However, if you learn how to calm down from anger when confronted by these challenges, you may find that you can manage the situation more effectively.

What Are You Afraid Of?

Fear can sometimes be a useful emotion when it helps us be more careful or stay away from dangerous situations. However, in other contexts, fear can be paralyzing. You can miss out on opportunities because you're afraid to try. 

Recognizing your fears ahead of time may give you a chance to overcome them. People with anxiety may experience fear in many situations, but there is usually something that triggers it. They, too, may benefit from examining what makes them afraid.

The following are some common causes of fear in many people:

  • Being a victim of crime
  • Losing a loved one through death, divorce, or abandonment
  • Experiencing a natural disaster
  • Losing a job
  • Speaking in public
  • Being embarrassed
  • Meeting new people
  • Being in a crowd
  • Being in a hospital
  • Dying

Some of these fears may serve essential functions. For example, being afraid of crime can prompt you to park in a well-lit area at night or lock your doors when you leave home. Being afraid that you can't support yourself may push you to work harder to find a job. However, other fears can paralyze you and cause the very thing that you fear to happen. 

How To Calm Down From Anxiety Or Anger

Below are some strategies you might try to calm down when you experience fear, anger, or anxiety. You might try out several until you find a mix of techniques that work best for you.

Stay In The Moment

It can be easy to think excessively about the past or the future. For example, when tempers flare, thoughts of past grievances often fuel the fire, and anxiety tends to be more about the future. When you keep your thoughts in the present moment, you may find that you can manage the anger, fear, or panic in that moment. 

Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is one strategy for staying in the moment. Mindfulness typically entails paying close attention to the information you are getting from your senses in the present moment. Being mindful may help you get in tune with what is going on so that you don't react in a way that leads to regret.

Thought-Stopping

Thoughts that provoke anger or fear but have no other purpose may come into your mind repeatedly. Instead of letting them affect your emotions, you might practice the thought-stopping technique. When an unwanted thought starts repeatedly replaying, you might be able to stop it by mentally saying the word "Stop!" If your imagination is more visual, you might try to picture a stop sign. Every time the thought recurs, you can stop it again. Once you have practiced this method for a while, it may come more easily.

Remember Past Positive Outcomes

When you are faced with a challenge to your emotions, it may help to think about times in the past when the same situation turned out well. Perhaps you tend to get angry when you see a certain relative. Instead of dwelling on times when your personalities clashed, you might remember when you had a pleasant conversation. Similarly, if you are afraid you will have an accident when you drive across town, you can think of another time when you drove there and made it to your destination safely.

Take A Break

Resolving an emotion-fraught situation can be tiring and frustrating. It may help to take a break from it and come back later when you have calmed down. Mostly likely, either the problem will still be there for you to resolve, or it will have resolved in some other way and you won't have to face it.

Suggest Another Time Or Place To Settle A Problem

Sometimes, getting out of an argument or a fearful situation can be difficult. One possible way to get calm is to suggest coming back to the discussion or situation at another place or time. Moving to a more neutral place during a dispute may help calm your nerves if you are at a disadvantage. Once you arrive at the new location, you may feel more in control of your emotions.

Walk Away

You don't have to settle every dispute. Sometimes, it's okay to walk away from an argument and go on with your life.

Natural Remedies

If a confrontation or scary situation has concluded but you still feel angry or upset, you can take some time to have a cup of herbal tea like chamomile or lavender. For many people, these herbs tend to be safe and effective, but you might ask a doctor before trying them.

Muscle Relaxation Techniques

You might consider using muscle relaxation techniques when your muscles tense after an intense episode of anger. One technique is called progressive muscle relaxation, which involves tensing and releasing each muscle group one by one.

How To Calm Down From A Panic Attack

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Panic attacks fall into the more general category of anxiety. A panic attack is typically sudden, intense, and over quickly in most cases, usually peaking in about 10 minutes or less. The following are some strategies you can try to calm down during a panic attack.

Recognize You're Having A Panic Attack

If you've had panic attacks before, you may recognize the symptoms listed below. Feelings and sensations during a panic attack can be quite unsettling, but they are typically harmless:

  • Your heart is racing.
  • You feel weak or faint.
  • You feel dizzy.
  • You have numbness or tingling in your extremities.
  • You feel terrified.
  • You feel like you are going to die.
  • You sweat or have chills.
  • You have pains in your chest.
  • Your breathing becomes irregular.
  • You feel like you are losing control.

Don't Rush To Do Something About It

It's common for people with panic attacks to search frantically for methods to calm anxiety as soon as they feel the panic coming on. Because panic attacks usually only last a few minutes, waiting for them to pass may be more helpful. You might practice a technique called urge surfing, which involves feeling the anxiety rise and fall like waves until it finally dissipates and loses its power.

Stay Engaged in Activities You Need To Complete

If you aren't doing anything important, you can focus on using tips and techniques you've learned to calm a panic attack. However, if you're driving, you need to stay focused on the road until you can pull over.

Use Breathing Techniques

You might consider trying belly breathing to get yourself calmed down from a panic attack. Instead of breathing from your chest, try focusing on your belly, and breathe as if the breath is coming and going from that part of your body. Slow breathing may also be helpful. You might try breathing in for a slow count of five, holding your breath briefly, and then breathing out to a slow count of seven.

Remind Yourself It Will Pass

When you're in the midst of a panic attack, it can feel like it will last forever. It can feel so intense that you can forget it will only last a few moments. It may help to remind yourself that your panic attack is temporary and will soon be over. Once you learn how to calm down during panic attacks, they may happen less frequently, and if they do, you’ll know how to react.

How To Stay Calm

Getting calm only takes a short while, but staying that way can be a challenge. Knowing how to keep calm can be an important skill to learn, especially if you are prone to experiencing anger, anxiety, or panic attacks.

Accept Your Feelings

First, you might allow yourself to feel angry, anxious, or upset. You don't have to dwell on those feelings. You can just notice them without judgment.

Take A Positive Viewpoint

Once the angry or fearful moment has passed, you may find that you can adopt a positive viewpoint while resolving the situation. When you know how to calm down anxiety, a positive viewpoint may help keep you from getting upset again, and it may lead to a solution to problems when they arise.

Use Preventive Measures

Part of learning how to remain calm may involve preventing flare-ups before they happen. Making some small lifestyle changes may go a long way toward reducing emotional turmoil. 

Avoid Caffeine

Research shows that stimulants, such as caffeine, may play a role in panic attacks. If it’s difficult to eliminate your consumption of caffeine, you might create a reduction plan.  

Get Enough Sleep

Fitful sleep or not enough of it may make you prone to all kinds of emotional turmoil. It may help to implement some sleep hygiene practices. For example, you can make sure your room is dark, go to bed at a reasonable hour, and set an alarm to get up after 7-9 hours. If you snore or have trouble breathing, consider talking to a doctor to see if you have sleep apnea.

Exercise

Research shows that exercise releases endorphins, which are “feel good” hormones. For this reason, working out may relieve tension and boost your mood. It may also help you sleep better, which may help you remain calm throughout the day.

Practice Meditation

Practicing daily meditation has a number of physical benefits, such as lower blood pressure and a stronger immune system, and it may make you feel more peaceful for the rest of the day. The longer you practice it, the more effective it might become. 

Use Guided Imagery

Guided imagery typically involves evoking images of a calm, peaceful place in a way that incorporates the five senses. You can work with a therapist or get a guided imagery recording to listen to at home. The narrator usually describes a peaceful place in great detail so that you can imagine what it is like and mentally enter that peacefulness.

Devise Coping Statements

Coping statements are positive thoughts you can use to replace negative thoughts that arise with when you're angry or afraid. To be prepared for upsetting events and situations, you can make up a list of negative thoughts that might come to you and create a list of coping statements to replace them with.

Keep An Emotions Journal

No matter what kind of emotion tends to disturb you, it may help to keep a journal to write down your experiences with that emotion. You can write down what it felt like the last time you experienced it, how you reacted, and what happened afterward. This process may reinforce helpful behaviors as you begin to see what usually works best for you.

Getting Help For Staying Calm

If you still have trouble understanding how to calm down from anger, panic, or anxiety, it may help to speak with a licensed therapist who has experience in this area. If you feel hesitant to see a therapist in the office, you might consider online therapy, which numerous peer-reviewed studies have demonstrated to be effective for a variety of concerns, including anxiety.

With online therapy at BetterHelp, you can talk to a licensed therapist from home via phone, live chat, or videoconferencing. Also, you can contact your therapist at any time through in-app messaging, and they’ll respond as soon as they can. This may be helpful if you experience anxiety in between sessions and want to write down your thoughts in the moment. 

Takeaway

If you sometimes find it difficult to calm down, you’re not alone. Many people experience this from time to time, whether as a result of anxiety or specific life stressors. You may benefit from trying some evidence-based strategies for calming down, such as deep breathing or progressive muscle relaxation. Also, you might find it helpful to speak with a licensed counselor, whether in person or online. 

With BetterHelp, you can be matched with a therapist who has experience helping people with anxiety, panic attacks, or any other specific concerns you might be facing. Take the first step toward learning to invoke a sense of calm when you need it and reach out to BetterHelp today.

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