How to Be Calm (4 Simple Strategies)

Being calm is sometimes an anomaly. It seems the exact moment we need to be calm is the moment we can least attain it. It doesn’t really matter if you are calm while watching TV, but it really matters if you are calm when the guy in front of you at the supermarket starts screaming at his wife and motioning like he is going to hit her.

I am a teacher. Most days are rewarding and even fun. But some days are bad. Rotten. It seems that people (adults and kids) have the sole purpose of pushing you to your wits end. I am no saint. I have lost my cool too many times to count. But I guess that has lead me to noticing those occasions when I can remain calm amidst obnoxiousness, yelling, and even fighting.

Examine your Beliefs

Beliefs are tricky things. A lot of times we think we believe something, but we really don’t. Do you believe that being calm is the best way to diffuse a difficult situation? How can you tell? When one arises! Once we lose our cool all reason goes out the window, so thinking about what we do in that moment really isn’t useful.

But imagine you are watching TV and an asshole character is about to get punched. Do you get excited? If so, you may not actually believe in non-violence. It may just be a politically correct thing you say to fit in. Have I ever wanted to see some jerk get a jab to the face? You betcha! But over time, I have learned that every person has rights and human dignity that we should respect. We don’t have to like them, but we should respect them. And that means not punching them in the face! (physically or verbally) 🙂

Be Fit

As I have written in many other articles, fitness does so much for your life and happiness that the benefits are seemingly infinite. Fitness-specific benefits such as a lower resting heart rate and high heart rate variability allow your body to become more resistant to stress (ahhh, there’s that concept of acute vs. chronic stress again). It will just biologically take more to send a fit body into “fight or flight mode”…the place where the majority of bad decisions are made.

Ever notice how very muscular men (over the age of 30) are usually very kind and gentle? It’s because they have nothing to prove! Just by their physique, you can see that they could punch you into next week. Especially for men, a muscular physique can allow people to become more calm around you. It is as if they know you have discipline and self-control and are less likely to be impulsive. Conversely, how many of us know the loud-mouthed toothpick jerk?

Eat Well

Diet is a finicky thing. Advice for one person would be outrageous for another. Imagine telling a sedentary person to eat 400g carbs a day! When our body is properly fueled, we are better able to deal with life’s inevitable stressors. Don’t believe me? Go on an 18 hour fast and then find an annoying person. Watch your level of irritation triple what it would normally be.

If we are active (and we should be) these are some good basic guidelines for proper fueling:

  • On active (i.e. workout) days:
    • 1g protein per pound of bodyweight
    • 1.5 – 2g carbs per pound of bodyweight carbs
    • Rest of the calories – fat
  • On rest days:
    • 1g protein per pound of bodyweight
    • 0 – 1g carbs per pound of bodyweight
    • Rest of the calories – fat

As far as calories go, this is a rough guideline:

  • Sedentary Days: 12-14 calories per pound of bodyweight
  • Easy / Moderate Workout Days: 14 – 16 calories per pound of body weight
  • Hard Workouts: 18 – 20 calories per pound of bodyweight

Centering Strategies

If we have the right beliefs, are fit, and are fueled properly, we will be able to be calm in most circumstances.

It helps though, to have ways to center ourselves. Particularly if we know we are about to enter a difficult situation. Some methods that I have found effective are:

  • Box Breathing: Inhale, hold, exhale.
  • Rhythmic Breathing: Taking deep, controlled breaths.
  • Listening to calming music.
  • Light Movement: Pacing, slow gentle fidgeting, etc.

Well, those are the methods I have found very effective in making me more calm. What are your experiences?

Until next time…

The Importance of Space

I am a teacher. You probably hear teachers all over humming “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” around this time…SUMMER BREAK (unless you have year round school :-))!

Some days I wonder why I decided to go into this profession. Other days I am almost overwhelmed with gratitude that I get to earn money in such an agreeable way. One of my favorite things about being a teacher is the time off.

Surprise, surprise, I know! But seriously, the time off is not so much about not having to teach (although that is a welcome break too), but about infusing space in what is often a super cluttered world.

I think we have all had the experience of a stall of ideas and energy that suddenly begins to flow once we have a chance to relax and breathe. Much like exercise, if we continually provide a stimulus (training) without adequate recovery (sleep, relaxation, and food) we begin to accumulate fatigue. Similarly, if at all possible, we need to balance our mental-emotional training (work) with recovery (time with friends and family, drinks (in moderation), walks in the park, naps, video games, watching TV, hobbies, and just plain doing nothing!). I think we will find that a lot of our “problems of practice” will begin to unearth solutions once we can take our stimulation level down.

As with all things, balance is key. If we do not work enough, we become sluggish and less sharp. On the other hand, if we work too much, we ALSO get sluggish and less sharp! I think there is a universal truth pervading these ideas, one that is not so popular in American culture at the moment. The principle that life is cyclical. Every season is not (and should not be) a season of growth. Imagine a world with eternal summer. The trees and flowers would be begging for rain! Imagine an eternal winter. Nothing would grow! I think the same is true in our lives. We go through cycles of being super productive, and cycles of being less productive. Each is part of a bigger natural cycle that provides us with difficulties so we can find new ways of looking at and interacting with the world, and opportunities so that we can grow.

I think Jim Rohn said it best when he says “Six thousand years of recorded history reads like this: difficulty mixed with opportunity”. Sometimes there is more difficulty than opportunity, and sometimes there is more opportunity than difficulty. We don’t need to be uselessly optimistic and say we like difficulty. We don’t like difficulty any more than we like having a cold. Perhaps the best we can do is find a way to accept difficulty and look for opportunities to become stronger and wiser when our season of rest reappears.

Taking (or creating) space to balance stimulation and rest is a sure fire way to lead a happier life. What season are you in?

Until next time…

The Importance of Balancing Recovery and Stress

Lately I have been BUSY. It seems that on top of the normal work day, lots of errands and other responsibilities piled up too. Now, this isn’t that big of a problem, but throwing training on top of a markedly increased daily activity level can do a number on recovery. Just to give you an idea…I took 20,254 steps one day, 19,326 another day, 16, 574 another, and 14,196 on another day. This is all in the span of one week…on top of my normal training routine. Needless to say, my recovery has taken a big hit. I have been trying to eat to support all of the activity, but you can only eat yourself out of so big a hole.

So I decided that it was time for some rest and a little less training stress. When we take a break from training, we naturally begin to lose fitness. If we just take days off, we can lose some of the work capacity and skill that we recently gained. I have been happy with my progress lately, and I don’t want to risk losing gains because of a busy schedule at work.

This is where light training comes in. Light training is NOT meant to overload your body, but is meant to ensure that you preserve your recent fitness gains. Usually a light day will have about half as much volume as your normal training and almost as much (maybe 90% or so) of your normal intensity level.

So this morning I did a light workout and it felt great! I got enough time in the gym that I felt productive and energized, but didn’t push myself far enough that I felt more fatigued afterward.

We can accrue stress from a variety of sources. Most people automatically categorize stress as bad, but in most cases, acute stress is actually a great thing. These short-lived times of discomfort (such as a challenging workout or an occasional rough day at work) provide a stimulus to our bodies that, if we know how to recover, make us stronger and better able to handle the next challenge.

Chronic stress on the other hand deserves all of the negative press that it gets. A relationship that is a continual drain, a job that pushes us to emotional and mental limits consistently, and the like, ARE NOT THINGS THAT MAKE US BETTER! They slowly destroy us. We have to do our best to find a way to leave the situation, change it for the better, or do our best to stay present and not accumulate unfavorable fatigue.

Well…I hope you found something here that helped you out! Until next time…