How to Calm Down when You're Upset

Three Parts:Calming Yourself in the MomentCreating a Calm MindsetMaking Calming Lifestyle Choices

Getting frustrated or irritated is a completely normal part of life. Conflict and stress from work, home, or your social life can upset you, which is only human. Fortunately, you can choose how to behave and react to these situations. With a little knowledge and a bit of practice, you can learn to manage your responses and keep your cool no matter what.

Part 1
Calming Yourself in the Moment

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    Count to ten. By taking a break to count to ten, you're giving yourself some space between your feelings and mind. Imagine that with each number you're reaching a new level of calmness in your thoughts. Focus on the numbers and intention of creating a calm space as you count from ten down to one. Repeat this until you feel your mind calm.[1]
    • If you need a bit more time, try counting backwards from 100. This will help you relax and give you time to cool off.[2]
    • Trained hypnotherapists will often use counting to help you learn to calm down and relax.[3]
    • You can do this counting exercise anywhere: working at home, in the bathroom, in the elevator, and anywhere you are when you feel negative thoughts and frustrations come up. For example, if you're driving and someone cuts you off, pull over and count to ten.
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    Breathe to immediately relax. When you're stressed, your body goes into what's known as "fight or flight" mode. Your sympathetic nervous system accelerates your heart rate and breathing, tenses your muscles, and prepares your body to face an attack.[4][5] Taking time to breathe deeply and evenly oxygenates your brain and slows your heart rate, relaxing you. This way, you can respond to anger or irritation with a clear head and in a constructive way.[6] Find a place where you can be alone for at least ten minutes to focus on breathing. If it helps, put on some relaxing music. You can try one of the following breathing exercises:
    • Breathe while counting to ten. Inhale on the even numbers and exhale on the odd numbers. You can even add an easy visualization by imagining you are breathing in a color that relaxes you, like blue or green. When you exhale, imagine a grey plume of smoke that represents your negative thoughts or emotions leaving your body.[7]
    • Sit comfortably with your hands on your belly. Breathe deeply into your belly and exhale fully from your belly. Allow your awareness to go to places in your body that feel tense. For example, many people hold tension in their necks, shoulders, knees, lower backs, or arms and hands. Breathe into the places in your body where you feel tension and allow the tension to melt away as you exhale.
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    Remove yourself from an upsetting situation. If it is a conflict that involves people, take some breaths, explain quickly that you are upset (without going into details) and walk away. This can help create space in your mind to deal with your emotions, but it also lets you feel in control over your situation. Remember, you have options and are learning tools to calm yourself down.[8]
    • You don't have to go into detail, but you shouldn't just storm off if you're upset -- that can cause communication breakdown between you and others. Instead, say something like, "I'm feeling really upset right now and need to take a break. I'm going to take a short walk."
    • Try going for as long of a walk as you need to. Imagine that with each step you're letting your frustrations flow right down through your feet. Try to find a park or green space to walk in and give yourself a break from thinking about what made you upset.[9]
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    Acknowledge your thoughts. Pay attention to the negative thoughts that you have about the situation that made you upset. Accept that you're upset. Being upset is not stupid or petty; it is a natural human emotion that everyone will experience from time to time. Everyone has the right to become upset, and every time we get upset, it's an opportunity for us to learn what triggers strong emotional reactions for us. Give yourself permission to be upset about whatever is causing you frustration. This way, you'll be in a more honest position to calm yourself down.[10]
    • It may seem difficult or even corny at first, but try talking to yourself to practice acknowledging your emotions. Say something like, "I'm feeling really upset right now. That is okay. I can control how I respond to these feelings."
    • Consider writing down your thoughts when you're upset. For now, admit that you're upset, but examine the thoughts later, when you're in a calmer state of mind.
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    Laugh. Find a picture of something funny on your phone or on the internet. Or, think of a joke that always makes you laugh or something funny that you heard or saw. Getting upset is a completely normal emotion, but like all emotions, it can be managed. In the moment, try to lighten yourself up so that you can remain calm and make healthy choices of how to deal with being upset. Give your mind a break from needing to resolve the conflict or incident until you have a clear head.[11]
    • Laughing can help you take a step back, remain calm, and deal with your feelings of being upset in a healthy way. It's not an attempt to minimize what you're upset about.
    • Make sure that the humor you use is not mean-spirited or sarcastic. This can actually make you feel more upset.[12]
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    Listen to calming music. Take time to let whatever kind of music calms you down wash over you while you breathe and relax. If you feel like it, you can also dance or sing. Being physical and creative can also help you calm your body and connect with your feelings. This way, you're in a better position to deal with whatever's upsetting you.
    • Look for music with about 60 beats per minute, which can help your brain synchronize your heartbeat with the beat of the music. This may induce a calm, relaxed state. Classical music, light jazz, "easy listening," or New Age artists such as Enya may be particularly helpful.[13]
    • You can find several websites that supply your mobile phone with calming music. This way, you can easily calm yourself down.[14]
    • The most important thing is that you enjoy the music you listen to. While it's popular to claim that listening to angry music makes you angrier, research has not found a clear connection between these things. In fact, some research suggests that listening to "extreme" music, if you enjoy it, can increase your positive emotions when you're angry or upset.[15]
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    Change your language. Reframe the negative thoughts you have into positive statements. This can improve your mood, buffer against feeling overly upset or disappointed, and help you stay calm.[16] Practice using positive language to help keep yourself calm.
    • For example, if you are upset about having accidentally broken something, you may think things like: "Nothing ever goes right for me." Or, "Everything always gets messed up." These are examples of all-or-nothing thinking, a common "thought trap."[17] Instead, try to reframe your thoughts to statements like, "It was just an accident. Accidents happen all the time." Or, "Everybody makes mistakes. It doesn’t mean I need to get upset."
    • You may also become upset if you jump to conclusions about others or "personalize" situations, making them about you when they aren't. For example, if someone cuts you off in traffic, you may get angry and believe that person intentionally harmed you. This is personalization.[18] Take a moment to step back from the situation. It's possible the driver didn't see you, or is having a bad day and isn't paying attention, or is a new driver who isn't confident in his skills. There are many explanations other than a personal attack. It's important to remember this, since feeling personally injured or attacked is a common cause of anger.[19]
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    Do something physical. Release tension through intense physical activity to calm your body.[20] Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural chemicals that boost your mood. Moderate exercise can relieve stress and anxiety.[21]
    • Try going to the gym and punching a bag, or go for a run. Or, you could do less intense activities like gentle stretching or walking.
    • To gently stretch, breathe while stretching your arms, legs, and back. Listen to your body and its flexibility. Stretching increases the blood flow throughout your body, which can help release tense muscles. It can also leave you feeling refreshed and relaxed.[22]
    • Some people find it very calming to find a cleaning project to focus their attention on. Cleaning is physical, it can show immediate results, and can help distract your mind by doing something proactive and useful. Clutter may also increase feelings of stress, so reducing clutter may help you feel more calm and relaxed.[23]

Part 2
Creating a Calm Mindset

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    Recognize that you cannot control others. The only person whose actions and responses you can control is you. Unfortunately, this means you won't be able to completely shield or insulate yourself from being upset by others. Nurture yourself so you can build a buffer against daily frustrations and situations. This can help you stay calm in situations on a more regular basis. Realize that your feelings are valid.[24]
    • For example, you can't control irresponsible drivers, annoying co-workers, or conflicts in relationships. But, you can control how you respond to the irritations.
    • Try taking time to pamper yourself, such as giving yourself time to read a great book, talking a calming bath, or giving yourself time to go on a long walk in your neighborhood. These self-care practices can help you stay calmer.
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    Try the RAIN practice. RAIN is an acronym that can help you practice mindfulness in your daily life.[25] Many research studies have shown that mindfulness practice can help relieve stress.[26]
    • Recognize the experience. Acknowledge what is happening at the present moment. Notice how you feel, what your body is experiencing, and what you're thinking.
    • Allow yourself to feel these things. When you encounter thoughts and feelings brought up by an experience, allow yourself to feel them. Too often, we try to repress our emotions, which can end up making us more stressed and upset. Acknowledge that your emotions exist, and that they are neither "right" nor "wrong" -- they simply are.
    • Investigate the situation with kindness. Show yourself the same compassion you would show to a friend. For example, if you are feeling stressed out, you might feel that you are stupid or worthless. Investigate these thoughts. Would you say these things to a friend? Try showing yourself kindness instead, by telling yourself something compassionate like "I am worthy."
    • Natural loving awareness will arise when you practice the first three steps. This will allow you to detach from those generalizations like "I'm a loser" or "I'm stupid." You will realize that while those feelings may show up, they most likely appear because of a fear or insecurity.
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    Practice meditation. Studies have shown that meditation can literally rewire how your brain responds to stressors.[27] This is especially true for mindfulness meditation, which has been widely studied.[28]
    • You don't have to meditate for hours to see a benefit. Even taking 15 minutes a day to meditate can help you become calmer. For example, some people find it helpful to meditate as soon as they wake up in the morning. This way, you are already calm and sleepy. Just hit the snooze on your alarm, sit up, and focus on your breathing.
    • Daily meditation can help lower your stress response, make it easier to let go of smaller frustrations, and create a calmer mindset when dealing with conflicts of any kind.[29]
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    Do yoga. Yoga has been clinically shown to help relieve stress, anxiety, and depression. Most forms of yoga incorporate meditation, breathwork, and gentle movement, making it a great technique to help you calm down and quell those stress responses.[30] Since there are many forms of yoga, find a class that suits your abilities and is taught by someone you're comfortable with. You should do yoga in a calm environment that relaxes you. Relax your mind by connecting yourself to your emotions and body.[31]
    • Remember that yoga is not about getting into peak physical fitness, nor is it a competition.
    • Check out wikiHow's wide selection of Yoga articles for further information.
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    Pay attention to your daily emotions. Consider what you're feeling and going through. Respect these feelings, which will help you respond calmly to things that distress you. You may want to write your emotions in a journal, which can become like a safety net. Journaling about your emotions may help you reduce stress and manage feelings of anxiety and depression.[32]
    • Exploring your feelings can help you feel calmer and more empowered to deal with daily challenges, because you know that you have ways to deal with your feelings.[33]
    • Remember to use self-compassion when journaling.[34] Studies suggest that simply writing about your negative feelings or stress is insufficient to help you; you should also try to be kind to yourself about your feelings and find ways to brainstorm solutions.[35]
    • For example, if you found yourself feeling very angry with a coworker, write about that experience in your journal. What happened? How did you feel? How did you respond in the moment? Would you change anything about the way you responded? What can you do in future to avoid responding in this way?

Part 3
Making Calming Lifestyle Choices

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    Exercise. Try to get some physical exercise every day, even if it’s just a walk, or taking 20 minutes to have a dance party. Regular exercise can release endorphins, natural painkillers, which can relax you and regulate your mood.[36] Your body will also feel calmer.[37]
    • Inactivity can actually create tension and stress, making you more likely to overreact to situations that upset you.[38]
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    Avoid caffeine and sugar.[39] Both of these substances can make your adrenal glands increase stress hormones that make it easier for you to get upset. At the same time, this makes it harder for you to relax and stay calm.[40] Try cutting out caffeine and sugar for a few weeks to see if you feel calmer and more relaxed. Then, you can gradually add small amounts of caffeine or sugar, if you like.[41]
    • Even if you do decide to drink caffeine, make sure to consume no more than 400mg per day as an adult, or 100mg per day as a teen.[42][43]
    • Try to eat a healthy snack every 3 to 4 hours. This can keep your blood sugar level and prevent mood swings that make you more irritable.[44]
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    Do not turn to alcohol to relieve stress. Although it is very common to use alcohol as a coping strategy or stress, this is not a healthy behavior. It's usually fine to enjoy the occasional drink, but you should not use alcohol as "stress relief". Doing so puts you at increased risk of alcohol abuse and alcoholism.[45]
    • If you choose to drink alcohol, do so only in moderation. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism suggests that males drink no more than 4 drinks per day and no more than 14 drinks per week; females should drink no more than 3 drinks per day and no more than 7 drinks per week.[46]
    • A single "drink" refers to 12 oz. of regular beer, 8-9 oz. of malt liquor, 5oz. of wine, or 1.5 oz. (a shot) of 80-proof liquor.[47]
    • Don't drink alcohol right before bed. Although it may make you feel drowsy at first, alcohol interferes with REM sleep and can leave you feeling fatigued the next day.[48]
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    Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep is a common cause of feeling stressed out and anxious. Studies suggest that most Americans need more sleep than they currently get.[49] Take some steps to make sure the sleep you get is as good as it can be:[50][51]
    • Get into a pre-sleep routine. Avoid screens, such as the computer or TV, before bed. Have a cup of herbal tea or take a warm bath. Do the same thing each evening before bed.
    • Avoid caffeine and nicotine before bed. These are stimulants and could keep you awake.
    • Stay consistent. Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time each day, even on weekends. This will help your body clock stay regular.
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    Balance work and life. Make sure you have things to look forward to, whether it’s a vacation, leisure time at home, a favorite TV show, or taking a class that interests you. You should feel as though your life is balanced between what you have to do and what you want to do. Knowing that you're caring for yourself in this way can create a sense of calmness and satisfaction. Both of these are buffers against getting upset and reacting negatively.[52]
    • Try setting boundaries for your work and personal life. For example, tell yourself that you will not respond to work emails outside of work hours.[53]
    • Manage your time efficiently. A lot of working adults waste a lot of time during the workday, which could mean that you have work to do that stretches into your "home" time. Try to accomplish everything at work so that you can leave your work behind when you leave the office.
    • Schedule time for fun. Particularly if you have a busy schedule, "me-time" may get pushed off your radar entirely. Try to schedule some relaxation time for yourself, even putting it into your calendar or agenda if you need to. Make "me-time" as important an appointment as any other.[54]
    • It's easy to feel overwhelmed by taking on too many things. If you begin to feel like you're doing too much, don't be afraid to ask for help or turn down requests for you to do things.

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Categories: Managing Negative Feelings