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How Can I Calm Myself Down? Physical Self-Calming Methods

Amanda Ann Gregory, LCPC, EMDR Certified 

When you experience intense anxiety, anger, sadness, or excitement, you might need to calm yourself.  But do you know how? Are you aware of the self-calming methods that might work best for you?

Self-calming methods are often considered coping skills and are ways of exercising self-care, yet   different methods work for different people. The trick is to discover which methods best meet your needs and are the most effective in helping you self-calm. 

Try these physical methods for calming down in order to discover which work best for you:  

Engage in Rhythmic Movement   

How would you calm a crying infant or toddler? You might instinctually pick up the child and rock, sway, or gently bounce them in your arms. This is because rhythmic movement is an ancient calming and attachment intervention. Your ancestors not only used rhythmic movement to soothe their children, but also to calm themselves. They danced, they drummed, and they moved together in circles around fires in celebration and ceremony. Some say that rhythmic movement is ingrained in our bones and that it’s our bodies’ natural way to self-soothe. You do not need to be a good dancer or have a sense of good rhythm. You just need to allow your body to lead you. Here are a few ideas of ways to practice rhythmic movement in order to self-calm: 

  • Dance! Keep in mind, it doesn’t matter what type of dance it is or whether you dance with others or alone. The point is that you move your body to some type of rhythm. 
  • Engage with a ball by repetitively bouncing, throwing, or catching it. You can do this alone or with another person. 
  • Play a musical instrument, or create a beat with your hands or body. 
  • Allow your body to rock or sway at a pace that feels calming. You can use items to help with these movements, such as swings and rocking chairs. You can also ask someone to rock you while they embrace you. 

Get Into an Open Posture 

In order to calm down, your body needs to believe you are physically safe. If you are physically safe, the best way to let your body know that is to get into an open posture. Closed postures are designed to protect vulnerable parts of your body, such as your throat, chest, stomach, and genitals. A closed posture might look like you’re hunched over, head slightly down, shoulders pushed inward, legs/arms crossed, or hands crossed and placed in front of your body or on your lap. This posture communicates to your body that you need to protect yourself, and it might make it more difficult for you to calm down. 

On the other hand, open postures leave your throat, chest, stomach, and genitals unprotected. An open posture might look like your shoulders pulled back, head up, legs/arms uncrossed, hands unclasped and at your sides or engaged away from your body, and no large items are placed in front of you. Here are a few ideas to help you to adopt an open posture in order to self-calm: 

  • Lay down with your arms at your sides and slowly bring your arms up. The further you raise your arms, the more intense the open posture will be. Allow yourself some time to get used to this posture. Some people find it helpful to do this before bed. 
  • Sit in an open posture for five minutes. If you want to intensify this posture, try standing.  
  • Walk in an open posture and notice whether you feel calmer or more confident. 

Do you need help finding and practicing methods to self-calm? If so, talking to a therapist can help. Learn more about our counseling services, and contact Symmetry Counseling to get paired with a therapist in Chicago, Washington D.C., or Phoenix.

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