It’s your job to regulate your emotions, even under stress. Whether you are starting off for the first time away from home, a parents facing an empty nest the fall, or just looking for new ways to cope with stress, these tips are for you! So how can you re-regulate when you’re feeling lonely, cranky, or down in the dumps?
1. Take a walk
Walking serves many functions. It can be a distraction, exercise to increase your heart rate and get your blood pumping, or a change of scenery to help you shift your perspective.
2. Spend time in nature
Take your walk out in the sunshine, or in the rain. Look around at the trees and the birds or the flowers or the cloudy gray sky. Appreciating the vastness of the natural world can leave you in awe and help you replenish your spirit.
Throughout human history, almost every culture has used prayer in some form. Talking to your higher power, whether you understand Him to be a traditional religious deity you learned about in Sunday school or the unknown forces operating in the universe, provides meaning, clarity, and hope.
Meditation is the practice of focusing your mind very intently on something simple, like your breathing or the flame of a candle, and then holding your mind there and/or being patient with yourself while you observe how difficult such a simple task can be. Meditation can be used as a spiritual practice or a way to clear out the constant mental movie of worry and conflict in your mind.
5. Call a friend
Human beings are social creatures. Seeking out the support of someone who understands your emotions and your experiences is an excellent way to re-group.
6. Read a book
Ideas in books can open your mind, take you to new worlds, help you see your own struggles played out within the story, or help you step outside your own experiences while you walk in some else’s shoes. Books can teach or entertain and often do both at the same time.
Many relaxation techniques use deep breathing. Take a long, slow breath in and count to 10. Then breathe out and count to 10 again. Repeat the process of breathing in and out while counting until you feel the tension in our body and mind relax.
8. Run in place
Brief bursts of exercise raise your heart rate and increase breathing rate and blood flow, sending a surge of oxygen to your brain. Exercise improves mood and is a great tool even when you have only a few minutes to re-set.
Close your eyes and imagine yourself in the most relaxing place you can envision. Imagine all the ways your senses engage with this place. What do you see? Is it a white sandy beach where the waves crash against the shore? Or is it your grandmother’s kitchen with she smell of a freshly baked pie wafting from the oven? Visualize this soothing image. Place yourself there fully. And watch as your tensions are released.
10. Take a nap
Sometimes the best medicine in this fast paced culture is a nice, quiet time to rest. Lie down. Turn off electronic devices and turn on the nice soothing sound of a fan or soothing music and snuggle up for a cozy nap. You’ll feel better when you’re rested.
11. Burn a candle or incense
Calming sensory experiences can help you change your state of mind. Candles, incense, and various essential oils can take you away from your stressors and into the rewarding sensations of aromatherapy.
12. Listen to soothing music
Music can shift your brain wave patterns. Fast, loud, aggressive music can put you in the mood for a big presentation or a job interview. Likewise, soft sounds can help you relax and unwind. The trick with music is to choose sounds that evoke the mood you wish to feel, not those that reinforce a mood you’re struggling to change.
13. Make something- paint, draw, or sew
Creating an art or craft can busy your hands and mind, and lead to the reward of a completed project to add a little lift to your spirits. If you’re afraid you might not finish, be sure to pick something small to increase your chances of reaping the rewards of completion.
14. Go to a bookstore or public library
Bookstores and libraries are some of the only places where you can go and be surrounded by people, but not be pressured to make small talk. You can plop down in a comfortable chair and read without having to make a purchase.
Sometimes your mood is off because you need to eat. Other times, getting a little treat can lift your spirits. Make yourself a healthy treat at the end of a long, hard day and relax. You’ll feel better!
Dr. Deuter is a psychiatrist who specializes in the care of emerging adults.