This afternoon I carried my daughter in from the front yard, navigating our two entry doors and fancy-footing the escape-ready cats with her locked tight across my chest while she flailed and kicked and shook her head, yelling, “No! No! No! No!” into my face.
I was frustrated and angry that I had to resort to restraining her to get from the car to the house and afraid she was going to hurt herself or me with her kicking.
I set her down in the front hall as gently as I could, kicked the door shut, stepped over her and walked into the kitchen to take a few deep breath before I interacted with her again. I knew that unless one of us calmed down, this situation wasn’t going to get any better.
My most efficient way to get from angry to calm is to simply take three deep breaths.
When your body is tense from fear, stress or frustration, you breath shallowly or even hold your breath. Shallow breaths deprive your body of oxygen and trigger the fight or flight systems to release adrenaline and further constrict blood flow to your nervous system. It is a downward spiral that you can short circuit by flooding your body with oxygen.
Increasing your oxygen intake by taking a few deep, slow breaths releases muscle tension, supports your nervous system to reset, feeds your brain to reduce anxiety and bring clarity, and gives you energy and focus. It is no big surprise that meditation and yoga, with their focus on deep, steady breathing, have the result of reducing stress and creating calmness and clarity.
People tell me that I’m just a patient, calm parent.
I’m actually not. I just know when to stop and breathe, so that I can think before I react.
If you are struggling, stop and breathe.
If you are tired, stop and breathe.
If you are angry, disappointed, frustrated, overwhelmed, stop and breathe.
And also, when you are overwhelmed with the wonder of the moment, stop and just breathe that in. That brain clarity helps your brain file memories, too.
What do you do when you need to calm down fast?