5 Tips I Used This Morning To Help Myself Feel Calmer.

Every Wednesday is Tip Day.

This Wednesday: 5 tips I just used to help myself feel more calm.

I started this morning feeling overwhelmed–not in a bad way, but still overwhelmed. I just got back from traveling to Toronto on my book tour. It was a lot of fun, and I was thrilled to get the chance to do it, but traveling–and being out of my routine–always rattles me.

I found out I made a mistake in something I wrote. It was fixed, but it always rattles me to discover that I made a mistake.

I found out I have to review a document in a short period of time. It won’t be hard, but it always rattles me to have a short deadline. (This is one reason I’ve never been a journalist. I hate deadlines.)

There have been some changes to my daughters’ schedules. Nothing major, but it always rattles me to have to juggle the calendar.

So…I’m a bit rattled. I’m very happy to be back home, and to make sure that I keep this happy feeling, instead of allowing myself to become short-tempered (highly likely), I ran through some of my easier tips for staying cool.

1. I took ten minutes to clean up my office. Getting paperwork under control makes me feel more in control of my life generally.

2. I made a list. Now I don’t have to worry about forgetting something important, plus I get the morale-booster of being able to cross off items.

3. I took a few minutes to be silly with my daughters. Acting light-hearted makes me feel more light-hearted, and seeing them in a good mood lifts my spirits.

4. I ranted for a few minutes to my husband, then got a big hug. I probably would feel better if I’d skipped the rant, and just focused on the hug, but sometimes I have to rant a little bit.

5. Plan to exercise. I always feel calmer when I exercise. In fact, that’s probably the main reason I exercise. (Here are some tips if you have trouble prodding yourself to exercise.)

How about you? What strategies do you follow if you need to calm yourself down–in a hurry?

  • Kristin

    Lists help me tremendously. And a good rant never hurts either. (Unless the rant continues indefinitely!)

  • Carrie

    Those are all great suggestions. Sometimes (like this morning) I will listen to an upbeat song. Drinking some water or eating something good for me always help too.

  • JennD

    I do Donna Eden’s daily energy routine every morning. Very helpful!

  • Jane B.

    Hi Gretchen – I am so eager to buy the audiobook Happier at Home, but I listened to the sample and can’t stand the narrator! Your narration of the last book was so much more enjoyable! The reviews on Audible confirm my concern. I’m holding out on the purchase in hopes that you’ll release a version of the book which you narrate yourself. Is there any chance that version is coming sometime?

    • gretchenrubin

      I’m so sorry to hear you don’t like the narrator. I love her voice. I thought listeners would appreciate having a professional reader, but it turns out a lot of people do enjoy hearing the author read. Which I very much appreciate! I don’t have any plans to narrate this, though I do read the beginning and the end of the book.

  • Epila

    Similar! My morning ritual is,water & tea, meditative/spiritual reading then yoga practice! I also love a green juice in the mornings.

  • Say the Serenity Prayer. Take some deep cleansing breaths with my eyes closed. Cuddle with one of my lap dogs. Call my sweet boyfriend.

  • Yes! Making a list always calms me down. I need to “brain dump” onto a page so I can get the stuff out of my head. Then I can organize things by categories and focus on what’s really important.

    FYI, I reviewed Happier at Home on my website (sagegrayson.com). The part about embracing good smells really struck a chord with me. Your books make me happier. Thank you! 🙂

  • It’s not the morning, but I just put into action some of the tips on this list and feel so much better! My morning routine remains the same pretty much wherever I am (brush teeth, yoga, meditate, read, get dressed, breakfast). Having that down pat helps me feel much calmer in my day. I also like writing to-do lists over breakfast, it’s kind of fun!

  • I usually engage in positive self-talk. Many times, all it takes is realizing the anxiety in what I’m telling myself, and switching the tone of the self-talk makes a world of difference.

  • Gretchen,

    I just finished Happier at Home. I loved it. I liked it even more than The Happiness Project because I found it to be more realistically applicable.

    When I wake up stressed (or just find myself stressed), I always do No. 1 and No. 2 on your list. These two things alone make all of the tasks seem much easier to manage.


    • gretchenrubin

      I’m so happy to hear that you enjoyed it!

  • JellyBean

    The last few mornings I’ve tried singing in the car on the way to work. I make up a song which starts with “I start this day with a song of joy”. I find that the tune and words stay in my head as I go through my day and it helps. Then during my work day when I’m waiting for a step in my build process (software development…) to finish I sing in my head and move around in my chair to feel more active.

  • Maria

    If I need to calm myself down, because of a problem, fears, or “any monsters showing up at three o´clock in the night”, I just calm myself by saying “you can do that”, “you will find a way – but tomorrow in the morning, because everything looks different the next day.
    Or – the best thing I have learned; tackle it – at once! Don´t be afraid of problems, which might not be any, after tackling them directly. Write them down and think about possible solutions loud and clearly, so that you can hear your own voice.
    I start the day by finding my inner peace, before leaving for work, during my half an hour dog walk in the nature. This is a wonderful way of collecting thoughts, breathing fresh air and getting ready for a new day. It´s wonderful – it works!

  • Karen Gifford

    I also bought the audio book, and I like your narrator.

    • gretchenrubin

      Terrific! I’m very happy to hear that.

  • Sue G

    I slow down. I normally rush and time manage, even timing myself while doing mundane tasks like the dishes. If I start to feel aggravated or irritated I just move slowly and deliberately, without allowing myself to think about time. It always calms me down – stops me from talking snarky to my husband.

  • I totally agree with you that these tips are essential for calming yourself down. Particularly the office clean-up.
    I work from home and have a bad habit of leaving ‘piles’ of stuff everywhere. Piles of papers I need to attend to later. Piles of magazines. Piles of clothes I fold but don’t have time to put away. And, of course, piles of dishes. It plagues me and those piles sit in the back of my mind, waiting, waiting, for me to deal with them.
    Funnily enough, this week I read an article where someone mentioned your 1-minute rule – if it takes one minute to do something, do it then and there. So I’ve been making a conscious effort to deal with those piles of stuff this week, as I go. The result? Everything is much less stressy around here, the house is less cluttered and I am getting more work done! (I work from home and can’t work effectively unless I have clear spaces around me). Win-win. Can’t wait to read your new book. We loved the HP and reviewed it on the blog some time ago. Still one of my faves.

  • Sanity

    Your husband is a hero putting up with your neuroticism

    • peninith1

      If you think it’s heroic to ‘put up with’ a few minutes of ‘rant’ from a stressed-out partner, I imagine you’re a pretty forbidding sort of person to live with.
      I think the key here is that we recognize when we are in a slump, or angry, or all wound up, and take steps to manage our moods so that they are not disruptive to our whole household, and come to a more level resolution more quickly.
      I know that in the distant past I used to actually value my intensity and edginess, and expect others to be on my roller coaster along with me. Then I learned the greater value of serenity. It took a while to become the ‘calmer, more unflappable’ type, but it has certainly been rewarding. I so appreciate and love all the family members and friends who have been with me through the whole journey. I don’t think that they ‘put up with me’ so much as recognized that I was sometimes suffering, and showed loving kindness and patience toward me. I’m glad they were not intolerant and dismissive.

      • Veronique

        Peninith1 I agree with you on so many levels. This is the thing though my husband is a ranter and flies off the handle very quickly. It is quite exhausting. I have learned not to take it personally and to listen kindly and if need be point out to him why he need not get so worked up without pointing out that he is worked up! I keep things from him because I do not want to stress him. I also do not want to have to deal with the situation in addition being obliged to calm him down. For example my very bright son who usually does extremely well in school has been allowing himself to get distracted this year. He has come home with some poor test results and I have spoken to him at length about it. I have kept this from my husband because he gets so worked up and it helps no one. The funny thing is we have been married 25 years and I used to be the way he is now! We have switched roles it seems. I guess it’s my turn to be the calm one.

        • peninith1

          Has your husband had a physical lately? Sometimes acquiring a hair-trigger temper comes along with a condition like type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure. Anyway, I hope he comes to recognize that those emotional moments (or half hours, or whatever) are doing no one in the family any good–particularly him!

  • Veronique

    Yes exercise and tidying are my number one de-rattlers as well as yoga. I learned for myself through trial and error that ranting just gets me more worked up though. Not ranting helps to de-rattle me.

  • A nice cup of tea is a good one. Make sure you give it time to brew properly and then drink it slowly. I’m just putting the kettle on…

  • Nicole

    For me, when I get out of sorts, I’ve learned that most of the time I’m feeling powerless. I have a friend who likes to say, life will life you. When I feel like life is too much with me I’m learning to do things (like the ones above) and feel like I have more control. The control may be tempoary, and surely it’s just an illusion, but it helps me focus and move forward.

  • nonperishable

    I also find that if I tackle a couple of small things on my to do list, I feel so much more in control of my day. Just read the Happiness Project – loved your book and also this blog. Happier at Home is next on my reading list!

  • Wendy

    Hi Gretchen: After reading “The Happiness Project” I referred to you as my new best friend. Now after reading your “5 Tips I Used This Morning to Help Myself Feel Calmer” I realized I was reading about myself and what I do. I am you and you are me. Sorry I missed you when you were visiting my fair city, Toronto. Thank you for being you. Wendy

  • Eva Papp

    Thought about your list, and noticed that three were “pulling oneself in” activities, and two were “letting oneself out” activities. In times of anxiety, overwhelm and fear, I find that pulling oneself in strategies can be very helpful to return to a place of balance. Sadness and depression can often be given a bump in the other direction by letting oneself out, ie. talking, moving (dancing, singing, walking). Thanks for the reminder.

  • Hannie

    I give myself a time-out on the front porch. My kids know if mama is sitting outside doing deep-breathing exercises, then they better back off a bit. 🙂

  • Reality Check

    What if there is no one to vent to or get a hug from? Once again people who are alone are not considered in your wonderful solutions. Sometimes being completely alone is a huge hurdle to happiness.

  • rebecca

    I would add, try to pray for five minutes each morning. It is not much time, but it can start your day from a place of calm like nothing else can.

  • Eli

    I totally agree with “Reality Check” below. Maybe is best not to assume that the rest of us have a spouse or a living companion to talk to, to rant, and to receive a hug…Think about that…