I often talk about how to feel calm and the strategies that work in my clinic. Calm is something you can achieve with a combination of thinking, behavior, and lifestyle habits. This is something I’ve learned personally as I’ve moved through life and needed to manage my calm better. There are three things I’ve observed that calm people never choose to do.
Calm people don’t:
1. Say ‘yes’ to everything
People who are feeling overwhelmed often have trouble saying “no.” They end up juggling a lot of demands and requests. Often they will be things they don’t want to or don’t have enough time to do. This leads to feelings of resentment and then often guilt for feeling resentful. People who have trouble saying “no” are often struggling with beliefs about being pleasant, wanting others to like them or that it is selfish to say “no.”
Instead, calm people know that balance is important to manage stress. Calm people know that it is ok to say “no.” They know that although it may cause temporary displeasure for the other person it is unlikely that the person will stop liking you. Calm people would probably also think, “if you can’t like me because I have boundaries then you’re not someone I want on my team.” Calm people know that it is not selfish to say “no.” Saying “no” is essential to preventing burnout and stress.
2. Put things off until the last minute
People who are anxious and stressed often delay activities until the last minute. This behavior is known as procrastination. Procrastination allows you to avoid the unpleasantness of the task. The unpleasant might be due to either boredom, anxiety about doing it perfectly, dislike of the task, or quite simply preferring to do other things. Leaving things to the last minute usually results in high levels of stress right at the pointy end. Often this compounds the belief about the task being unpleasant when what is actually unpleasant is the stress and anxiety of doing a task with no time to spare or room for error.
Instead, calm people do not avoid tasks that they dislike or those that make them anxious. They have a plan of attack in place for these tasks. They make sure time is scheduled so they do not need to do an all-nighter to get it done because they know the impact of not sleeping will mean a less-calm day the next day and a lower quality of work due to fatigue and concentration difficulties. They do things such as break their tasks into parts and tackle them one at a time. Calm people commit doing 10-minute blocks at a time. Or undertaking the most unpleasant part of the task first, knowing that the reward of satisfaction will be there when it is done.
3. Show up to every fight they are invited to
There are many things in life that can irritate us. Our toes can get trodden on, people can be thoughtless and rude. Stressed people tend to be more reactive and engage in unnecessary tensions, arguments, and drama.
In contrast, calm people are selective in choosing when to engage in conflict. Calm people know it’s important to calm to reserve your energy for when it really matters. Calm people will discern whether they need to act now or let it wait. As the old saying goes, “choose your battles wisely.”
If you turn up to every fight you are invited to, then work to address you reactivity. Practicing mindfulness can help you notice your thoughts and feelings in a more detached way and tends to reduce reactivity. There are many apps including the free Smiling Mind which can get you started. In the moment learn to take a deep breath and walk away from the situation to reduce the likelihood you will engage. Learn to ask yourself questions that will help you determine whether the issue needs addressing. For example, I find the question “will this matter in five minutes, five hours, five days, five weeks?” very helpful to determine whether something is worth putting energy behind.
Learning to depersonalize things also helps, as you are less likely to react from a defensive position. Instead, ask yourself what the person’s behavior says about them. Put the focus on them. For example, what skills, personality difficulties or weakness do they display in that moment? Most likely it has little to do with you and more to do with their way of being in the world.
You can achieve calm by avoiding these choices mimicking the habits of calm people. Get started today.
This post was originally published on HavingTime