Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

Galen Pearl

How to Calm DOWN When You Are Riled UP

The answer is right there in the terms we use to describe ourselves when we are upset or at ease. It is a matter of direction. 

A few days ago I had an appointment with someone who was coming to my house. The person didn’t arrive on time, and as the minutes ticked by, I became irritated. I texted her and didn’t receive an immediate response which irritated me even more. I kept going to the window to see if she had arrived and checking my phone to see if she had texted. My mind was spinning stories – judging her for being late, worried that it was I who had made a mistake about the time, and so on. I felt agitated and restless. My heart rate was up a bit. I felt disappointed and angry. 

I tried to think my way out of my distress. Maybe she was stuck somewhere and couldn’t get in touch. Even if she forgot, I have done the same on more than one occasion. Nothing terrible was happening. It would all sort itself out. That helped a little, but I was still unable to relax. I reflected on this a bit.

When we are upset or angry or agitated, our energy rises. Our breathing is shallow. Our weight shifts forward and upward. Our attention is in our heads. Our thoughts run amok, shouting stories about whatever has initiated our distress. We fuel the stories with fiery emotions. Or perhaps we try to douse the fire with other thoughts, which still keep us in our heads. 

So many terms identify this upward direction of energy. We get riled up, churned up, revved up, for example. Tempers rise. 

Other terms suggest a way to restore our inner equilibrium – calm down, settle down, slow down. The direction away from distress is downward. So how do we do that? Because we rely so much on our brains, our first instinct is to think our way out of a problem. However, thinking often is the problem. Our distress is in our thoughts. And while it is possible to think ourselves back into balance, a more direct way is to move out of our heads and down into our bodies.

So I did a simple exercise to bring my energy down. I inhaled and stood on my toes, raising my arms away from my body. I paused there a moment, then suddenly released my weight as I exhaled and dropped into my feet, letting my arms fall at the same time. I kept my knees relaxed so that when my heels hit the ground, there was a soft bounce, like I was shaking all the tension loose and letting it sink into the earth. 

On the third repetition, I felt an internal release and everything immediately relaxed. My body felt calm, my mind stopped chattering, my emotions settled. Equanimity was restored. Just like that. Only a few seconds. Not complicated. Simple. Effective. 

As I was marveling at the wisdom of my body, my friend texted. Indeed we had miscommunicated about the time. I’m not even sure which one of us was at fault, or indeed if there had been any fault at all. At that point it no longer mattered to me. We got together and had a good visit. 

At a time when many of us are feeling so much stress and anxiety, and other “up” emotions, this is a great exercise to help us stay balanced and grounded. Try it. I hope it’s helpful. 

Get yourself grounded and you can navigate even the stormiest roads in peace. ~Steve Goodier

12 thoughts on “How to Calm DOWN When You Are Riled UP”

  1. " My mind was spinning stories – judging her for being late, worried that it was I who had made a mistake about the time, and so on. I felt agitated and restless. My heart rate was up a bit. I felt disappointed and angry. " My mind tries to do this all the time. I think it is an extension of my dad constantly trying to build up his esteem while drunk by telling stories in which he was the hero. As soon as it starts, I either stop it direct or push it to a stupid conclusion, and tell myself, "And that's why you don't open your mouth."

  2. What a wonderful example you have given here for all of us, Galen. Even as a Christian, I can still be seduced by the knee-jerk reactions that life invites. To pause, to breathe, to forgive even what we don't understand, is the ticket home. Thank you so much for sharing your personal experiences!

  3. Sounds like you are finding your own way of settling yourself down, CW. That's good. I've been learning lately myself to keep my mouth closed more and my ears open.

  4. Thanks, Martha. I find this simple technique is so effective for breaking up the hamster wheel thoughts and getting my frantic energy to quiet down. Thanks for commenting.

  5. I do have my moments and I liked your thoughts on how to handle them. I often deep breathe my way through it. However, sometimes the best for me is to just kneel and pray and always, the anger or distress just melts away and I feel peace. It is actually is amazing.
    These days with all the chaos around, I pray often, anytime, anywhere.
    Also, years ago, I took a class and this kind of experience was what they called having an imagination on fire. The idea was that when you get these thoughts you stop the trigger and focus your mind on the moment and realize that there isn't anything you can do about it so just let it go. The technique taught still works sometimes.
    This one gave me a moment to reflect on what helps me the most and I think it is prayer.
    Blessings and hugs!

  6. That sounds like a great class, LeAnn. Also, breathing deeply is always a good way to calm ourselves down. Deep breathing into our bellies tells our brain that we are safe. Thanks for commenting.

  7. I love this post, Galen! Something similar happened to me over a very tricky dispute with my sister who I've been getting along with very well lately. There is so much shared history with a sibling, but the history is comprised of different versions of that history and certainly different feelings and intepretations. And when you have a dispute, all that floods in – all that difference. So my internal reaction began, first with some thoughts and then with my body. You say 'we try to douse the fire with other thoughts, which still keep us in our heads'. In menopause I find my body heats up! And that's how I know I'm upset, conflicted. I said to my hubby, 'say something to make me feel better'. 'I can't' he said.
    Well, I acted upon my feelings with a text, and she texted back and it was kind of alright – but I feel it still simmering though. But getting back into the body helps best, like you are describing with your exercise. That drop in the body motion. Sometimes, i dance it out later, but your exercise can be done right then and there, so a great tip. Cheers, Galen :>)

  8. Siblings. Family members. Our greatest teachers, right?! And you are so right about different versions of history. I remember my mother regaling friends at the dinner table with stories of my childhood. She kept them highly entertained, but I kept thinking — whose childhood was that?! I didn't recognize myself or her in any of her tales. And I realized that she believed everything she was saying.

    Dancing it out works too! Thanks for commenting.

  9. 'And while it is possible to think ourselves back into balance, a more direct way is to move out of our heads and down into our bodies.'

    Good thoughts on this Galen . I read in a book today that when we experience pain and discomfort, in our body for no apparent reason it is a signal meant to get our attention. We tend to either ignore it or medicate it. This book 'The presence process' by Michael Brown gets into a meditative process that can heal our ills. Instead of running away for our pain and comfort it seems to be suggesting we meditate on the pain and discomfort, look intently at it with our inner perception, without judgement. It seems to be a process of awareness that promotes healing. When we observe pain, it may seems worst at first but as we keep our attention on it, something wonderful happens and healing begins.

  10. That sounds like an interesting book, Brian. My most common pain is migraines. I have tried to take an approach as you describe, but I confess that I am quick to medicate. However, on a few occasions when the medication didn't work, I found that I ultimately had no choice but to surrender and be with the pain. In those instances, my release of struggle brought on a very different relationship with the pain, much more at peace. Thanks for commenting.

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