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Stressed Out? Here Are 10 Steps Towards Immediate Calm

Exhale the BS, so you can inhale the good stuff.

Wellness

I'll admit it. I'm pretty violent about not involving myself in things (or with folks) that disrupt my calm and peace of mind. And yes, I know that is pretty much a play on words. It's designed to be.

As I've been devoting a lot of these past several months to healing the "PTSD Shellie" so that I can live the kind of life I was created to live before all of the abuse, trauma, and disappointments, something that I've looked into is what are known as anxiety triggers. Our health; certain types of medication; caffeine; negative thoughts; hoarding; poor financial choices (include impulse spending); going to public events (that you'd prefer to sit out on); unforgivingness; toxic relationships; unhealthy lifestyle habits; avoiding confrontation; being too confrontational and stress—all of these things can play a direct role in if we're a peace-filled individual or not.

Once I learned what my personal triggers were (I don't need to buy another pair of Pumas; I need to save more money and I don't need to justify my boundaries with toxic individuals; I just need to keep them), my life has become so much more harmonious, stable, mellow, undisturbed…calm. And when you truly find the peace that passes all understanding, you will do whatever it takes to not disrupt or disturb that. Ever.

Not to say that life (including the people in it) doesn't throw some curveballs every now and then. That's why, along with figuring out my anxiety triggers, I've also discovered some immediate ways to calm down whenever they try and push me.

The next time some person, place, thing, or idea tries to stress you all the way out, I'd be shocked if these tips don't pull you back into a tranquil mindset.

Deep Breathe

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Our bodies need oxygen in order to survive. That's a no-brainer. But if we all knew all of the health benefits that come from deep breathing, I bet a lot more of us would sign up for a yoga class or at least meditate more often in the mornings.

Not only does deep breathing help to detoxify our system, it also gives us more energy, improves our digestion and posture, boosts our mood, intensifies our orgasms, strengthens our heart, decreases pain, helps us to sleep better and yes—it immediately calms and relaxes us as well. No wonder mama would count to 10 whenever she caught us doing something crazy when we were little. See, deep breathing literally spared our lives!

If you've never done it before, it's a relatively simple practice. Take a deep long breath through your nose and hold it for a count of 3-5. Then, through your mouth, exhale slowly, making sure to relax the muscles in your face and shoulders. Do repetitions of 10, five times a day. Watch how much calmer you feel, almost immediately.

Walk Outside

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If you want to take deep breathing up a notch, do it while you're standing—or better yet, walking—outdoors. The sunlight will give you some much needed Vitamin D. As women, we all need a daily dose of D (no pun there) because it supports our immune system, strengthens our bones, helps to prevent breast cancer and, if we're trying to conceive, improves our fertility too.

And, since it's also the only vitamin that's considered to be a hormone, it is a truly effective way to balance your cortisol levels out as well.

Snack on Some Cashews, Blueberries or Dark Chocolate

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Speaking of cortisol, sometimes, when we're not eating as healthy as we should, it can cause the cortisol (the natural stress in our bodies) to spike. When that happens, we need foods that contain stress-reducing nutrients to balance everything out.

Foods that top the list include cashews, blueberries, and dark chocolate. Cashews contain potassium (a mineral that triggers serotonin to our neurotransmitters) and magnesium (a mineral that regulates our brain and nervous system). Blueberries have antioxidants and Vitamin C in them to bring our cortisol down to a healthy level. And dark chocolate? One study revealed that eating a dark chocolate bar (with 65 percent or more cocoa in it), once a day, for two weeks straight, decreased cortisol and also our fight-or-flight responses to anxiety, fear, and tension too. Cool. Very cool.

Listen to Some Rain Videos on YouTube

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Ever wonder why the sound of rain helps you to have some of the best sleep (and sex) that you've ever had in your entire life? It's because rain mimics that sound that is similar to white noise. Whenever white noise triggers our sensory input, it immediately calms and centers us.

You could wait for a thunderstorm to happen in order to feel better. Or, you can do what I do and hop on over to YouTube and listen to some of their 10+ hour videos. Two of my personal favorites are this one and this one.

Recall a Favorite Memory

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A technique that a lot of therapists use is when their clients are feeling anxious, they ask them to think of a great past memory. I do this sometimes when I'm working with married couples; I ask them to reflect back on a time when they felt really good about their relationship. It really is amazing to watch how quickly it calms them down.

It's been my experience that whenever stress arises, it's a good idea to think about a healthy and happy memory that is directly related to your source of stress at the moment.

Did your boss just piss you off? When was the last time they made you feel appreciated? Did your friend just hurt your feelings? What's the last great experience you shared with them? By doing this, not only will it bring a sense of tranquility (and even a bit of happiness) to your spirit about the particular situation, but about the person in general as well.

Find Yourself a Plant

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Think about it. Don't you feel calmer and happier around plants? Have you ever wondered why? Not only are plants aesthetically-pleasing to look at, but they help to reduce indoor air pollution too. What does this even remotely have to do with our stress levels? Indoor air pollution is as much as 2-5 times higher than outdoor air pollution and most of us spend most of our time indoors. Spending hours breathing in mold, pesticides, tobacco smoke, solvents (like house cleaners and gases from newly-installed carpet or furniture), radon and carbon monoxide can lead to coughing, sneezing, a sore throat, headaches, and fatigue. The worse your body feels, the more stressed out you'll become.

Since plants help to pull toxins out of the air, they are another avenue to calm and tranquility. Some of the more popular stress-reducing plants include jasmine, lavender, rosemary, bamboo palm, and Aloe Vera.

Related: These Easy To Care For Plants Thrive On Little To No Natural Light

Blow on Your Thumb

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Sometimes we're stressed out because we've got an air passage blocked that we know absolutely nothing about. The solution? Suck or blow on your thumb. I know you probably think I'm making this up but hey, it supposedly activates our vagus nerve (the muscles that help to control the muscles in our throat) and, in turn, cause our heart rate and blood pressure to drop (in a good way).

Also, your thumb has its own pulse so, whenever you (gently) suck or blow on it, it'll slow down and relax you. (Now we get why babies do it, huh?)

Chew Some Gum

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If someone just got on your very last nerve, rather than cussing them out, chew on some gum first. It might sound ridiculous, but this is another proven way to get your stress and anxiety levels in check. One study even revealed that people who chewed gum every day for two weeks had significantly lower stress than those who didn't.

Although researchers are still trying to figure out what makes gum such an effective calm-inducer, many believe that 1) it has to do with taking out our frustrations on the gum as we chew it and 2) it depends on the flavor of gum that is chosen. Your best bet? Peppermint. Although it's invigorating, it's really effective at relieving anxiety, stress, and even depression-related symptoms as well.

Log Off of Your Socials

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Back in my Facebook days (when I was online there was barely Twitter and no Instagram), I must admit, that my page was pretty lit. You know what else it was? SEMI-STRESSFUL. It was a page where people could hop on and share/debate whatever, whenever, which was cool. But after a while, the combination of a constant influx of info, people being emotionally charged (and not always in a good way) and folks inboxing me with the expectation of not only getting back to them immediately but giving them free counseling—it all got to be too much.

My life has been sooooo much calmer without having social media accounts. And while I get the benefits that come with having them, if you're on every kind of social in the world, take out a moment to Google how social media tends to negatively affect our mental health. This includes our self-esteem, memory, sleep patterns, attention span and yes, our stress levels.

I'm not saying shut your socials down. I'm just saying that whenever Trump's tweets or an ex's IG posts get your heart to racing, it's a good idea to log off for a couple of hours or (gasp!) the rest of the day.

Do yourself a favor and drink some herbal tea while reading a book or call up a friend and have a real phone conversation instead. Watch what things like this does for your nervous system that Black Twitter cannot.

Kiss

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Whew. Is there anything more perfect in this world than a well-timed, perfectly placed kiss? The icing on the cake is, not only does kissing feel like the peak of ecstasy, it's really good for your health too. How good? Kissing triggers "happy hormones" including oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin in your system. Kissing also boosts your self-confidence, bonds you to your partner, soothes headaches, decreases allergy symptoms, reduces cavities, and lowers cortisol levels too.

So, if none of the other things I recommended appeal to you, at least be open to an impromptu smooch session. Your stress and anxiety levels will thank you—so will the rest of your body.

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Featured image by Getty Images.

Originally published on March 17, 2019

Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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