This article was originally published on Healthista.
I feel that I can now claim that I am a calm person – most of the time. The truth is, it doesn’t come that easily to me, but it has been my life’s work for nearly 15 years, so I do know how to bring myself back round (without too much fuss) when I wander off into old habits of taking on too much and getting irritable and intolerant.
Some people are just naturally calm, like lovely, earthy rocks to be around – you know the ones. We all need those in our lives. Others, like me, have really put the time and attention in to learn how to access this state when we can tend to fill up our lives and heads and well, run off hands waving in the opposite direction.
To be carefree with a clear head and laid-back approach, was a burning ambition of mine back in my twenties when the reality was much different. I lived 24-7 in the great and exhausting state of anxiety, pretty much including in the rare times I actually got to sleep. I went to my first yoga class in 1996 because of the mind-blowing realisation that I rarely spend a single moment in the present. There are many folks like me, who may know seem to waft around calmly – my yoga students think I’m mostly on the serene side of the spectrum – but are working hard in the background to stay connected to the balance we’ve learnt to love. They don’t see me getting my daughter out of the house for the school run!
I know many a yogi or meditation practitioner who may well have gone a different route if they hadn’t found this way to approaching life. If the other path of agitation and a loud and reactive mind seemed the only option, it stands to mind that we might want to mollify or numb with any number of addictive or medicated habits, alcohol, spending, sex, sugar, excessive exercise… whatever our chosen negative coping pattern of choice.
So whether they have inherent or acquired calm, there are a few key traits that separate out the equanimous from the jumpy:
Calm people know when to walk away
Stress, conflict and pressure all create feelings of being hemmed in, constricted and with little escape possible. We all need to know we can extricate ourselves from people or situations we find stifling to be able to get a sense of perspective and respond from a place of composure. Even just stepping to another room or going outside for a few moments can give us a new viewpoint and ability to listen and speak without self-defensiveness.
Calm people know how to say no
Saying no without offending or needing to justify is a fine skill and extremely important in time and energy management. We can lose our cool when we take on too much and feel tired and resentful of others for asking. Setting clear boundaries that respect ourselves as much as others isn’t selfish, it’s good for all of our relationships and our stress levels.
Calm people know what they need
Being calm means having the space and the awareness to be able to pay attention to what your gut is telling you. If you are being ruled by a chatty head, it will want to speed things up. If you sit, and feel what’s happening neck down, most often we notice our bodies want to slow down and come back to peace. It’s nature’s way; to conserve energy.
Calm people see health as a kindness
Treating our bodies as ‘things’ we need to punish, mould or force into an ideal only serves to reinforce ideas of unworthiness. It is not health when it doesn’t involve self-compassion. Eating, moving and living well for you comes back to listening to what you need and responding accordingly. Not comparing to others, smiling when things go off track and knowing we’ll come back to what suits us because our bodies love us for it.
Calm people know when to move and when to be still
Rest is a key part of movement. How else can muscle rebuild, systems reset and immunity modulate? Too much time spent simply pushing is a recipe for burnout and illness. Getting the balance between up and down is always the conscious feeling type of decision-making we do, when we are responding from a connected place. If you are tired and you force yourself to go for a run, when your body would prefer a restorative yoga session, is responding from the want to achieve, knowing how to recover and rejuvenate allows us to regulate energy and find balance.
Calm people understand less can be more
Following that theme, the very essence of calmness is being able to slow down; to just be, not to have to do, do, do all the time. The appreciation of life and small detail that comes from a peaceful vista, enhances our ability to feel subtle tones, feelings and notice inner signals to modify our words and actions as we go along. We call this ‘listening and responding’ in yoga and it is a key part of reducing speed to be in each moment.
Calm people don’t follow the herd
Anxious states are more likely to surface when we feel the need to please others, to be liked or to not rock the boat. Following your heart and those rumbling gut feelings (yes you can trust them!) means you can steer a clear path with responses and decisions that feel true to your believes and values – very calming indeed. The people around you will respect you for that. Not everyone will like you but that was never possible anyway!
Calm people like middle ground
If you are anything like I was, my younger life was fuelled by a love of the highs and then suffering the troughs between to put up with them. Balance in the middle seemed boring until I had that realisation so many of us have (thanks again, yoga) that levelling these out is the way to sanity and actual contentment – not jarring up-there energy spikes that steal from the time period after. Calm is the opposite of roller-coasters of emotion and energy, this equanimity comes from learning to respect and enjoy down-time as much as life’s excitements.
Are you acting with calm and clarity?
Yoga is a powerful way to bring your mind back “down to earth” and reconnect with your body, looking after your physical, mental and spiritual health. Not sure you are ready to commit to a yoga practice quite yet? Charlotte has a published an online course on Conscious2 which you can engage with from your laptop, tablet or mobile, wherever you are!
Find out more about the Yoga for Anxiety and Stress course on Conscious2.