Arguments aren't something I have often, I'm happy to report. Part of the reason is a mildly unhealthy aversion to confrontation as a self-esteem-killer. But I'd like to think that another part of it is that I'm generally a calm, open person who is good at finding solutions to tense situations or conflicts without easily escalating into shouting, arguing, or hostility.
Sometimes, though, arguments happen, as one did to me yesterday. It's a long story, not worth getting into, but what I want to talk about here is the aftermath—the fact that I was not successful in getting a lasso around my mind and body after the toxic vitriol that took place.
After the incident (the whole conversation/confrontation lasted exactly 10 minutes), I was back at my desk, shaking with adrenaline and anger. Several rounds of deep breathing (making my exhale longer than my inhale) did not calm my pounding heart or sweating palms. Two hours later, I was prone on my couch, watching a rerun of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" to try and calm down (always a good thing to try). An hour after that, I was not eating my dinner because I was too wound up in knots. Two hours hence, I was trying to at least let my body rest even though my mind was rehearsing the fight, my indignation and frustration, and possible next steps. At 4 a.m. I was wide awake again, heart pounding and thoughts racing. When I woke up for the day, my stomach was upset, my heart still pound-y, and my eyes scrunched up with stress and aggravation.
In other words, not exactly the Fresh Living way.
So what is the "right way" to calm down after an argument? I found a helpful list that offered more than the obvious "take a deep breath" strategy for calming down. Here are some of the innovative ideas that the author, Sabah Karimi, suggests:
1. Shake your shoulders. Most of us collect tension in the areas in the back of the neck, shoulders, and upper body. Next time you're having a tense moment, notice how your shoulders may be hunched in and how the muscles are contracting. Shaking your shoulders will give you a much-needed posture adjustment, helping you breathe naturally and calming you down.
2. Take a walk. Sometimes a breathe of fresh air is all you need to change your state of mind. Head outdoors for some deep breathing, or even take a quick speedwalk around the neighborhood. Increasing your circulation, even for a brief moment, will help clear your head.
3. Tear up paper. The simple activity of shredding up paper with both hands can keep you distracted and help relieve those fleeting thoughts of anger.
4. Burn vanilla or lavender candles. Vanilla scents are calming and soothing, while lavender also encourages sleep. Taking a whiff of these powerful scents can help you de-stress and remove yourself from the tension just long enough to simmer down.
I love these, and plan to tear some paper as soon as I finish this post. But looking back on my failed attempt to re-Zen, I would add one to Sabah's list:
5. Tell the story only a few times. I vented about what happened to my sister. Then my mother. Then my mother-in-law. Then some friends. Then (again) to my husband. I think that was a mistake--not a mistake to share the story, but a mistake to repeat it again and again. All that did was get me worked up and indignant all over again. Instead, tell the story to a very inner circle, and to others who know you had an argument, either have a one-sentence summary or just ask them to support you in calming down.
How do you calm down after an argument?