Your gain: discover 13 ways to relax, unwind, and calm that mind! I encourage you to try these methods if your loss is getting the best of your mental health, affecting your sleep, or your overall well-being in a meaningful, long-term way. You’ll be able to use these as healthy mechanisms as a way to de-escalate negative thoughts and feelings.
If you’ve found yourself here trying to find ways to shut off that pesky mind of yours to finally get some stinkin’ peace, you’ve come to the right place. First of all, pat yourself on the back for taking this step. It’s so easy to live in a negative headspace and go round and round on the hamster wheel of grief, but let’s not live there, shall we?
Without further ado, here are 13 tips I’ve come to find helpful in my grief process to relax and calm down that have been complete game changers.
Meditate to Relax
Meditation has SO many benefits, I had to start here. I actually have a post about the benefits of meditation and my journey with it that I’d love for you to check out—click that button below!
Long story short, it has the power to reduce and manage stress and anxiety, focus on the present, lower heart rate and blood pressure, improve sleep quality, enhances your mood–the list goes on! Seriously, go check out my entry above. It’d be a lot to include here, but it truly changed my life and perspective on my journey of loss.
Practice Breathing Exercises & Be Present
Practicing mindfulness and breathing exercises often go hand-in-hand. I wanted to be sure I covered this in detail, so I have a post that’s “7 Steps for Practicing Breathing & Staying Present” that I’d love for you to take a gander at. In the meantime, let’s talk about this for a hot sec below.
This is probably one of my top tips but can arguably be the hardest, so let me explain. Let’s get something straight: mindfulness can be hard sometimes. To be mindful and practice mindfulness is, technically, a type of meditation where you focus on being keenly aware of what you’re sending and feeling in the moment. There’s no interpreting or judgment here, though.
Practicing mindfulness involves breathing exercises, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind which can help reduce stress.
The goal isn’t to completely quiet your mind. I know, seems counterintuitive. But here’s the thing, it’s nearly impossible. The goal is to instead pay attention to the present moment through breath.
When you practice mindfulness, try not to judge yourself for whatever thoughts pop up. Notice judgments arise, make a mental note of them, and let them pass. Recognize the sensations they might leave in your body, and allow those to pass as well. It’s learning all about learning how to understand our judgments and diffusing them, and choosing how we react to them.
I love this quick video from Calm called “5, 4, 3, 2, 1: A Simple Exercise to Calm the Mind”. Even if you don’t have this video in front of you, it’s an exercise you can do on the go whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Let It Out
Be strong for yourself, but remember: you don’t need to be strong all the time. As I said before, let it out. It’s liberating and so healthy for your mind. This can be in the form of confiding in a friend or therapist, getting in a good ol’ cry sesh, writing out the chaos in your head on paper, or the classic scream-into-the-pillow tactic. Emotions are simply not meant to be bottled up… period.
Remember—and I know this from experience—stress and bottling up your emotions can have physical effects, too. It can cause strain on your mind, your shoulders may feel more tight and tense because you’re holding it in (guilty!), and show up on your face—hi, under eye bags. Who wants that, right?
Exercise or Get Out in Nature
Just five minutes of aerobics, like a brisk walk, has the power to calm and relax your mind. It releases endorphins, which are chemicals that make you feel happy and can help improve your mood, your focus, and sleep. If you’ve seen Legally Blonde and know what my girl Elle Woods has to say about this… you know.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) isn’t always my favorite exercise (depends on my mood, honestly), but it can give you a big dose of endorphins in a short time.
Yoga is also a beautiful way to increase your mental and physical health. Doing yoga on a regular basis has the power to reduce levels of stress and body-wide inflammation. It can also help with reducing stress and improve sleep because it moves you into a calmer mindset before you head to bed. Alternatively, it also boosts mood when doing it in the morning—I love doing a quick practice as the sun is coming up, it’s so energizing!
Additionally, being in and around nature often helps you think more clearly and feel more relaxed and refreshed. Spending time outside can also bring down your heart rate, blood pressure, stress hormones/levels, and even relaxes your muscles. Be as present as possible when you’re out there, too. Look up and watch the leaves or branches blow around. Appreciate the small things, like the beauty of a flower or the landscape around you.
Write It Out to Relax (Especially Before Bed)
This has been an incredibly useful tool for me personally, but if you’re not much of a journal writer/diary keeper extraordinaire… fear not. If you are, more power to ya!
Writing is a wonderful tool that can unlock and open up a lot of internal dialogue, anxiety, or stress you’re feeling. Jotting down your thoughts, especially before you head to bed, can allow your mind to relax and release these thoughts—at least while you’re trying to get some shut-eye.
When my dad passed and I had to live in the condo my parents shared together, it was so difficult to sleep in that first month or two. I was under constant stress and the sadness was overwhelming at times. Especially living in the same space that my parents did, and in the same room I found my dad in a bad state. I mean, the energy was WAY off and quite negative, as you can imagine. A mix of meditation, speaking to a therapist, and eventually finding writing really turned this around for me.
The 5-Minute Journal
Since I find it hard to commit to regular journaling and letting my thoughts free flow that way, I love The 5-Minute Journal by Intelligent Change. I found this handy tool through one of my favorite fitness influencers (yes, I admit I got influenced) but truthfully, I’m so glad I am.
It has daily prompts—truly doesn’t take more than 5 minutes—that you complete in the morning and evening. It asks you to write down three things you’re grateful for, three things you’re excited for that day, and your mantra for the day. I’ve found this really helps set a positive tone and gets me seeing the beauty in a day–especially if I’m tired 🙂
At night, it has you write out three highlights of the day, and one thing you learned. I really enjoy the highlights, especially. Even if you’ve had a truly awful day, it forces you to see the small yet beautiful things going on around you and enables you to appreciate the little things.
Find Your Mantras & Affirmations
Mantas are powerful, man. If you find ones you really resonate with, they can totally change your mindset. Affirmations and daily mantras can help improve self-worth because it boosts your positive outlook, optimism, and confidence in your ability to achieve your goals—whatever they may be. Whether it’s something job-related, raising kids, or coping with your loss.
Let me tell you, I needed so much of this when I was in my darkest days. Affirmations truly helped me lessen feelings of anxiety and stress of not having my parents with me anymore. It felt debilitating some days. It was, and still is, excruciating not having them here as someone to lean on for all of the crazy things life throws. All I want to do is talk to them for five minutes or get just one hug in.
It’s so twisted because I needed (still need) them to help me grieve the loss, yet they’re the ones I lost. It’s the biggest, cavernous, lonely hole one could experience. You know this if you’ve lost a deeply close family member or friend.
But, mantras also helped me see the light through my extremely difficult breakup of someone I thought I was going to marry. And then did, in the end… funny how life works itself out despite hardships, isn’t it?
How Mantras Help
According to this great piece from Third Space, “[Positive affirmations] fire up your neural pathways and make changes to those areas of the brain that make you happy and positive. Various studies also confirm affirmations: decrease health-deteriorating stress, increase the amount of exercise people do, help you to eat more fruit and vegetables and achieve more academically.”
Long story short, it encourages an optimistic mindset. Loss or no loss, who doesn’t need more of that, right?
A Couple of Resources
There’s an app I’ve been enjoying a lot called I Am, click here for their IG and preview some of their mantras and affirmations. I also set it up as a widget on my phone. Every day it changes—even multiple times a day if you’d like—and it’s a great constant reminder. After all, think about how often we’re on our phones. You’ll see it a lot!
The 5-Minute Journal (yep, I’m obsessed) I mentioned in the previous section is also a beautiful tool to get your affirmations in for the day.
While we’re on the topic of writing down important thoughts that just can’t wait, the 5-Minute Journal I just mentioned (again!) is a great resource to help guide you. But if that’s not up your alley, I encourage you to simply practice gratitude in whatever form it comes.
Perhaps someone pays you a compliment, or simply a smile. Maybe you see a little kid being especially cute or hear some good news. Have a nice conversation with a colleague, or you get to do something you find joy in that day. I promise you, finding small bits of gratitude where you can will incrementally bring so much happiness your way. Especially on days where you’re feeling less than grateful and everything hurts. Be sure to really acknowledge those moments and live in that gratitude for a bit.
I have an entire entry on exactly this, which allows you to discover why practicing gratitude during a loss is important in your healing journey. And, it talks about some tools to help you practice gratitude during times of struggle.
Keep Your Living Spaces Clean & Decluttered
To take a page from the inspiring, gifted Marie Kondo: “get rid of anything that doesn’t spark joy.” This is a great intro video if you’re not familiar with her work yet, or this concept.
When you let go of things, do so with gratitude. This is especially important for when you begin going through clothes or other possessions of loved ones who have passed, for example. Or, perhaps you have to move in a hurry and need to work through your belongings and get rid of things, but are having a difficult time parting with them.
Needless to say, this process can be both painful yet cathartic. I’ll leave you with something comical my mom always said, “You can’t take it with you when you go!”
Practice Creativity & Read a Book
Work with Your Hands
Doing something creative with your hands can be excellent for tapping into calming vibes, redirecting your thoughts, and tuning out the chatter in your mind. Whether it’s a coloring book, scrapbooking or creating a vision board, pottery, or knitting—all of the above and more are a great escape for a busy mind. The key here is to have fun with it and let your inner child run wild! Enjoy the process and don’t worry about the result.
If none of those speak to you, crack a book and read something fun or interesting. I’ll be honest, I found it hard to read when I was in the thick of my losses. My mind would get so distracted and wander like crazy. It was NOT about to let me relax. So, I started again when I felt I was ready. I didn’t put an ounce of pressure on myself, and I don’t want you to either.
Read an Inspiring Book
When I found myself ready, I had a friend introduce me to Glennon Doyle Melton’s “Untamed” and boy did it rock my world. If the number of sticky notes of wise words of wisdom she gave are any indication, clearly I loved this book! Honestly, it just opened my eyes. It provided me an outlet to feel all the feels. Embrace what I was going through. Be unapologetic about it. Expect more from people without being unfair about it.
Not everyone can relate to losing two parents from cancer and going through a breakup within six months. But I’m sure you have felt, or are feeling, like you may be in this alone or misunderstood, too. Well, that’s why Losses Become Gains is here!
Point being, reading books that help you see the beauty in this world despite the truly unfair hand you’re being dealt right now… that’s gold. Unburden yourself from your hurt for a little while. Open your mind to other teachings and ways of looking at this wild lil’ thing called life.
Do me a quick favor if you can, read that excerpt I’ve included here. It’s one of my ‘starred’ quotes and it is included here for a reason.
Whew! Pretty powerful, right? Allowing yourself to get in touch and get deep with what you’re going through, and the countless emotions you’re feeling each and every day, is critical. Yes, it absolutely can hurt. But those thousand paper cuts are healing, baby! They’re getting the salve they need and building you up again.
By surrounding yourself with positivity in the form of people, places, and things—such as this book or the LBG community—you’re slowly growing and evolving into something extraordinary. You’re discovering embrace a new mindset. You’re willing to accept your reality with your new loss and learn ways to turn that loss into a gain. Into something you can survive with when you feel like you can’t. Don’t allow it to get the best of you—own it. How about that?!
Lavender… I can’t say enough amazing things about it. I have a post specifically about this member of the mint family because it’s that good (in my opinion).
Amongst other benefits, it can help improve your sleep, enhance your ability to relax, offers a natural remedy for pain, and reduces blood pressure and your heart rate. You can use it in the form of lavender oil, which I love to do before I go to bed. I personally put a tiny amount around my neck so it wafts up to my nose without being too overwhelming. If you opt to use more, be sure to dilute it a bit.
You can also hold a bottle to your nose and gently inhale, just be careful to not get too into it. Take a small whiff, take a few deep breaths (and really focus on those!), you’ll be feeling the calming effects almost immediately.
Finally, some good old high quality lavender lotion (also a favorite of mine) or candle is another subtle way to get your lavender in for the day.
If you aren’t familiar with ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response), I highly encourage you to check it out. Have you ever gotten a tingling or goosebump-like sensation that (typically) begins on the scalp and moves down the back of your neck and upper spine area, or other limbs? This is often a response to audio or visual stimuli through ASMR.
This can also be from physical touch, too. In fact, I remember my first experience with ASMR was around 1st grade when a friend was playing with my hair. I had no idea what my body was responding to at the time, but stimuli like playing with hair, whispering, tapping or gentle movements can trigger it.
ASMR can be incredibly relaxing and soothing, and can help with anxiety and promote better sleep. I’ve lost track of how many times a good ASMR video has put me to sleep. One of my all-time favorite ASMR artists is Gentle Whispering ASMR (aka Maria Viktorovna). I’ve been a fan for years, and she has such a special way of speaking and creating her videos to maximize the ASMR potential. With 2.2 million subscribers, let me tell you—this girl knows what she’s doin’! Check out one of her many, many amazingly helpful videos below:
Listen to Music
Music has an incredible power on the brain and psyche. In fact, it (quite literally) calms the activity in your brain. It allows fewer neurons to fire in the part of your brain that responds to fear, which means it can reduce responses to pain or anxiety, help you to relax, etc. Be sure to listen closely, not just as background music. The more you notice and pay attention, the less you’ll dwell on your other thoughts.
For me, I love me a good pop song. It boosts my mood and makes me feel like I can take over the world one music video at a time—ha! On the other hand, soothing music or even soundscapes are a great way to calm yourself and your heart rate. Which, if you’re feeling extreme anxiety, is probably better than busting out a classic Britney Spears anthem. Listen to your mind and your body, it’ll tell you what it needs.
Watch a Happy Show (On Repeat) and Relax
Think about what shows make you happy. For me, when my dad passed especially, this was The Office.
Friends, Schitt’s Creek—the list goes on. If it sparks joy, kick back, relax and let it do the heavy lifting for a little while.
Like Moira, you, too, can be ready for big, beautiful things!
Don’t Skimp on Self-Care
If I can leave you with anything, it’s to allow yourself the time for self-care and to relax. Going through a loss or not, it’s critical for your mental health on a daily basis. Whether it’s any of the tools I listed above or if you find another method that works for you, just be sure it’s something healthy, empowering, and inspiring. And, goes without saying, leaves you feeling better than before!