The Secret to Replacing Agitation with Calmness

Calm Man

“Calmness is the cradle of power.” ~Josiah Gilbert Holland

I was interested, recently, to find that our local supermarket had set up an area with ten self-service checkouts. For years I‘d accepted the normal method of bagging and paying for my stuff. No stress there. But they’d installed some new technology and I was keen to give it a try.

All new things bring with them hiccups or small difficulties of some kind. The self-service area was no exception.

Sure, I did receive the correct change. And, it was definitely the fun experience I looked forward to. However, a queuing area hadn’t yet been established, so people just jumped into a vacant self-service spot as soon as one became available, oblivious to the fact that others were waiting.

Here was the dilemma.

Should I have called out in a loud voice, “Hey you! What about the queue?” (angry response) OR “Excuse me. Do you mind going to the end of the queue?”(polite response) OR continue to wait in line without commenting. (I could either churn myself up internally or mutter to the person next to me or to myself.)

Being a bit shy, I was not fond of using the angry or polite responses. I was actually churning inside over such a small thing. After all, it only meant I’d be held up a few minutes.

Have you been guilty of getting anxious inside over something as trivial as queue jumping?

The Secret to Replacing Agitation with Calmness

So what is the secret?

I’ve given it the name: reaction awareness. Let me explain.

When you are in a situation where you feel your insides churning, become aware of your reaction to that situation. By observing what is happening in this way, you are in control. You have the power to calm the negative reaction welling up inside you.

Reaction awareness allows you to replace a churning reaction with a calming one. You’ll actually lessen the severity of any negativity that arises.

How It Works in Practice

Okay, you’re aware of your reaction, but how can you lessen the negative results of each particular situation, on your body?

Reaction awareness consists of two techniques.

One technique deals with developing calmness as soon as a stress or annoyance arises. Of course, not all of the ideas listed below are ideal for each situation. Your choice will depend on where you are and what has happened.

On the other hand, you might select just one that you’ll use every time because you know it would be the most comfortable and useful response for you.

The second technique involves the regular practice of activities that over the long term will become part of you, like a habit. These activities will strengthen you so that when situations occur in the future, you’ll be ready and well prepared for them. You’ll be equipped to handle yourself better.

Quick Techniques for Immediate Use

  • Use breathing. Take a few deep breaths to calm yourself. Turn away from the situation so that it’s out of sight for a minute or two.
  • Reduce surrounding noise. Turn off loud music and change to calm, quieter sounds.
  • Ask someone to massage your shoulders. This is where tension is stored. A quick massage can release the tension and relax you.
  • Count to ten. This was the technique popularized when I was a kid.
  • Drink water. Make a warm drink with lemon to soothe you, or have a glass of water.

Activities to Practice Over Time for Long-Term Benefit

  • Use breathing exercises. The most basic is to inhale, then exhale, using the nose, both to the count of four. Yoga enthusiasts will know various breathing exercises they can use. Or consult a practitioner for the ones that will give you most benefit.
  • Sit quietly. We are conditioned to thinking we must be doing something every moment of every day. If we’re not sending a text message, we’re “tweeting” or “liking” someone. Just sit and quietly read, practice mindfulness, or enjoy a short time of shut-eye.
  • Walk or jog outdoors. Choose a place with trees, grass, or flowers, because they send a calming message to the brain.
  • Have “me” time. You are important so treat yourself as important. Do something you love doing but rarely have (or make) time to do.
  • Recognize the triggers. Know particular situations in advance when you’re sure you’ll flare up or need calming. Two of mine are feeling very cold, or feeling thirsty/hungry. Know the triggers that create agitation for you, so you can be better prepared. You’ll gain that state of calmness quicker.

Because the last five listed above are ideas to be used over the long term, it’s important to practice them on a regular basis. You might like to select just one or two and master them.

Try them. See which ones calm you down. Your body will thank you because calmness, rather than an uptight feeling, will be the norm.

Why Should You Use Reaction Awareness?

It’s healthy. Your body doesn’t respond as angrily as you might without using it.

According to Josiah Holland, calmness is the place from which power emerges. In other words, by using this technique, you are developing an inner strength—an inner power and confidence—because you are in control of each situation. You haven’t let your emotions take control of you.

Using reaction awareness is definitely not a sign of weakness. The confidence it creates in your ability to handle awkward or difficult situations by reacting calmly enables you to face each day with your head held high. You exude that special quality not many people have, of inner peace and strength.

In Summary

Many times each week, you’ll find yourself in situations where you can either forget all about action awareness, or use it. The choice is yours. Remember, you are in charge of your life and your health.

When you practice reaction awareness, you’ll be prepared for anything—almost. In whatever situation you find yourself, you’ll be replacing agitation with calmness.

As you deal with every issue, you’ll become more confident. You’ll become a source of strength and calm for others around you.

Calm man on a cloud image via Shutterstock

About Jenna Drew

Erral and Jenna are passionate about helping people leave their ordinary, blah kind of life behind, and empowering them to live a satisfying and fulfilling life.  Download their free book From Blah to Blastoff at that will challenge you to take action right now to live the life you really want to live.  Find them also on Twitter @Jenna935.

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  • Good points. Staying deeply in the now also helps to cultivate calmness. 🙂

  • Ankit, that’s an excellent strategy to use. I totally agree. Staying in the now takes practice but it’s worth the effort. Appreciated your comment. (Jenna)

  • Chip Cassady

    This may seem simplistic, but my wife and I make a game out of situations like this by turning them into humorous positives. For example, when a driver cuts us off we’ll say “that was the best non-signaling lane change ever. Nice job!” or in your grocery self-checkout example “That guy is the champion line cutter. Must have years of practice.” May sound silly but it diffuses potentially stressful situations and makes them humorous as we try to out-funny each other.

  • Peace Within

    Love the article. Personally, trials and tribulations are what taught me to calm down. I used to be such a hot head, but now I am the complete opposite. I went through situations where I was forced to learn patience. Now, I do not let external circumstances get to me. Examples are people cutting me off while driving or in line at the store. I realized I was letting other things/ people have power over me. One other thing my mom shared with me is when driving “it’s better to get there, than not to get there at all”. Meaning, drive slow and cautiously. Don’t drive like an idiot lol. Had to share! =)

  • Love the way you have shared about driving, because that is just a place where we absolutely must stay calm. Otherwise, as your mother suggests, we mightn’t get there at all. Reminds me of a driving slogan I remember from childhood – “Better to be late than dead on time”. Thanks for telling of your experiences. Also, it’s because you are in control of your life, that you have Peace Within. Others benefit when people take time out of their day to comment, as you have. Enjoy your day. (Jenna)

  • Congratulations Chip! What an empowering, simple technique. I think many of us could diffuse potentially stressful situations if we approached them in a humorous way, as you have described. It’s a lesson to be learned. Thanks so much for the idea. It’s one I want to add to my tool box, and I’m sure lots of other people will want to do that too. (Jenna)

  • I’m still here

    Addison Street

  • Peace Within

    Thank you for the kind words! Take care!

  • tom

    Beats me why anyone should use self service checkouts. Why not leave it to the staff who know where the bar codes are and talk to you.

  • Hi Jarrod. Thanks for stopping by to comment. Yes, I agree. Appreciate you have pointed that out. Happy you enjoyed the post. (Jenna)

  • Tom, thanks for taking time to comment. That’s a good point, but I think I enjoy having the choice. On some days I head straight for the self service, and other times I leave it to the staff. I suppose choice and how I feel on the day are key. These are great techniques for lots of situations, not just for the supermarket. Enjoy your day, Tom.

  • tom

    Thank you. Being a bit tongue in cheek. Blessings

  • Blessings to you too.

  • Adam

    When it comes to people cutting you in line it is not a big issue, you politely confront the person and if they are not cooperative, just go to another check out line. Funny how people mention driving, as I could have used this message today as I had a truck driving aggressive behind me and I was sideswipped and the truck sped off on another exit. I was proud that I did not pursue the driver, and I did catch the plate #s as he sped off. As for the time afterwards, after the police recorded the damage, etc. I still remained furious with the situation, but had to remind myself that it was minor damage and I was not injured and still alive. Spending the day taking LOTS of deep breaths and sitting quietly with my thoughts.

  • Hi Adam. It’s fantastic the way you’ve shared your recent experience. Congrats on not involving yourself in the driving incident any more than you were. Feeling angry about what happened is only a natural reaction, but I admire your attitude – reminding yourself that you’re still alive. I smiled when I read this quote. I hope you do too. Smiling will bring a little more calmness into your day as you sit with your thoughts. “Before you give someone a piece of your mind, make sure you can get by with what is left.” I’m hoping you’ll feel much better tomorrow. (Jenna)

  • Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    ‘Don’t drive like an idiot…’ GOT IT…hahah!

  • Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    “Better to be late than dead on time…” I need to REMEMBER that more often while I’m driving…:P

  • Yes, it’s a good slogan to keep in your mind. Thanks Jeevan

  • Peace Within


  • Leah Silver Graves

    I did self serve during lunch and it was faster. It left more time for me to enjoy my lunch break!

  • Great article! Thank you so much great advices! When I get upset, I remember Neale Donald Walsh words ” Thank you God for this gift, and the treasure that it holds for me.” Somehow, it takes my agitation away – anytime! 🙂

  • Ashley Badass

    great ideal like for real I am going to start using this all the time.